LAHORE: Two former chiefs of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Khalid Mahmood and Zaka Ashraf, have welcomed the appointment of Ramiz Raja as the new chairman, but at the same time they cautioned him against pitfalls lying in his way.

Talking to Dawn on Friday, Khalid Mahmood said although he knew nothing about Ramiz Raja’s management skills, he had hopes that the former opener would succeed in taking Pakistan cricket to new heights. “I know Ramiz as a very pleasant personality. However, I don’t know much about his management skills, which will matter most as big challenges are ahead.”

Zaka Ashraf made similar observations, adding that management skills mattered most in running an organisation.

“Only a man who has sound management ability can succeed in this endeavour and the government must take this aspect into consideration before selecting an individual for the PCB’s top job,” Zaka stressed. “And although Ramiz has worked as the cricket board’s chief executive, it doesn’t mean that he will turn out to be a good manager. We have precedents where people with no such skills were in the board. We saw Javed Miandad become PCB’s director general. Even Ehsan Mani has no management skills since he’s just a chartered accountant.”

Citing an example of how some of the top cricket boards are functioning, Zaka remarked: “Established cricket boards are run by professionals who are well versed in management, but it never happened in our country.”

Both Khalid and Zaka believe the challenges are high for Ramiz as the state of affairs in PCB are not ideal, to put it mildly.

Khalid Mahmood said Ramiz Raja had a good international exposure through his experiences both as a Test player and then as a TV commentator.

“The biggest challenge for him is to restore Pakistan’s glories of the 1980s and 90s. I was the last chairman when Pakistan played a World Cup final [in 1999] and since then we have not reached the final of a mega event.

“To achieve this goal the restoration of club cricket is essential because it has been drastically neglected over the past few decades. Under-19 cricket has also gone out of fashion over the last few years. We should nurture cricket at the grass roots and this could be done by organising tournaments at club and under-19 levels.

“The PCB must give respect, honour and recognition to the organisers working at the grassroots, such as at the club, regional and provincial levels, since they serve as nurseries of talent,” he observed.

The former PCB chief pointed out had there been no club cricket during the 1980s and 90s, legends like Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Inzamam-ul-Haq and many others would not have emerged.

“Right-sizing of the PCB will be the biggest challenge as many undeserving people drawing hefty salaries and enjoying handsome perks are a burden on the nation.

“I believe the money generated by cricketers must be spent on cricketers and not on administrators,” Khalid said, recalling that as PCB head he had refused to raise the salary of Majid Khan when the latter was the board’s chief executive.

Khalid Mahmood believes that even today Test cricket deserves more attention than the shorter formats. Twenty20 cricket is destroying players skills, especially in batting, he observed. The role of departments must be restored, he suggested.

“I am not saying that departments should be allowed to field their own teams, but at least they should be asked to sponsor regional bodies,” he concluded.

Zaka Ashraf advised Ramiz Raja to brace himself for a bumpy ride because the current chief executive, Wasim Khan, enjoys major powers and has rendered Ehsan Mani powerless.

He recalled that a similar experiment was carried out when Shaharyar Khan was the chairman, but most powers vested in the hands of Najam Sethi. “This bipolar set-up created an anomaly which landed the PCB, as well as the Pakistan team, in a mess.”

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2021

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