SELECTION of players for the national cricket team is one of the hotly debated topics in Pakistan. In a country with 220 million people, being a selector is a truly thankless job. Prior to being appointed chief selector by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Mohammad Wasim was a rising star working his way up the coaching ranks. About a year since his elevation, he has lost that tag, and is now considered a part of the cricket establishment, so much so that a member of that fraternity recently referred to him as a ‘puppet’.

Away from the individuals, I am of the firm opinion that the position of chief selector should not exist at all. It is reductive, narrow, archaic and inherently flawed. Picking 15 players out of the proverbial hat, as it so often seems, has never worked for Pakistan for a myriad of reasons that include everything from competency to organisational structure.

Thankfully, there is an alternative course; a course that is popular across the world as a practical way of doing things. In the United States, professional teams hire either a general manager or a president of operations looking after sports like basketball, baseball, football and hockey. This individual is given the status of an executive, and the authority to not just select the players, but to build a team and an organisation. The ingress of data and analytics means these individuals are often not former players. Instead, these individuals are elite practitioners with the institutional knowledge and frameworks needed to make better decisions.

They create processes and set things right in terms of organisational structure, hiring coaches, evaluating talent, and building rosters and line-ups. For example, they generate internal discourse about the analytics and qualitative features of specific field positions. More importantly, they reconcile and align these topics in an effort to make better decisions.

Moving forward, regardless of the result in the upcoming World Cup, it is important that the PCB should reconsider having such a position. It is time we upgraded our understanding of sports from that of a basic passion to a complex field of study, and pushed forward with the intent to find a competitive advantage.

Mohammad A. Khan
New York, USA

Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2021

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