The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), during the past four months, has witnessed two chairmen and a five-man committee changing hands. Such back and forth in the country’s cricketing affairs is enough to boggle the minds of cricket lovers.
Handpicked men such as Zaka Ashraf, a banker, and Najam Sethi, political analyst and television talk show host, have taken turns at the helm, only to be removed – and reinstated – by the courts that seem more than willing to entertain petitions from all and sundry, putting the game in further jeopardy.
And for the first time in the game’s history, the patron of the board is not the president but the prime minister.
An over-zealous fan of the game, the prime minister’s decisions have only compounded the chaos.
To put it succinctly, there has been more action off the field than on it in Pakistan cricket.
The constitution of the board, despite all its ambiguities and lacunas, distinctly lays down election procedures for the chairman, besides providing clear guidelines on how to run the organisation in emergencies and extraordinary circumstances.
So what’s the mess all about?
“This mess dates back to ad hoc governance that began in 2000 when former president and dictator, retired General Pervez Musharraf, put one of his able deputies, Lt Gen Tauqir Zia, at the PCB helm,” recalls former captain and wicketkeeper Rashid Latif.
“The constitution went out of the window on that fateful day; since then you can see a marked deterioration in the PCB’s working as well as in the performance of the national team.”
Rashid, a knowledgeable, outspoken individual, has been PCB’s worst critic over the years. According to him, the poor governance has been the prime cause for Pakistan cricket getting entangled in a number of nasty controversies such as the spot-fixing saga, the doping scandal and the ball tampering row. “These scandals have earned a bad name for the country because people running the show at PCB have been political appointments; none of them was interested in resurrecting the fortunes of the game,” he laments.
But his words should not lead one to conclude that a former cricketer is the ideal person to run the board affairs.
This is the opinion of former captain Waqar Younis. “I think the biggest damage was done during the tenure of former Test opener Ejaz Butt, who remained chairman for a full three-year term,” contends Waqar.
“The ghastly firing incident involving the Sri Lankan team in Lahore happened during his (Ejaz’s) time which to date has deprived Pakistan of any international cricket at home. So, there’s no guarantee that a former player will steer the ship any better.”
Needless to say, such constant upheavals in the PCB take their toll on the players too. “We do not remain oblivious to such things,” says one of Pakistan’s dashing young openers on condition of anonymity. “On all such occasions the players remain unsure, especially when touring abroad; they wonder if their match fees, prize money or central contracts will be disbursed on time.
“At times, team managements have faced the uncertainty of being removed mid-tour following court verdicts that displaced PCB’s heads,” adds the Lahore-born player.
Arif Abbasi, who served the board twice as its chief, describes the current scenario in the PCB as ‘appalling’.
“In my days almost everything was approved by the general body and the constitutional procedures were strictly followed,” recalls Abbasi.
“The political interference in the board has distorted things beyond recognition today.”
Abbasi takes pride in the fact that his team of six men not only ensured the smooth running of the board, but they also saw Pakistan cricket scaling great heights – the 1987 and 1996 World Cups were staged in the region.
“It was my brainchild to bid for the World Cups and we pulled it off by jointly hosting them with India and Sri Lanka. Today, with a ridiculously inflated 960-member staff, we cannot host a single series, let alone a mega event.”
The 14-year period during which the PCB has been run in an ad hoc manner has seen the board’s reins in the hands of an army general, a foreign office diplomat, a nephrologist, an ex-cricketer, a banker and a political analyst. Whose turn will it be next? We can only wait and watch.