This aspect has been clearly lacking in Pakistan cricket when one looks at the conduct of potentially one of the greatest fast bowling finds of recent years, Mohammad Asif, who appears to be on a self-destruct mission, without support from the Board or mentoring by senior Pakistani players. Shoaib Akhtar is another case; just compare his record with that of Brett Lee from Australia. Shoaib is as good a bowler as Lee but lacks the dedication, commitment and professionalism of the great Australian player.
I was fortunate in being involved with Pakistan cricket at the international level for many years. Before each ICC meeting, considerable time and effort would be spent in developing proposals, strategies and objectives which reflected the interest and thinking of the PCB. The PCB was represented on every key ICC policy committee and took a lead in shaping the game without compromising the interests of Pakistan. We worked closely with any country, including India, where it served the interest of Pakistan cricket.
In recent years PCB’s policies have been reactive rather than proactive, more often than not following the lead of India and in the process sometimes compromising Pakistan’s interests. PCB needs to reassert itself at the international forums or risks becoming marginalised.
The international perspective of Pakistan as a dangerous place to tour, certainly in the eyes of Australia, South Africa, England, New Zealand and West Indies is unfortunate. Yes, the timing of the ICC Champions Trophy made it inevitable that it would not take place in Pakistan. Pakistan is in the midst of a war on terror and a victim of terrorism itself; with the increasing spate of bomb blasts recently there was no possibility of the event taking place in Pakistan as scheduled.
This was certainly clear to me for the past three months from discussions with and telephone calls I received from the Chairmen of a number of Boards from around the world; PCB lived in blissful hope that somehow teams would turn up on the day, simply because it had the support of India. This was just not going to happen. The PCB should have taken the lead; recognising the reality, it should have swapped the 2008 Champion’s Trophy for the 2010 or 2012 ICC Events and avoided the inevitable.
Some countries have used the excuse of the security situation not to tour Pakistan. The Australian players have been very vocal in expressing concerns about the country even when teams from South Africa, New Zealand and the West Indies have toured. Many, including some Australians, have indicated that the senior Australian team do not like the lack of social life in Pakistan, with no bars, night life or clubs to go to after a day’s play.
Pakistan has successfully hosted the Australian ‘A’ team as well as the Under-19 team in the recent years but when it comes to the full international side, security takes on a different dimension in the Aussies’ minds.
Cricket Australia has backed its players to the extent that Australia has not toured Pakistan for 10 years; compare this to India and Australia playing each other 27 times in the past two years. Pakistan needs to give Australia a clear message; Pakistan must not tour Australia until Australia makes up for all its cancelled tours to Pakistan.
While I was President of the ICC, before an ICC Board meeting in Lahore in 2004, I took a number of directors including the then Chairmen of the Boards from Australia, West Indies, South Africa and Zimbabwe to Gilgit and Hunza. We drove up the KKH and flew back. It was an eye opener for them. It showed them a Pakistan very different from the perception they had. To this day they all consider it the highlight of their cricketing travels anywhere in the world. Each one of them would come back to Pakistan at the first opportunity. The PCB will need to work very hard to convince the world that there is another side of Pakistan, which is welcoming, hospitable and safe.
Cricket these days is big business. More money than ever before is flowing into the game principally from the sale of media rights and sponsorship. Pakistan is no exception, provided international cricket is played in the country revenues will flow in. Good governance and transparency are required to use this money effectively. The principal beneficiaries must always be the players, but Pakistan also needs to spend huge amounts on its cricketing infrastructure. This ranges from grassroots investment to the international stadiums. Attendances at matches, particular Test Matches, are very low. Our stadiums are not customer friendly. This discourages families from going to watch a match, unlike most of the other major cricketing countries. Much has been written about the role of former players in the running of the Pakistan Board. The administration of cricket like the sport is a team game; the chairman is the leader but he must be supported by a team with appropriate skills.
The Chairman of the Board must have the breadth of experience, including a deep understanding of the game, an appreciation of the challenges and threats to the game in Pakistan, the vision to take the game forward, a good understanding of the commercial issues, a clear appreciation of good governance and the diplomatic skills to represent Pakistan at the international level. It does not matter if he has not played international or even first-class cricket; the most successful team in the world is Australia. Cricket Australia has a very sound governance structure but more often than not the chairman is not a former first-class or Test player.
The same applies to England, South Africa and India What is important is that former and current players are involved on the cricketing side of the Board; this would include the domestic structure of the game, rules, regulations and playing conditions, coaching, umpiring, match referees, pitches and grounds, grassroots development, involvement in the Board’s and the ICC’s cricket committees. The players must have a voice in the running of the PCB by nominating a member to the Board; this is now the case in a number of countries such as Australia, South Africa and West Indies.
Finally, it is not in the interest of the health of the game in Pakistan to have political appointees as Chairmen of the PCB. The President of Pakistan should be a benevolent Patron; unless there are good reasons to the contrary he should be rubber stamping the recommendation of the Board rather than imposing his own nominee.
A regime change at the political level should not automatically lead to a change of the Chairmanship of the PCB. The PCB must always strive to have the best man as its chairman. We have had a number of Generals as PCB chairmen; some very good, others who did not know one end of a bat from the other. I have known of an instance when the President of Pakistan, having no clue of cricket himself, appointed an old school friend as Chairman because his friend played cricket in school; the assumption being that if his old friend played cricket he knew about cricket. As CLR James wrote words to the effect “those who only cricket know, know not cricket”. Pakistan cricket deserves better.
The writer is a former ICC president