KARACHI: Pakistan Cricket Board’s Chief Executive Wasim Khan on Monday predicted a bright future for Pakistan cricket while reiterating faith in Misbah-ul-Haq’s abilities as the head coach-cum-chief selector to revive the dwindling fortunes of the national team.
In a candid interview with Dawn, the 48-year-old Birmingham-born former county batsman spoke at length over a variety of issues confronting the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) since he arrived at its Gaddafi Stadium headquarters in Lahore last February.
Initially appointed as managing director for a three-year term last December, Wasim’s designation was changed to that of chief executive after changes were made in the board’s constitution.
“I think we are heading in the right direction as far Pakistan cricket matters, with the structural changes in the domestic setup being our topmost priority. Good governance is a very important tool for any organisation and we are leaving no stone unturned in our endeavour to make Pakistan team among the top sides,” said Wasim. “I love accepting challenges and the task of getting Pakistan among the top teams of the world is a very challenging one indeed. But at the same time, it is extremely exciting as well. That’s why I accepted the offer from [PCB chairman] Ehsan Mani to join the Pakistan setup.”
Commenting on the hiring of Misbah in the unusual dual role of head coach cum chief selector which has met with mixed response, Wasim said: “I firmly believe Misbah is the ideal man to lift Pakistan out of the situation we find ourselves now; I mean being ranked seventh in Test cricket is simply not good enough and the same goes for ODI in which are sixth. Our primary goals are to improve ourselves in the [ICC] team rankings,” he emphasised. “And in Misbah we have the right person to realise the dreams we have envisaged because his CV speaks for itself. Just take a look where Pakistan cricket stood in 2010 when Misbah was brought in as the captain.
“In the six years that followed, Misbah worked tirelessly not just to restore the image of Pakistan cricket but also make them [albeit briefly] the No.1 Test side in August 2016. And he became the most successful Pakistan captain when he retired in June 2017,” observed Wasim. “His connectivity with modern-day cricket as well as majority of the current national team players as well skipper Sarfraz Ahmed was another vital factor which encouraged us to back the credentials of Misbah. His passionate involvement in domestic cricket is unmatchable since he was a regular as player until the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final in December. Besides, he is perhaps the most respected figure in our cricket, has very high integrity, is super-fit and above all he is a very level-headed person. These are some of the salient achievements of Misbah that made him an automatic choice to become Pakistan’s first head-coach-cum-chief selector,” he added.
“Previously, the process [of accountability] was almost nonexistent and neglected on occasions. There were instances where the team management [head coach and captain] was on one side and the selection committee heading in the other direction. We thought that there was an acute need for a total rethinking for the betterment of Pakistan cricket in general. We have embarked upon on a mission where accountability would be done at every possible tier, even at the domestic level of all stakeholders.”
Commenting on Sri Lanka touring Pakistan with an under-strength squad after 10 of their top players opted out over security fears, Wasim said that the decision to play in a particular country depends on the individuals themselves. “Look, you can’t force the visiting country to send its best possible squad. If Sri Lanka are sending a young team then it is their own prerogative. The players individually have the option of touring or otherwise and this is something we must understand. But mind you, it is a very competitive SL squad that is coming to Pakistan.”
“The most important thing is that a full-fledged international series of matches is going to place in Pakistan after a long gap, and we are hoping that other teams also take a cue from Sri Lanka and visit Pakistan in the near future. At this point in time, we are extremely grateful to Sri Lanka for honouring the commitment to play a bilateral series in Pakistan. It is a 13-day tour which is the longest by a team since 2009.
“Hopefully, the planned Test series against Sri Lanka [now rescheduled to December] is also staged in our country rather than on a neutral territory,” he said.
Wasim disclosed that the PCB are in talks with Bangladesh for a tour to Pakistan in January 2020 and hopefully that will materialise soon. “Look, the Sri Lankan tour is also important because there is nothing better and more effective than word of mouth to convince people. There is a huge difference between perception and reality and, Insha’Allah, when the Sri Lankan players return from Pakistan, they will surely be speaking positively about the safe and conducive playing conditions in Pakistan.
“The coming matches are sort of a litmus test given our endeavour to bring international back into our country. Recently, Kevin Roberts and Sean Connell of Cricket Australia were here. They were very pleased with what they experience during their brief stay. We are hopeful Australia would play in Pakistan during the 2022 schedule series against us.
“Then, of course, the England and Wales Cricket Board’s CEO Tom Harrison is arriving next month and his visit will coincide with the T20 games against SL. So things are moving in the right direction and I am very optimistic about our efforts bearing fruit,” said Wasim.
The revamping of Pakistan domestic cricket has triggered a major debate in the cricketing circles in Pakistan but Wasim said the players and people working closely with the Board were already beginning to appreciate the competitiveness of the new module of six teams. “It was imperative on PCB’s part to raise the overall standards of domestic competitions to it take as close as possible to the level of international cricket,” he said. “The revised Central Contracts and remuneration of players are surely a boost for them. And I must emphasise here that none of the players are being deprived of opportunities. There are three tiers of domestic competitions being planned and whosoever is good and talented will surely get the chance to showcase his abilities.
“We have gone for the Kookaburra balls in all domestic tournaments because they are mostly in use at the international level. And with six regional coaches keeping a close eye on the performances of players, I am very confident that good talent will not be left out of mainstream cricket.”
The CEO further said that the PCB is giving special importance to uplifting women’s cricket and a pool of talented women cricketers is being marked out for the future events.
Wasim concluded by making a passionate appeal to the media to bear with the current PCB regime and its long-term measures to resurrect Pakistan cricket. “With so many structural changes being made and successive measures being taken to put in place a sound, methodical system, of course the media is getting a bit edgy and restless and is keen to see the results. But all I want to tell the media at this stage is to remain patient and be positive because this PCB regime is here to take good care of Pakistan cricket and is extremely keen to see it going tops.
“Let me tell you very clearly that there will be no short-term measures or thinking on our part. We are here to revive the fortunes of Pakistan cricket and no amount of negativity or gossip will discourage or perturb us. So the best service, in my opinion, that the media can do at the moment is to believe in us and believe in Pakistan cricket and back its own players and officials. Insha’Allah the results will come.”
Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2019