Professionalism in today’s sports

September 22, 2019

The formula for a country to dominate sports is simple: have a modernised domestic system with highly trained coaches available to even junior teams

We often hear people talk about aggression, competitiveness, athleticism, and supreme fitness as the prominent features of modern day sports. But in our country we often do not highlight the requirements of modern domestic structure: teams having professional coaches, modern machines, infrastructure, and supreme fitness level, from the under-13 level to regional.

Gone are the days when teams used to dominate on the basis of natural talent.  We have always lacked a professional system but we still dominated the world stage because we had God-gifted players like Jahangir Khan, Imran Khan and Shahbaz Senior.

But when the sports world got globalised and commercialised the whole sports scenario changed. Hockey and cricket have now become power sports. We have seen downfall of our hockey team in last 15 years, losing to teams like Ireland and Canada, standing on the 17th spot. The same is happening with our cricket. The team stands seventh in Tests and sixth in ODIs. It is unable to compete against such sides as Australia, India and England. There is a big difference between the body language and athleticism of our team and players of these teams.

So the revamped domestic structure is the need of the hour. We saw in the first round of QeA Trophy that the level of competition was much higher than before. A significant number of fans came to the grounds and many followed the matches on YouTube.

The same has been the situation of Sri Lanka cricket since the departure of Sangakkara and Jayawardena. They have been inconsistent and have been hit by fitness issues. The reason behind their downfall is the unprofessional domestic system which lacks competitiveness.

The formula for a country to dominate sports is simple: have a modernised domestic system with highly trained coaches available to even junior teams.

Take for instance the example of Belgium. Its hockey team had never been strong, but around seven years ago they took this game seriously and are now the world champions, having thumped giants like Germany, the Netherlands and Australia. It happened thanks to strong and commercialised grassroots structure.

New Zealand cricket team’s sudden rise and consistency in the last six years have impressed many. They have played two successive world cup finals and are dominating at their home ground. It is because they now have a strong system laid out for their young cricketers.

India is also a prominent example. Because of the system their team has risen their stocks in last eight years with aggression and high fielding standards.

Pakistan were downtrodden in T20s as well.  They were humiliated in 2016 World T20 but when our domestic T20 improved because of PSL -- with private stakeholders owning six teams, dozens of junior players rubbing shoulders with superstars -- we became the No1 team within one and a half years. So if we improve our four-day cricket and one-day cricket within three years period our performance might get consistent in these two formats.

Fortune favours the brave. We need to take strong decisions. England took bold decisions after their humiliating 2015 World Cup exit and are now the world champions.

This new domestic structure may seem awkward to many. But a player will now go through different stages to reach the top. This system will take cricket to far-flung areas. The responsibilities will be shared among PCB and associations.

In my opinion everything will get professional when PCB sells these six association teams to private entities like SBP and NBP.

In my opinion the scenario might had been different had PCB handed over the city associations powers from under-13 to under-23 levels, club cricket events and grounds’ maintenance to departments like UBL, SBP, PIA and HBL 20 or 25 years ago. But we must still support this new system as it will be beneficial in the long run.

Professionalism in today’s sports