Pakistan Cricket Board eye Qatar as off-shore venue

January 07, 2014 - 10:11:56 am

A view of the West End Park International Cricket Stadium, at Industrial Area in Doha. The stadium will host a three-nation tournament involving women’s teams from Pakistan, South Africa and Ireland from January 10 to 24. BOTTOM: Syed Bobby Refaie, Executive Director of PCB-backed Pakistan Super League (PSL). 

DOHA:  The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is keen to make Qatar its second base and this week’s first women’s tri-nation tournament could set things rolling for future international series in Doha, a top official said yesterday.

Syed Bobby Refaie, Executive Director of PCB-backed Pakistan Super League (PSL), is impressed with Qatar’s brand new cricket stadium in Industrial Area which is set to host a three-nation involving women’s teams from Pakistan, South Africa and Ireland.

Pakistan currently uses the UAE as home base since PCB has not been able to host international cricket in Pakistan due to security concerns since March 2009.

Test and ODI captain Misbah-Ul Haq is currently leading Pakistan in a Test series against the Angelo Matthew-led Sri Lanka in the UAE.

“The current chairman Najam Sethi has given me the full authority to see what could be done to look for off-shore venue for Pakistan in a sports-loving country like Qatar. He too will be here during the women’s event. We are not looking at Qatar as a short-term prospect. We are looking into it as long-term,” Refai said yesterday.

“That’s why we have our chief groundsmen Haji Basheer here. He’s the one handling the pitch matters here also. He’s the chief curator at Qaddafi Stadium. The chief curator and his team are doing the testing of the wickets. I have had several meetings with people who have built this stadium,” Refai added when asked about his views on West End Cricket Stadium.

“It seems we would have to make several new additions to the stadium to make it go fully compatible with international standards.

“You need a wicket doctor and he’s the man for us for the last four days. He will be here for throughout the event. After that we will have three curators next week. They will give us the report and they will analyse on what needs to be done to bring the full teams out here.” the US-based PCB official added.

“The ground is nice. The one thing that has caught our attention is that it is only 72 yards boundary-to-boundary. Normally you need the ground to be 70 yards plus. If you have Virat Kohlis or Shahid Afridis in your side, you will lose half a dozen balls in a match because players like them can easily clear the boundaries,” Refai pointed out.

“But overall it is a very nice set-up. The other things we look at is hotels, accommodation, food etc. You’ve got everything here. Matters like safety is also not an issue,” Refai explained.

“Qatar has spent money on this facility and we have to make proper use of this stadium. The dressing rooms are huge. I think there are 22 showers. You can have 200 people in the dressing room,” Refai said with a smile.

Refai said the women’s event from January 10 to 24 is likely to pave for international cricket.

“We would like to come back with our A team in March or April. And after that we would bring out our full team,” Refai said. “That’s we call this women’s event a soft-launch for international cricket later on. This gives us the opportunity to start afresh. We were supposed to play the series in Sharjah but we brought it to Qatar.

Refai said India’s women’s team could also be part of future events in Qatar

“Yes, we thought of inviting India. But we couldn’t do that. Next time we will definitely invite them because right now India is reluctant to play in the UAE. However, we feel they might ‘yes’ to (playing in) Qatar. India has a policy that they don’t want to play anywhere else but India.

“We were supposed to go to Bangladesh and practice there ahead of the T20 World Cup (March 1 to 15). All the three teams featuring here - Pakistan, Ireland and South Africa are in one group. But the thing is there some volatile situation in Bangladesh right now. So Qatar is our best and safe and best option,” he said.

“When we came here we wanted to see more than one stadium. We are also trying to meet up with Aspire Academy officials. We don’t mind having more than one stadium. We don’t want to rely on just one stadium. And Aspire, we know, want to do something for cricket,” the PCB official said.

“We know everything depends on this event and we want to make it successful. That’s why we have kept the tickets really cheap. This is a testing ground for us. Before we bring out the world-class teams and players here, we are looking at this women’s event. We have enough time. 

“We know that Al Mana Group is buying 50 percent of the tickets and hand it over to different schools. So that we can get the schoolchildren. Also, remember we have three Fridays - with the first match beginning on Friday and the event ending on a Friday. We were told that dew would be a concern and that doesn’t seem to be the case.”The Peninsula