More than the standard of cricket in Pakistan, the Islamic republic’s financial condition has dropped significantly in recent years, with the country now struggling to get even the basics right in every domain. A video portraying the state of Pakistani cricket as well as the country’s cash crunch has gone viral on social media. The footage shows the Khanewal Stadium in Pakistan’s Punjab province, which has shockingly been converted into a pumpkin and chillies farm.
The Khanewal Cricket Stadium was supposed to conduct domestic matches in the Punjab province. The stadium was built keeping in mind the development of the sport in Pakistan at the grassroots level. The stadium was equipped with high-class facilities, including a practice area and pavilion. However, the ground has been taken over by farmers, who are now growing vegetables such as pumpkins, chillies, etc at the stadium.
The stadium comes under the jurisdiction of the Khanewal district administration, who had supposedly spent crores of rupees to build the ground.
The video of the stadium with chillies plantation has surfaced just as Pakistan prepares to resume full-fledged international cricket in the country. In September, New Zealand will tour Pakistan for a white-ball series, followed by England and Australia in October and February respectively. International cricket in Pakistan had come to a standstill after a group of terrorists attacked the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009. The country’s cricket board would like to see only positive news get out now that top teams are willing to tour Pakistan after an 11-year hiatus, thus this footage of Khanewal Stadium would sting administrators.
But cricket is not all that Pakistan is losing. It recently sold off many government properties, including the residence of Prime Minister Imran Khan, as it could not afford their upkeep. When Imran Khan took over as Pakistani PM in 2018, the country’s economic situation was dire, with foreign exchange reserves at $7 billion or less than the equivalent of two months of imports, while external debt topped $ 100 billion.
Despite Pakistan’s large-scale manufacturing sector growing by more than 14% from July 2020 to May 2021 and remittances hitting a record of $29.4 billion in the last financial year, consumer price inflation climbed to 11.1% in April.
Adding to these structural economic woes is Pakistan’s growing debt to China under the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. In fact, according to IMF, Pakistan today owes 27.4% of its total external debt of $90.12 billion to China.
As for cricket, the Babar Azam-led side is currently in the West Indies for a two-match Test series. West Indies beat Pakistan by 1 wicket in a thrilling first Test match on 15 August. The second Test match between the two sides will start on 20 August.