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Cricket without fans is incomplete but can be a blessing in disguise: Babar Azam

Prolific batsman leads players’ call for fans’ support in National T20 Cup

PHOTO COURTESY: PCB

When country’s best 20-over players assemble in Multan and Rawalpindi for the PKR9million 33-match National T20 Cup from September 30 to October 18, PTV Sports will be the fans’ go-to platform for live action after the participants’ health and safety forced the Pakistan Cricket Board to stage the tournament behind closed doors.

The PCB, in a ground breaking agreement worth $200million, signed a three-year deal with PTV Sports and I-Media Communications Services with the PCB retaining the production rights.

This arrangement is not only aimed at increasing the eyeballs or boosting revenues that can be reinvested into cricket or adding greater value to domestic competitions, but also to contribute in the capacity building of one of Pakistan’s oldest, respected and most prestigious institutions.

Pakistan’s white-ball captain Babar Azam admitted cricket without fans was incomplete but felt this can be a blessing in disguise.

Babar Azam: “The game is all about the fans, they are the ones who inspire and motivate us with their presence and support during good and bad days. But the flip side in these challenging times is cricket is taking place and PTV Sports, the channel I grew up watching, will be relaying live pictures in every TV lounge to keep the fans connected and involved with the tournament that will feature country’s best players in the shortest format.

“Backed up by the PCB’s own digital assets, this competition should get the following, recognition and acknowledgement that it deserves even though nothing can replace in-stadia presence of the cricket followers and fans.

“All I can request the fans on behalf of all competitors is to continue to support this tournament online and show the world through their positive engagement that we are one of the biggest sporting nations that loves its cricket and will back and support its players no matter what.

“It is also a great opportunity for PTV Sports to maximise its viewers. PTV Sports has a strong archive of old and classic matches but by becoming a partner of the PCB, it can further strengthen itself as one of the premier sport channels through excellent and quality content.”

Haider Ali, who became the first Pakistan batsman to hit a half-century on his T20I debut, said: “As a teenager, I have seen a number of games with my friends, family and colleagues from the stands. I know and understand the buzz and excitement of the spectators when they become part of the action.

“But these are unprecedented times where we all have to make small sacrifices to keep the sport alive and healthy. We will miss the fans and the fans will miss live action, but the coverage plan put in place provides great opportunities to all die-hard supporters to follow and support their favourite players and teams.

“We all look forward to the fans’ support through various online platforms that will inspire us to produce our best performances.”

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Haris Rauf, Northern’s fast bowler, said: “Fast bowlers, in particular, enjoy the crowds more as their voice and noise when they run into bowl motivates them to bowl faster. I will miss that part in the National T20 Cup, but hopefully their backing in the lead up matches through positive and supportive social media activations will give me that extra energy that will help me to contribute in my side’s title defence.

“I am keenly looking forward to this competition as it will allow me to catch-up with my old mates whom I have not met for a long time due to Covid-19 restrictions. There is a lot to talk and listen, and I look forward to spending valuable time outside cricket with them.”

Sarfaraz Ahmed, captain of Sindh, said: “We will badly miss the fans but at the same time I have complete faith that they will support the players and the event offsite so that they can continue to play their pivotal role in cricket promotion.

“When I will walk on to the field, besides the task in hand, I will like to remember days when I played matches before full houses and the fans right behind me. This will be my motivation as I can never detach myself from the fans who have contributed in what I am today.

“I want the younger generation especially to follow the tournament but not at the cost of their education as academic institutions have just opened after a long closure and at no stage they should sacrifice their studies. Cricket and education can co-exist; it is all about striking the right balance.”

Shan Masood, who will lead Southern Punjab, said: “The best part about cricket coming back home was to play in front of our supportive and knowledgeable people, but sadly with the Covid-19 situation that won’t be the case for the National T20 Cup and we are going to miss their lively presence.

“The fans’ backing is always invaluable to us and although they can’t be physically present at the venues, mainly due to their health and safety, I urge them to keep supporting all the competitors and the event by following the proceedings through television, live-streaming, mainstream media or the social media.

“As always, the fans’ support and backing is much appreciated.”