LAHORE: Several U-turns on key issues by Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Zaka Ashraf mark his one-year tenure in office since assuming charge in October 2011.
As per the notification of his appointment as the new PCB chief issued on Oct 13, 2011, Zaka began his stint by immediately declaring that the resumption of international cricket will be his top priority.
However, his actions have not really supported his claims during this period as no international cricket team has toured the country till now while Pakistan continue to play their ‘home’ series at neutral venues.
In fact, PCB’s ‘hands-off’ attitude to Dr Mohammad Ali Shah, the Sindh Sports Minister, who is striving to hold two international matches in Karachi against the International World XI shows the Board as well as Zaka Ashraf in a bad light and belies his claims about revival of international cricket at home being his top priority.
In another such announcement, the PCB chief had once said that his first priority would be to make Pakistan the No.1 team in all three formats in the year 2013.
He was surely lucky to have inherited a winning team combination from his predecessor Ijaz Butt — with Mohsin Hasan Khan as the head coach, Mohammad Ilyas as acting chief selector and Misbah-ul-Haq as captain of all the three formats — and looked well on his way to achieving his goal of seeing Pakistan at the top.
The Pakistan team was dominating the scene and maintained its winning streak in the early period of the new PCB chief’s reign by beating Sri Lanka in all formats in the UAE during October-November 2011, registering a clean sweep in Bangladesh in all three formats and then returning to the UAE to crush the world number one Test side of England 3-0 in the three-match series.
However, soon after winning that Test series against Andrew Strauss & Co, Pakistan experienced a slump of sorts as England scored an emphatic 4-0 victory in the ODIs and also clinched the T20 series 2-1 in the UAE.
Zaka, flexing his muscles for the first time since assuming charge as PCB chief, took another U-turn and decided to break the winning Mohsin-Ilyas-Misbah combination for reasons best known to him.
He appointed the Sri Lanka-born Aussie coach Dav Whatmore in place of Mohsin for the Asia Cup while former left-arm spinner Iqbal Qasim was named as chief selector in place of Ilyas who tendered his resignation at around the same time.
Though Pakistan won the Asia Cup under Misbah’s captaincy, the right-handed batsman was asked to relinquish the T20 captaincy to all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez — just three months before the start of the World Twenty20.
The frequent changes made by Zaka resulted in a sharp decline of the team’s performance on the subsequent tour of Sri Lanka where Pakistan lost the three-Test series 0-1 and the ODIs 1-3 under Misbah’s leadership.
It was felt by the critics and fans alike that Misbah, a fine leader of men as proved by his credentials, somewhat lost his confidence after his removal from the T20 captaincy amid reports that Hafeez could well take over as captain in the two other formats pretty soon.
Questions were also asked about lack of impact from Whatmore while Iqbal Qasim’s team selection also put him under the microscope after the team’s ordinary show in Sri Lanka.
In yet another U-turn, the PCB chairman, after claiming that he would fight the Pakistan case before the ICC over forced adoption of a democratic system in the Board, recently admitted that the PCB would follow the ICC constitution.
Though the last date to adopt the democratic set-up has expired on June 30, 2012, the ICC can still decide in the next 12 months about a penalty for those countries which have been violating these clauses.
Many believe that the PCB’s recent move to grant status of region to four new cities namely Larkana, Dera Bugti, Fata and Bahawalpur is aimed to facilitate Zaka so that he could win the elections easily and thus fulfill the ICC requirement.
In other significant U-turn, Zaka after having categorically said that according to the reciprocal policy India will visit Pakistan first, has now allowed India to host Pakistan for an ODI and T20 series, scheduled for December-January.
Another prime example of Zaka’s U-turn policy could be seen in hiring of national team coaches. It was early this year when the PCB chief had stated that the Board would be hiring the best coaches for the team. However, the appointment of Mohammad Akram as bowling coach certainly does not befit that claim.
Moreover, Zaka has been giving out many dates for the start of the Pakistan Premier League on the pattern of the Indian Premier League, but so far not a single step has been taken towards realisation of the project.
The pathetic performance of the U-19 team in the World Cup in Australia where Pakistan finished 8th has also been a cause for concern. It is clearly the worst ever performance of the team at the mega competition and serious questions have been asked about the coaching and selection of the outfit. The chairman had appointed Director General Javed Miandad to probe the poor results of the team but nothing has come out of it to date.
One sincerely hopes that Zaka will devise some solid and consistent policies for the team as well as for all other key matters next year to take Pakistan cricket forward and ensure that he does not back down on them as often as he did in his first year in office.