Free the PCB from government intervention

Published: February 13, 2014
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The timing of Najam Sethi's appointment this time around suggests that the government holds Mr Zaka Ashraf responsible for Pakistan’s diplomatic failure to hold out against the ICC’s structural reforms on Saturday.

If Saturday was a black day in the history of international cricket, Monday was much of the same for Pakistani cricket. On Saturday, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) lost out in its opposition to the proposal of structural reforms in the International Cricket Council (ICC) enforcing the ‘Big Three’.

If that was not enough of a setback, the government decided that this was the right time to remove the chairman of the PCB, Mr Zaka Ashraf for the second time in eight months and replaced him with – yes, you guessed it – Mr Najam Sethi.

While this development is similar to what the government has been trying to do for the last few months, it has faced setbacks from court-orders, public pressure and international criticism. Granted that the cricket structure in Pakistan needs to be revamped but it is necessary for it to be depoliticised and independent of the government’s constant intervention. These frequent top-level transitions have adversely affected our performance on the field as well as our standing in the ICC. At a time when Pakistan faces a drought of international cricket on its home turf, administrative troubles do little to help our cause.

The timing of the appointment this time around suggests that the government holds Mr Zaka Ashraf responsible for Pakistan’s diplomatic failure to hold out against the ICC’s structural reforms on Saturday. However, it is appalling to note that the patron of the PCB – Mr Nawaz Sharif – did not even spare the ex-PCB chairman a meeting before he represented Pakistan at the ICC meeting. The PCB stood up in its stance against the reforms despite the lack of government support and might even have been successful had South Africa not backtracked on their decision to oppose the Big Three at the last moment.

That alone is commendable.

The government’s motives to appoint Mr Najam Sethi are questionable to begin with. Mr Sethi might be an experienced administrator but he does not know the first thing about cricket – a fact that he has conceded time and time again. The government seems to have learnt little from his last appointment when his chairmanship only brought up legal hurdles and administrative problems,which only made the already existing managerial crisis in PCB worse.

In another, perhaps politically motivated move, Mr Aamir Sohail was appointed the chief selector of the PCB last week. A man who has had his career overshadowed by a match-fixing scandal and has already tried his hand as chief selector of the PCB, offers little promise of a revamped PCB. However, it seems less of a mystery when you realise that Mr Sohail joined the PML-N in 2011. Trying already-tried figures such as Aamir Sohail and Najam Sethi does little to convince millions of Pakistani cricket fans that the future will be positive.

Such politically motivated moves have no place in cricket. It is time the PCB becomes an independent institution – free from political appointments, control and intervention. Only with a strong, meritocratic and stable board can we ever hope to match the influence that our neighbour India has on the ICC. With such troubles at home, there is very little we can do about the hold that other countries are taking of the sport.

Cricket is a people’s game, let it be run by the people.

ali.rafi

Ali Rafi

A student of Economics/Political Science at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.