Defending champions Quetta Gladiators are struggling at the bottom of the table in the Pakistan Super League. After a decent start, they have now lost four successive matches, with the slump beginning with the 30-run defeat for the Gladiators against Multan Sultans. The Sultans have since consolidated their position at the summit, with Quetta going on to lose twice against Lahore Qalandars with another defeat against Peshawar Zalmi.
After appearing to be set for another deep run this year, Quetta now might require other franchises to do them favours and would need to win both their remaining matches. The struggles of the Gladiators on the pitch – unlike the previous four seasons, which made them the most successful PSL side in terms of win percentage – is gradually fanning the off-field criticism that they have faced throughout.
Despite all the Gladiators’ successes, the locals of the province that it represents have continued to struggle to own it. The reason behind that is the dearth of locals in the squad.
The lack of representation of Balochistan in Pakistan cricket has been a point of concern for many years. However, with the advent of the PSL in 2016, with a franchise hailing from the province, it was believed that gradually more Baloch representation would be witnessed.
While there hasn’t been a significant presence of the locals in the Gladiators lineup, the 2019 edition – which Quetta won – saw Bismillah Khan and Asghar Khan being a part of the squad. The latter performed well in the tournament, while the former barely got a look in. However, the absence of players from Balochistan in the ongoing PSL tournament, the first to be held entirely in Pakistan, has irked the locals.
Before the start of PSL 5, the Balochistan Sports Ministry boycotted the kit unveiling ceremony of the Gladiators. Lawmakers from Balochistan have protested, saying that there is little point in naming a franchise after the provincial capital is there is no local representation.
“When we insisted that the Gladiators owners should include more players from Quetta, they told us that if you kept on insisting then we would name the franchise Charsadda Gladiators,” said Deputy Speaker National Assembly Qasim Khan Suri who hails from Quetta.
Protests have been recorded over the absence of local players in Quetta Gladiators throughout the previous PSL editions. However, this year, with the entire tournament being played in Pakistan and three cities getting a share of the matches, the feeling of marginalisation has grown further. The Balochistan sports ministry has even announced a separate Balochistan Premier League in a bid to find local talent.
“The PSL or the PCB [Pakistan Cricket Board] have never done anything that benefits Balochistan. Officials from the province are never included in the PCB or the PSL,” said member of Balochistan Assembly Nasrullah Zayray.
Others insist that given the following of the team in Quetta, the locals will continue to support the franchise. However, there is growing call for more inclusiveness in the PSL and the Gladiators for Balochistan, given that there are plans to expand the league to more cities next year.
“The Gladiators visiting Quetta for three hours doesn’t benefit the province. The locals are angry with the administration of the franchise, but they will continue to love and support their team. However, the Gladiators must earn the locals’ trust,” said Balochistan Sports Secretary Imran Gichki.