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Pak lose interest in IPL with no local cricketer playing

With no Pakistani cricketer playing in the second edition of the Indian Premier League, the twenty20 tournament is receiving a lukewarm response among the people in Karachi.

cricket Updated: Apr 20, 2009 11:38 IST

With no Pakistani cricketer playing in the second edition of the Indian Premier League, the twenty20 tournament is receiving a lukewarm response among the people in Karachi.

The local viewers interest in the tournament this year is in complete contrast to last year when the IPL matches were passionately followed by fans in Karachi.

Although the only sports channel of the country, Geo Super has exclusive rights to show all IPL matches live and is also drumming up an extensive campaign to create interest in the tournament but Pakistani people remain unhappy with the absence of their stars from the event.

"The interest in the IPL this year is not the same as last year. Because for us there is no connection to the tournament to be honest," former captain Rashid Latif said.

However, Latif hoped with the tournament gaining momentum in South Africa, interest was likely to rise in Pakistan.

"Generally Pakistanis are passionate about cricket and although their attention would be diverted by our series against Australia, I think sooner or later they will start following the IPL progress," he said.

The channel has been running extensive media campaign and special shows to project the tournament but most callers have complained that why are they promoting the event when there is no Pakistani player in it.

Last year the IPL was a big hit in Pakistan with a lot of viewership for the matches but this year things could be different according to market analysts.

"The IPL this year comes in the midst of a global economic recession and sponsors and companies are not even willing to invest money into a cricket event that does not have Pakistan flavor in it," Jamal Mir, who heads a top advertising agency and management company said.

He also said the strained relations between Pakistan and India are also not helping the promotion of brands in Indian backed events like the IPL.

The IPL organisers have refused to allow Pakistani players, including Misbah-ul-Haq, Sohail Tanvir, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Shahid Afridi, Salman Butt, Umar Gul, Mohammad Hafeez to take part in the competition even though the players appealed that they should be given this opportunity to represent their franchise.

The players desperation to play in the IPL has not won them many more fans with some former players wondering why are the players so desperate to play in the IPL when the Indian organisers are not willing to accommodate them.

"These players should just try to sort out their financial matters with the IPL and even go to court if necessary to get their dues," former Test player Jalaluddin said.

But advertising and marketing experts admit that once the IPL begins and gets into gear the timing of the matches are ideal to capture viewership on television.

"The matches will happen late evening and continue till around midnight, which is prime time viewing in Pakistan so you might still see a change in marketing strategy by sponsors later on," another marketing analyst, Shuja Ahmed said.

But while there is some debate on how much interest and viewership the IPL matches will create in Pakistan, unofficial bookmakers and punters are preparing for a windfall betting season.

"These twenty20 matches are very popular among our clients no matter who is playing and the IPL has lot of top and recognisable stars. So the betting should be in millions of rupees," a local bookmaker, Danish said.

Pakistan's former Test captain Rameez Raja said it was easy for the IPL to take off in India as the fans identified with their teams but things could be different in South Africa where there would be no natural bond between fans and the city teams.

"I think the IPL will take time to gain momentum. But the IPL and the Australia series on television is an ideal break for people to get away from the tensions and problems facing the country," he said.

First Published: Apr 18, 2009 16:59 IST