Cricket legend Imran Khan on Monday criticised Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) decision of hosting the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in Lahore and termed it as silly.
“The idea of having the PSL final in Lahore is madness to me,” Imran told a news channel. The PCB, after a long meeting at the Gaddafi Stadium, got the green signal from the Punjab government to host the final of the second edition of the Twenty20 tournament in Lahore on March 5.
The confirmation for the final came after several days of uncertainty over whether the provincial government would give clearance due to the terrorist attacks that have taken place in the country, including two incidents in Lahore in the last few days.
Imran, who heads the main opposition party — Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf — wondered what sort of message would be conveyed to the world by having closed roads around the Gaddafi Stadium and heavy security.
“What message of peace will we send out in such conditions,” Imran said.
The former captain said that even if the PSL final had not been held in Lahore, it would have not made any difference to Pakistan cricket.
Imran had earlier also pointed out that without the main foreign players representing the franchises, it would serve no purpose for Pakistan cricket.
Arif Ali Khan Abbasi, a former chief executive of the PCB who organised the 1987 and 1996 World Cups in the subcontinent, also shot down the idea of having the final in Lahore.
“I think the risks involved in having the final at this time are high and the environment is just not right to take such a big risk,” Abbasi said.
He noted that until complete peace returned to Pakistan, it would always be difficult to convince any Test team to tour Pakistan.
Imran also warned about the after effects of any incident happening during the final.
“If something God forbid happens, then it will put Pakistan cricket back by 10 years,” the former captain said.
Soon after Imran Khan termed the decision “madness”, other former captains joined in the criticism including Javed Miandad and Aamir Sohail.
“I want to just ask who will take responsibility if something goes wrong on that day,” an animated Miandad questioned.
“I don’t understand why take this chance when we all know that international teams will not return to Pakistan this way,” the former great said.
The government announced late Monday night that all roads leading to the Gaddafi Stadium will be closed for public until March 6 while all shops and restaurants outside the stadium have been told to close down their businesses until the final is completed.
Miandad said that he was worried after the announcement because there would be no big benefits for Pakistan cricket from holding the final.
Sohail said the PSL final was not a World Cup final so he didn’t know why the PCB and others were dying to have it in Lahore.
“Holding the final now is going to be a big challenge for the PCB and government,” he added.
“The way I see it all this is happening because of a stubborn child,” he said in an apparent reference to the PSL Chairman Najam sethi.
Former Test opener Shoaib Muhammad said he was not in favour of having the final at this time because despite taking such a big risk it would serve no purpose in the end.
“Can the PCB guarantee us that if we have a smooth PSL final we will be seeing Australia, South Africa or England coming to Pakistan to play in the next few months,” he asked.
Punjab’s Law Minister Rana Sanaullah has said that around 10,000 personnel will be deployed for the security for the final and the security plan would be put into place from Tuesday.