Comment: Ramiz Raja as PCB chairman is yet another example of Pakistan snubbing way of the world

Published August 31, 2021
Famed commentator Ramiz Raja looks set to take over as PCB chairman. — Photo: Reuters/File
Famed commentator Ramiz Raja looks set to take over as PCB chairman. — Photo: Reuters/File

Every now and then, don’t we all find ourselves looking back at the past, wondering what we were thinking with that teenage hairdo, that impulsive purchase, that late night text or any number of things? We all have a personal collection of such thoughts, assembled with no great care and now an eternal source of piercing discomfort.

Same replicates at national level, where we look back at wars fought, lives lost, loans borrowed and monies misspent. Some among us, the brooding kind, would cringe at such introspections and think what we might do differently if given a do-over. If only we had a time-travelling DeLorean.

It never occurs to us that instead of dwelling in the past, why do we not live in the present and catch our mistakes in real time? That would save us a lifetime of regret, no?

This philosophical opening applies to pretty much all and everything in life, including our beloved but painful world of Pakistan cricket, where a pair of dice was recently rolled and one face showed Ramiz, the other Raja.

It was Raja’s turn to be smiled at by Lady Luck and ‘selected’ — ironically by Prime Minister Imran Khan. In a few years’ time, would this selection need rectification? Would another U-turn be taken? Would we reminisce or regret?

But Raja does not represent the most random selection ever made by Kaptaan, for that title will probably never leave Sardar Usman Buzdar. Thus, no matter how badly some may want to, they cannot call the incoming PCB chairman a Buzdar plus — at least not for the randomness of it all.

I do, however, have plenty to say on and critique his nomination, which might very well turn out to be a stroke of genius but it still wouldn’t matter as the nomination isn't the product of a scientific process, but appears another one of those gut-feel decision.

The premise of this piece is not to never be wrong. Hey, no one is infallible. Some of the brightest minds aided by the greatest of resources have made the biggest of blunders (Read the US invasion of Afghanistan).

It’s that high-risk, low-reward Hail Mary punt that is devoid of any logic and has no real history of success I have a problem with.

While conventional wisdom and established way of the world suggest that sports administrators at the highest level need to be seasoned executives with plenty of management experience, Pakistan is once again attempting to defy logic by handing over the cricket board’s reins to someone whose only administrative stint was back in 2003-4 when he had a largely forgettable 15-month-long term as a part-time PCB chief executive. So forgettable that few in the industry even remember that episode. Ironically, he had replace another commentator in the position: Chishty Mujahid.

During this time, he kept on commentating and made no secret of the fact that his media jobs were more important to him than running cricket in the country. When on the microphone, the lines would get murky and he’d slate his cricketers more than any CEO should ever do publicly, causing murmurs in the dressing room. In April 2004, his and then chairman Shahryar Khan’s combined (mis)handling of Shoaib Akhtar and accusing him of feigning injury — only for scans to prove he was indeed injured — did little to wrap them in glory.

Since then, Raja has never even run a regional body, let alone a messy behemoth that PCB can easily become every other week.

So when the world wants its cricket boards to be chaired by specialised personnel with loads of management experience acquired over a number of years at various levels, Pakistan cricket is still sticking to the policy of its policymakers being plucked out of thin air and given the job on a whim of one individual.

Former athletes being given top administrative jobs just because of their knowledge of the game and proximity to the prime minister is a practice not practiced in any competitive sport, anywhere in the world. Look up who chairs the boards of widely successful football clubs in Europe, and all you’d find are businessmen, lawyers, former brand executives and whatnot. You would struggle to find a former athlete with 15 months of unremarkable administrative experience, and none in the past 17 years, heading the entire operation.

Forget football or other sports, for they are far too structured. Even in cricket, the top cricketing nations see their boards headed by professionals. The ECB is currently headed by Ian Whatmore — a management consultant. Before him was Colin Graves — an entrepreneur who founded a chain of stores for himself and then, when appointed the ECB chair, signed a record £1.1billion media rights deal to go with ODI World Cups in both men’s and women’s game.

Cricket Australia Chairman Earl Eddings is an experienced business executive who’s headed multiple corporations, whereas New Zealand Cricket Chairman Martin Snedden is a former cricketer but also a practicing lawyer and veteran administrator who had held roles not just in cricket but also in rugby prior to being put at the helm of affairs.

Even Saurav Ganguly cut his administrative teeth a tier below and headed the Cricket association of Bengal for five years before given the nod to lead the BCCI.

Sports administration today is a specialised field that is taught at universities and needs specific knowledge and nous. But in the Land of the Pure it is still a widely held belief that any and all jobs in cricket can be better performed by cricketers. What’s forgotten is the fact that just because you scored runs does not mean you would also prove to be an effective cricket administrator, who could strike strategic partnerships, grow the game, increase revenues and also win the battle of politics and diplomacy.

That said, best of luck to the incoming chairman, and let’s hope we’ve struck it lucky with him.

The writer is a development sector professional whose first love is cricket.

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