By Muhammad Asif Khan
In Pakistan, the position of the Cricket Board chairman is among the most watched slots, so a single wrong step made by the person occupying the seat attracts a great deal of criticism.
The era of Ijaz Butt was by far the most talked about, but has the situation changed since the new Chairman — Chaudhry Zaka Ashraf — took the reigns of the Pakistan Cricket Pakistan (PCB)? Quite honestly, it has been a mixed bag in terms of the decisions taken by him.
An overview of the last one year — since Zaka Ashraf assumed the office — gives an impression of his being a man desperate to make his mark. Nevertheless, he has also pressed a few wrong buttons in the process.
The latest wrong button was in connection with the Domestic T20 tournament, which was finally shifted to Lahore from Karachi.
Contrasting statements from the media department showed the lack of coordination which was later proved when the President of the Karachi City Cricket Association (KCCA) Sirajul Islam Bukhari burst the bubble and presented an official letter from the PCB with instructions to constitute various committees for smooth operations during the event in Karachi.
The board spokesman later pointed to the unrest in Karachi as the reason for the venue-shift and this is the point where many eye brows were raised.
What kind of message these statements would transmit to the world — already shying away from Pakistan — and how would they react in the future?
Earlier this year when the Bangladesh Cricket Board agreed to send its team to Pakistan, a petition was filed against the move in the Dhaka High Court in which an article from the local press — regarding the law and order — was also included to strengthen the case.
This time around, a statement from a person within the PCB could serve the same purpose.
The Chairman started off really well by taking everyone aboard and meeting with former PCB heads as well as a number of ex-cricketers. He also wrote letters to the cricket fraternity to seek support. During other relevant meetings as well, he tried to send his point across pretty efficiently, but a few wrong calls on important junctures have somewhat spoiled the party for him.
When Zaka took over, he showed a lot of interest in employing foreign coaches for the national team despite the fact that the then coach Mohsin Khan was doing reasonably well.
Since then the Chairman has been advocating the need for qualified individuals. But the appointment of Mohammad Akram as the bowling coach is opposite of that very claim.
Also, if a certain level of qualification is a must for a team’s coach then why no certification is sought for the all important post of the Director Academies?
The efforts of Zaka to bring back international cricket to Pakistan are honest and highly commendable. When the Bangladesh Cricket Board hinted at sending its team to Pakistan, the barrage of statements from the chairman pushed the hopes high. Even in January ñ when the tour of Bangladesh was still conditional in many ways — the chairman said that their tour to Pakistan in April would give a breakthrough.
He also said that the government was onboard, but the tour was called off and later the local government in Punjab crushed the security wall around the PCB headquarters, which showed to the world the lack of coordination and trust between the PCB and the Punjab administration.
It is believed that the boards of Bangladesh and Pakistan are again engaged in talks for a bilateral series in Pakistan, so it would be better if the PCB chairman sorted the matter out with the local administration before giving any statement.
The PCB recently invited former England coach Peter Moores in a consulting role. He has been assigned to review Pakistan’s domestic structure. If Moores is the perfect man, then why a task team was constituted by the PCB in last December?
The task team — consisting of former players — did present their recommendations, but what happened later is still unknown?
If the board wants to improve the standard of the domestic cricket, won’t it be better to consult with the people who are actively attached to this system?
Representatives of the departments taking part in the domestic circuit would be in a better position to apprise the chairman about the shortcomings in the existing domestic system.
Here again the intentions of the PCB Chairman are not doubted but his execution is putting a lot of doubts in mind.
Another matter which is limited to announcement only is a call from the PCB chairman to honour off-spinner Saeed Ajmal. When the ICC snubbed Ajmal the PCB swiftly reacted, but till date the ‘Best bowler’ award has not been conferred on him.
The board tasked Javed Miandad with finding the reasons for the worst ever performance by the U19 team in the World Cup in Australia — where Pakistan finished 8th. But nothing has come out yet.
Separately, the PCB initiated an inquiry into the conduct of two local umpires, who were accused by an Indian TV of agreeing to fixing. But nothing has come to the fore on this issue either.
Most recently the board provided another opportunity to the world to laugh at us by mishandling the Big Bash NOCs for its players.
Initially the players were allowed to take part in the league, but then they were denied and finally a conditional permission was given. The reported reason for the denial and then the conditional approval was that the PCB wanted the players to give importance to the domestic competition, but wouldn’t this unnecessary episode hamper Pakistan Cricket Board’s relations with the Australians counterparts?
In the first place it was not players’ fault at all because they weren’t aware of the board’s plans to hold the National T20 earlier than usual.
The chairman is very keen on the commencement of Pakistan’s own brand of premier league, but statements in this regard as well are not helping the cause at all.
The chairman has given many dates for the venture. The purpose of the league is no doubt a bid to transmit pleasant signals around the world, but when Sindh Sports Minister Dr Muhammad Ali Shah managed to rope in a few former international players the cold attitude of the board chairman was not in good taste.
The sensitivity and attention attached to the post of the PCB chairman demands a lot of control. A general impression is that the chairman talks on almost every aspect. In fact he talks a lot — the habit which led to the downfall of his predecessor.