The PCB’s longstanding relationship with the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) is approaching the crossroads because of a potential schedule crunch in the 2018-19 winter. The ECB plans to host a number of short-format leagues, which could clash with a busy Pakistan home season.
The PCB is uncomfortable with the situation, seeing the leagues as a potential threat to its revenues from international cricket and the commercial viability of playing in the UAE. In effect, the situation is a microcosm of the tussle between international cricket and domestic T20 leagues globally for space in a cramped calendar.
Pakistan are due to host New Zealand and Australia in the UAE later this year for Tests, ODIs and T20s. But Sharjah and Dubai’s growth as a destination of choice for various T20 leagues means the PCB could find the venues in high demand at that time of the year. Afghanistan launch their new T20 league, possibly in October, in the UAE. In December, the second season of the T10 league will take place, this time likely to be over 10 days (as opposed to four last year). And in January the ECB is set to host its own T20 league, the Arabian Cricket League.
With the Asia Cup to be played in September and the PSL in February-March, it could be one of the busiest seasons in the UAE’s cricket calendar. And that doesn’t include the possibility that come next March and April, the UAE could be in the running to host some of the IPL, if the league moves out of India because of general elections.
The ECB is still happy to rent out venues to the PCB as and when required and offered a resolution that involves running Pakistan’s home season concurrently with the other cricketing leagues. But ESPNcricinfo understands that the PCB has asked the ECB to schedule other cricketing activities between April and October – which, given the heat of the summer, makes outdoor sport almost impossible – allowing the PCB exclusive use from October to March, the time of year most conducive to playing cricket in the Emirates.
The ECB’s governing board is expected to meet this week to discuss the issue, and there is hope that, for this season, a resolution can be found.
But if one isn’t forthcoming, the PCB has weighed up Malaysia as a potential venue to host Pakistan’s home series. In the past, the PCB has also considered moving to Sri Lanka or Bangladesh in a bid to make the ECB agree to its terms, but neither of those venues were ever seen as realistic options. Malaysia’s weather makes it a difficult destination for Test cricket between October and November, as well as the fact that facilities are relatively limited.
In practical terms, and despite the higher costs of staging cricket there, the UAE remains Pakistan’s first-choice venue as a home away from home. Since 2010, when they started using the UAE regularly, Pakistan have had a largely steady, trouble-free association with the ECB.
In recent years, with some cricket trickling back to Pakistan, the relationship has had to overcome the odd stumbling block over schedule clashes. In 2016, the now-defunct Masters Champions League nearly put the opening season of the PSL in jeopardy, as the ECB refused to lease out the three stadiums in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah to Pakistan, arguing that the MCL had already locked in the venues. The PCB explored Doha as an alternative venue but ended up negotiating a settlement with the ECB that allowed the PSL to go ahead, side by side with the MCL.