Shorter playing hours, fog, unfriendly pitch preparation conditions, all of these factors make cricket in northern Punjab a hazard in the winter months. Throw in the fact that touring teams are increasingly wary of playing Test cricket in Karachi and you have a real problem if you are a Pakistani cricket administrator.
One of the answers suggested was to have six, 5-hour days instead of five, 6-hour days. While this is an improvement, the fact is that even if the last two Test matches between India and Pakistan had continued for 10 days, you would not have had a result. One of the problems with the Gaddafi stadium is that entirely too much cricket is played there, and I think that is one of the reasons it is becoming an even slower and lower pitch.
I remember the days when as a youngster, I would watch even the gentle outswing of people like Saleem Altaf be a potent weapon at Gaddafi.
So what is the solution to all of this?
I think the solution can only be one, and that is more cricket in the southern half of the nation. Obviously Karachi remains a problem, but one would hope that if the Indian team can play a Test there without controversy then other teams would follow suit. But I also think that the PCB must think about redeveloping the cricket stadiums in Hyderabad and Bahawalpur. I realize no cricket has been played there in a while but instead of wasting money on frivolous schemes like a cricket channel, the PCB should spend their vast riches in areas of the game that need true development.
A fully redeveloped, state-of-the-art cricket stadium along with a 70-80 room 4/5 star hotel located nearby would not only ensure that touring teams have no problems with the accommodations. It would also most likely mean that the hotel could be used as a profit centre in the off-season. Surely the PCB could sign an operating agreement with one of the local Hotel Groups like the Hashwaniís or the Avariís whereby they would manage the hotel, while the PCB owned it?
Developing these two grounds would have significant advantages.
First, it would mean that 4 centres, Multan, Bahawalpur, Hyderabad, and Karachi would be in the southern half of the country, where cricket could easily be played in the peak winter months of December and January. Sure, issues would still be there with short days etc., in Multan and Bahawalpur but it could still mean 5-7 overs more each day when compared to Lahore, Pindi, Faisalabad or Peshawar.
Second, additional grounds would mean that both domestic and international cricket could be spread around more, meaning less wear and tear on the bigger stadiums like the Gaddafi.
The third benefit is that you are much more likely to get decent crowds for Test matches at places like Hyderabad and Bahawalpur compared to places like Lahore and Pindi where people would always prefer the lure of ODI cricket.
Lastly the development of these stadiums would only have positive implications for the development of the game in Southern Punjab and in Sind, where there is a clear shortage of stadiums.
So while the PCB can call all the experts they want to analyze soil conditions, the fact remains that if you have unhelpful conditions and overused grounds, preparing sporting wickets, regardless, of whether the home team want them or not, will be very difficult.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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