ISLAMABAD - Islamabad Region has produced a number of top class players, who not only served the region and departments but also the country, but it was all due to the international-standard cricket grounds available to the youth of the capital.

No one can doubt the commitment and efforts being rendered by Islamabad Region President Shakil Shakih, who was also very powerful member of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) governing body. He also played instrumental role in introducing domestic cricket formats and his contributions towards Pakistan cricket is no secret. Had Shakil Shaikh not used his good offices and not fought case of Islamabad cricket grounds with former prime minister Shoukat Aziz and then CDA chairman Kamran Lashari, Islamabad cricket would have long been died and Pakistan cricket would never had such luxury of international stars, who are excelling at international level.

At a time in 2006-7, when Shoukat Aziz had decided to construct 7th and 9th Avenues, three major cricket grounds, including Marghazar, Diamond and Lal Quarters, fell due to construct of roads, it was Shakil, who ran from post to pillar to convince the government finally bow down and allocate separate piece of land for construction of cricket grounds. The state-of-the-art cricket grounds in the federal capital are due to tireless efforts of Shakil.

Shakil Shaikh took over the reins of Islamabad Region way back in 1999, when there was not a single top level cricket ground available in the twin cities with only exception of Pindi Stadium. As soon as cricket grounds were available to Islamabad, the region started producing Test cricketers like Rao Iftikahr Ahmed, Shan Masood, Babar Azam, Hassan Ali and first class and international players like Asher Zaidi, Raheel Majeed, Abid Ali, Sohail Tanveer, Umar Amin, Awais Zia and others.

Babar Azam, Shan Masood, Abid Ali and Hassan Ali were never considered by their respective cities and regions and it was Islamabad Region, which provided them break and revive the careers of a number of international players like Hafeez, Umar Gul, Ahmed Shahzad, Yasir Arafat, Yasir Hameed, Shoaib Malik, Shoaib Akhtar and others, who were struggling to get a chance. It was Islamabad Region, which always provided launching pad to deserving/talented cricketers.

Shadab Khan and other renowned cricketers took huge benefit from world-class cricket grounds in Islamabad. But now CDA has already occupied two top class grounds including National and Bhutto grounds and within a few months of occupation, these grounds are now presenting deserted look, the pitches are completely destroyed due to non-availability of proper ground staff while CDA completely flopped to maintain F-9 Park cricket ground.

How on earth was it possible for them to maintain state-of-the-art cricket grounds? The CDA chairman and Mayor Islamabad must spare a few minutes and visit these grounds and they will come to know the actual reality. Rawalpindi is badly struggling to produce quality players just because they don’t have a single quality ground. Pindi Stadium is not in the reach of ordinary cricketers while KRL is highly sensitive and GHQ ground is not available. Pasban, where the PCB has spent millions of rupees is being out of bound.

Former MNA Hanif Abbasi, with his personal efforts, had constructed a few cricket grounds, which although were not international standards yet at least they were providing relief to the youth of the twin cities . But soon after the end of PML-N government tenure, the respective college and schools, where the cricket grounds were constructed, had taken over the possessions of the grounds.

Muhammad Wasim International Cricket Academy was also closed down just because the administration of Degree College refused to allow Wasim to continue while former first class player Tauqeer Shah couldn’t bear this shock and lost his life. A number of youngsters are now running from post to pillar to learn the art of playing cricket under quality coaches, but there is not a single ground available for Wasim and other international players, where they may train talented youth.

PCB chairman Ehsan Mani made it clear during his visit to Karachi that cricket grounds in respective cities would be run by the respective regions, but in Rawalpindi and Islamabad, CDA and RDA are not in a mood to let cricket flourish and using every trick in their pockets to deprive the youth of playing cricket. It was Shakil Shaikh, who ensured capital had its own cricket stadium and half of work was completed at I-8, but the CDA backed off. Now there is hardly any chance that the project to be resumed. The CDA must allocate land to the PCB where international cricket stadium must be constructed, as Islamabad is the safest city in South Asia. The international teams would have a little hesitation to agree and play in Pakistan.

The time is high when PM Imran Khan should take notice of the alarming situation and restrict CDA from unwanted interference and direct it to hand over the cricket grounds of Rawalpindi and Islamabad to respective regions, who will properly look after them and once again start hunting and producing champions for the country.