Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Pakistan batsman Babar Azam has called on former captain and the country’s current Prime Minister Imran Khan to help save cricket in Islamabad and get the grounds in the city back to a professional standard.
Azam holds Metropolitan Cooperation Islamabad (MCI) Mayor Sheikh Ansar Aziz responsible for the issues the Islamabad Regional Cricket Association (IRCA) is facing.
The 24-year-old noted that he wouldn’t be where he is today with the IRCA and its president, Shakil Shaikh.
“I am the sole example of what the IRCA has done for Pakistan cricket,” Azam told The Nation. “At a time when Lahore Region was not ready to provide me opportunities to play for my region, it was Shakil Shaikh and Islamabad Region which provided me a break. I have played the last three first-class seasons for Islamabad Region and will play the fourth for Islamabad in this year’s Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.
“I can’t even think about where I [would be] today if Shakil Shaikh wasn’t there. [He] is considered a godfather for a number of players, who are now playing for Pakistan. Some of the prime examples are Shan Masood, Abid Ali, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Shoaib Akhtar, Shoaib Malik, Umar Gul, Raza Hasan and many others.”
“The regions’ roles in detecting and developing raw talent is no secret as they work so hard to produce top-class players who go on to represent departments, then the national team and also play in different leagues in the world. I can never forget my early days, when I was running from pillar to post to get chance to exhibit my prowess at higher levels, but no one was ready to give me a break. I was broken and my dreams were all set to be shattered.
“But when I was invited by IRCA president Shakil Shaikh to play for Islamabad Region, I never looked back and today whatever I have achieved, after the Almighty, it is because of the IRCA president.
“I am deeply hurt ever since I heard that the cricket-illiterate MCI Mayor is all set to sabotage all the good work done by Islamabad Region just to settle personal scores.
“The MCI Mayor has already occupied two main grounds – National and Bhutto – and he wants to take over the possession of the international standard Diamond, Shalimar and Marghazar grounds as well.”
The National Ground used to host first-class games, but last year it couldn’t do so due to the facilities and pitch being in horrendous condition.
“Prior to that the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy matches were regularly held at that top class venue every year while National One-Day Cup matches were also hosted there, he said. “But since then MCA/DCI took over the ground, it is incapable to handle these world-class grounds.
“It is hard to understand that why does [Mayor Sheikh Ansar Aziz] want to deprive youth of playing cricket and serve the nation.”
With Azam concerned about the future of cricket in Islamabad, he urged Imran to obtain an explanation from Aziz and hand over all the cricket grounds in Islamabad to the IRCA.
“As PCB chairman Ehsan Mani has made it clear that all the cricket grounds must be run by their respective associations, the IRCA must be allowed to run the affairs of the grounds,” Azam said. “I am sure the Prime Minister will take notice and ensure our future remains in safe hands and let Islamabad cricket flourish under the able leadership of Shakil Shaikh.”