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Amid all the fiasco with the owners of Multan Sultans, who eventually defaulted on their payments, the new owners of the team, Ali Khan Tareen and Taimur Malik, saw an opportunity of using the brand to develop cricket in the relatively underdeveloped region of South Punjab, of which Multan is the biggest city.

On December 20, the Multan Consortium, led by Ali Tareen, son of one of the wealthiest businessmen and politician in Pakistan, won the ownership rights of the team for approximately $6.35 million per annum for seven years.

“When the opportunity came up that the South Punjab team was available, Taimur and I thought about it. This is an opportunity we couldn’t let go,” Ali told Cricingif.

“So we went all in and got the team and now we have a South Punjab representative team in the PSL.”

Tareen, who runs a cricket website Grassroots Cricket, has taken an avid interest in promoting the sport in the South Punjab region. And for him, the acquisition of the team is a part of the much larger plan.

“South Punjab used to be a breeding ground for the national talent once. But the infrastructure has deteriorated over the years. The number of grounds have reduced drastically and the pitches have changed to the cemented ones,” Ali lamented.

With his father Jahangir Khan Tareen, widely believed to be the chief financier of the ruling Pakistan Justice Party of Imran Khan, politically involved, and Ali, himself having unsuccessfully fought an election last year, wants the youth of the region to get involved and pursue their passion.

“We’ll have grounds in Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Lodhran and Multan. We are establishing academies in these grounds where all the high potential players can play every single day. So we hope with the help of daily nets and regular competitive matches on a first-class quality grounds will make players.”

Ali also lamented the current rules of the PCB regarding the cricket clubs but sounded enthusiastic in his plans for creating an ecosystem for the game in the region.

“Under the current PCB rules, one net can have four clubs which can show that we play here regularly and accept us as formal club. But in Lodhran, there are 30 clubs and only two grounds. The issue is the PCB goes around reducing the number of clubs citing the low number of grounds. Make more grounds, why are you trying to reduce the number of clubs? Instead of saying that you are not following the rules, make it easier for them to follow the rule and build more grounds.”

 From L-R: Alamgir Khan Tareen, Chairman PCB Ehsan Mani, Ali Tareen, Taimur Malik

From L-R: Alamgir Khan Tareen, Chairman PCB Ehsan Mani, Ali Tareen, Taimur Malik

Ali gave the example of Peshawar where the number of nets and grounds have increased exponentially over the past five years. “A lot of players are coming to our national team from Peshawar region because of that. We want to give the same support to South Punjab and will take it back to glorious times which produced players like Inzamam-ul-Haq, Waqar Younis and Mushtaq Ahmad.”

With players draft for the fourth season already held a month before the auction for the ‘Sixth Team’, the team was selected by a committee under the auspices of PCB. But the owners are happy with the team and Shoaib Malik will remain the captain of the team.

“Malik is a great player, and everyone knows his humble attitude,” said the co-owner of the team Taimur Malik. “Our plan is to continue with the current management and we’ll what needs to be changed next year. We are taking this as a learning phase and will plan accordingly for the future.”

Ali added that he although they didn’t have any role in the draft but they were happy with the team. “We have some experienced heads, and some big hitters also. Mohammad Irfan, our South Punjab representative bowler, and Abbas as well who had a great season in Tests especially. Let’s see how he does in T20s,” said Ali, who was again keep to emphasise on his goals beyond the PSL of utilizing the experience of senior players in the team to guide the emerging talent from the South Punjab region.

“The goal beyond the tournament is to take these players such as Abbas to teach the local talent of what he learnt in England, in county cricket so we can try and transfer that knowledge to the up and coming players.”

Over the past three seasons of the PSL, and with numerous franchise leagues emerging around the world, the issue of the involvement of the owners in the selection of the team has perturbed the team management on numerous occasions. But Ali was quick to any concerns of owners’ involvement.

“We are just two of the partners of the consortium. Our main partner and biggest stakeholder is my uncle Alamgir Tareen. He is a huge sports fan and his focus will be on data analysis and how to select the team in the next draft. He is going to have a major role in that. But once the team is selected, we are going to rely on the management to fulfil that role. We won’t be interfering during the tournament, but my uncle will have a role in selecting the team before the tournament.”