ISLAMABAD  -   Islamabad Cricket Association (ICA) North Zone President Shabbir Ahmed has appealed to Prime minister Imran Khan to provide him justice and let the youth of Islamabad play cricket at National Cricket Ground, which has been captured illegally for more than two years.

Shabbir expressed these views during an exclusive interview to The Nation on Wednesday. “For the last two years I am running from pillar to post to get justice. Even though Interior Minister Shahryar Afridi had directed to get National Ground vacated from blatantly illegal possession of a private person, nothing on ground has been done so far.”

Shabbir said at least four clubs affiliated with the ICA were playing cricket at that venue and top quality cricket academy namely National Youth Cricket Academy was imparting training to young lad besides girls were also provided free of cost training with regular female cricket matches being conducted at NCG before it was took over by the illegal occupants.

He said he had been serving Islamabad cricket for last 35 years and captained Islamabad Cricket Association in the Patrons Trophy and played top cricket, U-16, U-19, Wills Cup before he was assigned by Islamabad Region President Shakil Shakih to manage Islamabad Region cricket teams. “I had spent my entire life for the promotion of cricket and I was also appointed manager of Sialkot Region by PCB in 2018 in Patrons Trophy Grade-II. At a time when CDA had taken over almost all the cricket grounds of the capital as former premier Shoukat Aziz had ordered construction of new roads, which ran through the cricket grounds, Shakil Shakih took the initiative and fought for the cause. Now almost 60 percent of top level cricket, including Quaid-E-Azam Trophy, international matches, regional tournaments, Fazal Mehmood Cup and number of other major tournaments are being held in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.”

Shabir said he had the possession of National Ground till 2016, where Quaid-E-Azam Trophy matches were regularly conducted at the venue while National T20 Cup matches were also held at National Ground. “After 2016 not a single trophy match had played at National Ground and it was requested to Interior Minister, IPC Minister and MNAs of Islamabad to pay a visit to National cricket ground and check the depleted condition of not only cricket ground, pitches but also the building.,” added Shabbir.

National Cricket Ground, said Shabbir, had produced number of international players and helped talented cricketers to play for Pakistan.

“When in 2016 Imran Khan Fast Bowlers Talent Hunt Programme was launched, National ground was the headquarter of all the activities, where top PTI management including Naeem-ul-Haq, Asad Umar, Ijaz Rafi Butt and even Imran Khan visited and lauded the facilities being maintained by the ICA and the ground administration. What had CDA done to the grounds, which are under their possession is no secret to anyone - one should look at entire cricket grounds of Pakistan, all are run by the respective regions and Chairman PCB Ehsan Mani pleaded that grounds should be under the control of the associations.”

Shabbir added: “National Cricket Ground was the replacement of Lal Quarter Cricket Ground, where new road was constructed and all the cricket grounds, which are world class due to sheer hard work of Islamabad Region President Shakil Shaikh’s personal efforts as he met with then CDA chairman and convinced him that youth of the capital will be deprived from playing cricket had replacement of the grounds was not sanctioned. The then Senate Standing Committee Chairman, Ch Zafar Iqbal, had also played an instrumental role for such a cause. Now if the CDA or any other person, just to settle personal scores want to occupy cricket grounds of the capital in the name of the CDA where the players would go to play?”

He alleged that the CDA has miserably failed to maintain these state of the art cricket grounds and if put under CDA these would be completely destroyed.

He urged Prime Minister Imran Khan to form a committee comprising of Islamabad Region President, CDA representative and all the stake-holders and they should evolve a mechanism for keeping these grounds well maintained with the involvement of the local association.

“The possession of all the cricket grounds must be handed over to the elected regional cricket association so these grounds remain well maintained,” proposed Shabbir.