5 improvements Pakistan Super League 2019 could use

Last year’s Pakistan Super League was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

The T20 league gave the nation an advanced antidote for all the craziness that later followed in what was an election year.

But as good as PSL 2018 was, it wasn’t perfect … because is anything ever is? And since the first step towards improvement is admitting that there is something wrong, here is a whole bunch of things that did not exactly go according to plan.

We share them with the hope that this year’s edition would address these issues.

Empty stands, an eyesore

Former PCB chairman Najam Sethi was not wrong when he suggested that the primary audience of T20 leagues, or any sports event for that matter, is not the outdoorsy folk who flock to the stadia, but are the ones who actually prefer to watch the game from the comfort of their homes.

“Gate receipts don’t even make up for 10 per cent of our revenue,” Sethi had told Saleem Safi in Geo TV programme ‘Jirga’ a day before the PSL 2018 final. “It’s the TV audience, the broadcast deal and the advertising money [which fill our coffers].”

The PSL final in Karachi was played in front of a capacity crowd but same was definitely not the case during the UAE leg. — File
Spot on! The PSL mastermind is absolutely correct. All the successful leagues around the world live off their eye-watering TV deals — some of which run into billions of dollars. That’s billion with a ‘b’. Stop crowding their stadiums and they’ll live, but turn off the telly and they’ll go out of business in a jiff.

But even if capacity crowds are not necessary for financial purposes, they do matter from an optical standpoint. Which is why the sight of empty seats during PSL’s UAE legs was such a turn off.

Several theories were floated to make sense of UAE’s lack of enthusiasm. Some thought the league wasn’t marketed right locally, while some like Rameez Raja questioned why the PCB hadn’t hired tour operators to fly fans out of Pakistan. Whatever it was, the board needs to sort it out and put some bodies in them action-deprived, sun-soaking chairs.

Time wasting

Cricketer-turned-pundit Michael Slater said he had a great time during PSL 2018 but pointed out time wasting and unnecessary delays during matches as thing the league could do without.

“One thing I will say about this tournament is there have been too many delays and stoppages in the matches because the things maybe hasn’t been processed quickly enough from third umpire’s box to get decisions,” he said.

Englishman Alan Wikins had agreed with his co-commentator, saying: “I do agree with Slater’s assertion that the matches are taking long with too many delays. In Big Bash there are fines or captains miss matches. Here games are finishing 45 minutes late and that should be look into.”

The duo weren’t wrong. In PSL 2018, matches routinely started and ended later than their scheduled time due to needless breaks in between. This is not a Naya Nazimabad cricket tournament. This is PSL, where the P represents Pakistan. The tournament’s 2019 version should address this issue.

Matchday experience

The final in Karachi was fun, right? But was the joy also shared by the hundreds of thousands of Karachiites whose lives were affected by the blockage of roads for the PSL final?

A day or two’s sacrifice for the overall good was still bearable but with the port city hosting five matches this time around, an alternative plan needs devised. Because no amount of joy generated by sports can cover for the disruption of civic life.

Those who did make it to the final were made to sit on outrageously uncomfortable cement seats in topless stands under the scorching Karachi sun. The PCB’s lousy hosting job must have something to do with the fans’ lack of interest in the subsequent Windies’ visit.

Standard of officiating

The PSL 2019 umpiring panel gave several controversial calls.
The PSL 2019 umpiring panel gave several controversial calls.

The PSL brand isn’t famous for its umpiring standards, and 2018 was no different. There were goof-ups, there were blunders, but more importantly there were calls that affected the outcome of matches. This was despite the presence of the great Aleem Dar on the umpiring panel.

Whatever it was, it was ugly. In 2019, better needs doing.

The media game

A sports league is about staging matches, but it’s not just that. Before the games begin and after they end, it’s the content team’s task to keep the fans engaged. The NBAs, the NFLs and the Premier Leagues of the world all have sites that churn out exclusive news stories, features, opinion pieces and whatnot.

Sadly, the PSL offered none of that to the fans who had to make do with just the matchday action. Top leagues are what they are because of their on-field product but also because of the solid media work done week in week out. Without interests piqued and hype generated through intelligent use of the media, it’s just 22 random men playing ball.

The league’s content strategy in the buildup to the 2019 tournament has shown some signs life but there’s a long way to go.

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