Habib Bank Limited (HBL) has decided to scrap their cricket department, ending a four decade long association with Pakistan’s domestic cricket. The shutdown was quite expected as most domestic cricket insiders aware of the situation.
The bank’s sports department started in the early 1970's. Since that time, HBL has been one of the strongest teams in Pakistan’s domestic circuit and did not miss one season. However, contracts of cricketers which expired at the end of last month, weren’t renewed. They had already cut funding to other sports in 2016.
HBL had faced problems nationally and globally with New York’s banking regulator fining them $225M fine back in 2017. Management had been looking out for ways to cut costs. The cricket team needed a layout of $350,000 annually.
However, the bank has assured that their sponsorship of PSL is set to continue.
HBL's title sponsorship of the PSL, over the last four years, reflects our passion for the development of youth and the discovery of cricketing talent," an HBL spokesperson said. "The PSL has given an opportunity to countless young cricketers to display their talent at a national and international level. This has led to an unprecedented talent pipeline for Pakistan cricket and has played an instrumental role in discovering players like Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Hasan Ali and many more.
"With PSL, international cricket has returned to Pakistan. We are also delighted to see cricket facilities being uplifted in Pakistan and fans once again packing the stadiums to enjoy cricket. To continue to invest in PSL, and in the larger interest of cricket in Pakistan, HBL will redeploy its valuable resources from other avenues. This reinvestment will be partially achieved by exiting departmental cricket. HBL has had a long history in departmental cricket and recognizes its valuable contributions to Pakistan cricket. Consequent to our enhanced focus on HBL PSL, the HBL cricket team will be demobilized."
"To continue to invest in PSL, and in the larger interest of cricket in Pakistan, HBL will redeploy its valuable resources from other avenues"
During the time of nationalization, under part socialist leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Abdul Hafeez Kardar urged banks and other departments to invest in domestic cricket as a way to ensure that the players have consistent incomes. Legends like Javed Miandad, Younus Khan Abdul Qadir, and Shahid Afridi played for HBL.
PCB under leadership of its patron Imran Khan is already pushing to cut down on the role of departments. It remains to be seen how PCB solves the financial jigsaw.