Dear Imran Khan, if you’re going to blame Najam Sethi for Pakistan’s defeats, then praise him for their wins also

Published: June 21, 2017

But the worst was that despite the Pakistan win, PTI supporters manhandled Sethi and his wife outside the Oval, which merely shows their pettiness.

I was a teenager when Imran Khan, one of the most famous cricketers our country has produced, lifted the World Cup in 1992. I remember watching the match with my family and how they yelled with joy. I remember the euphoria I felt when I went outside to the nearby liberty market to witness what were unimaginable levels of fervour and joy. People were dancing and performing bhangra. The streets which had been almost deserted during the match, as everyone was glued to their TV screens, had suddenly become overwhelmingly alive.

Cricket is such a uniting force in Pakistan and for those brief moments, from Karachi to the mountainous area of Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan had become one. Everyone was cheering and there was an overarching feeling of unity.

That night, I danced in the streets holding Imran’s poster with all those who had gone mad. Those scenes have become imprinted in our memory, and whenever we feel low, we try to recall those moments to assure ourselves that we have the potential to do it again.

Twenty-five years later, I am no longer living in Pakistan but in a small town in the US. When Pakistan won, I did not yell or dance. I cried. Somehow the tears came rolling down and could not stop.

Victory this time was sweeter and perhaps only the tears could express what I was feeling.

Victory was sweeter because it had come after a long draught and was achieved by a team which was young and inexperienced. A team which had been the lowest ranked team at the start of the tournament and got badly bruised in the first match. But then, the very same team turned everything around and in such an emphatic manner that it literally blew away both England and India, the joint favourites, in successive matches.

The 1992 turnaround was fairy tale stuff, but this exceeded even that. In 1992, the comeback was splendid but our wins in the semi-final and final were not one-sided. This time, the Pakistan team’s turnaround was so tremendous that world class teams like England and India looked like minnows in the semi-final and final respectively. It is perhaps the greatest ‘come-from-behind’ victory, which will be talked about for years.

Victory is also sweeter because our nation has been desperate for good news. Nothing collectively uplifts Pakistan like a cricket win and as I write these sentences, I know Pakistanis back home are feeling ecstatic and will continue to feel euphoric for days.

Victory is also sweeter because of the jingoistic and hate-filled diatribe which was constantly coming from certain sections (not all, as some were sensible) of Indian electronic and social media. I am not a typical ‘patriotic’ person by any stretch of the imagination, but even I could not keep myself from feeling anger after watching some of the things that were being telecasted on electronic and social media.

People like Virendar SehwagArnab Goswami and Rishi Kapoor, to name a few, had been downright condescending. The victory has stunned them and silenced them. Compared to them, the Indian Captain Virat Kohli has shown class and good sportsmanship.

The victory has also given a shut up call to many Pakistani ‘experts’ who had constantly been belittling the cricket team and writing it off. People like Aamir Sohail went further and were undermining the team, despite the fact that it had successfully made to the final.

The victory has finally dented the legend that Pakistan could only win international ODI tournaments under Imran. The fact that Pakistan had not won an international tournament after the 1992 World Cup endeared Imran even more; as many came to attribute the victory solely to Imran’s leadership.

Since Pakistan was knocked out in the subsequent World Cups, public fascination with the 1992 tournament and Imran increased further. The phrase “cornered tigers” became permanently ingrained in the national psyche. More than anything else, this legend has given Imran the political capital which he commands today. If Pakistan had won international tournaments after 1992, Imran would not have become this prominent.

For the past 25 years, Imran has constantly milked the 1992 victory to his political advantage. This victory in the International Cricket Council (ICC) championship has allowed Pakistan to step out of the shadow of Imran, and in my opinion, it is a great development.

Finally, the win has been a vindication for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and more importantly, for Najam Sethi. Whenever Pakistan has performed poorly, cricket fans, particularly those who have a political affiliation with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), have put the entire blame on Sethi. After the first loss, Imran was extremely critical and went as far as suggesting that Sethi should have been included as a player and alleged that cricket was in decline because of Sethi. Of course, Imran did not give any credit for the fact that the Pakistan Test team was able to reach the number one ranking under Sethi, or the fact that despite security risks, Sethi managed to hold the Pakistan Super League (PSL) final in Lahore.

My point of view is this that if you blame him entirely for Pakistan’s defeats, then fairness demands that you also give him credit for the wins. Here, Imran and his supporters put the entire blame on Sethi when we lose and do not show the basic decency of giving him even partial credit when Pakistan wins.

After the victory, Imran could not even show basic sportsmanship and congratulate the PCB. If Pakistan had lost, I am positive that Imran would have launched a tirade against him. My request to Imran and the hordes of his impressionable and self-righteous supporters is that if you blame Sethi for the defeats, then please give him credit for the victories as well.

But the worst was that despite the Pakistan win, PTI supporters manhandled Sethi and his wife outside the Oval, which merely shows their pettiness. Even worse, instead of condemning this, PTI actually endorsed this by bragging about it in a tweet. This is the kind of reprehensible attitude the so-called educated party has.

Yes, victory has been sweeter but incidences like this have also left a slight bitter aftertaste in the mouth.


Raza Habib Raja

The author is a recent Cornell graduate and currently pursuing his PhD in political science at Maxwell School, Syracuse University. He has also worked for a leading development finance institution in Pakistan. He is a freelance journalist whose works have been published at Huffington Post, Dawn (Pakistan), Express Tribune (Pakistan) and Pak Tea House. He tweets @razaraja (

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

  • Ahmar

    People seem to have a short memory. Najam Sethi is a neutral person. He was publicly beaten up and humiliated by Nawaz Sharif’s thugs during the 90’s for writing against them in Jang newspaper.

    Najam Sethi is more of a center-left moderate and a journalist. Over the decades he’s become respected by both major parties (PPP and PML) for his non-partisan neutrality and was given the powers for the transitional administration during 2013 elections, which to his credit, he ran as fairly as possible. The N League only warmed up to him after the 2013 elections and he was made the cricket administrator.

    He is not in any way or has ever been affiliated with Nawaz League or a supporter of Nawaz Sharif. He tries to maintain contacts with all parties (even within military establishment) to get information and news scoops, but he has no masters.

    I remember he even wrote very favorably of Imran Khan when no one gave PTI the time of the day during Musharraf’s era. However his writings changed gradually, given Imran’s staunch support for Taliban and no condemnation of suicide bombings against civilians in Pakistan.

    You’d know all this if you’d been reading his columns and articles from the 90’s to the 2000’s.Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    That would require Imran Khan to have sportsman spirit. That author is asking too much from him.Recommend

  • Scary

    So right. I agree with you. Imran is a selfish, vindictive and arrogant man who just does not want Pakistan to succeed for anything unless he does it. I wish he is magnanimous in recognizing the hard work of Najam SethiRecommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Recall that back when the TTP was slaughtering Pakistanis on a weekly basis, the great IK could not bring himself to use the words “TTP” and “terrorists” in the same sentence!Recommend

  • sibte shah

    You have expressed mine and the nation’s feeling perfectly, jeety raho.Recommend

  • Sane

    Pakistan could have won the world cup, if ‘planning’ by Sharif aide could be averted.Recommend

  • Haris

    Najam Sethi is a political appointment on a technical position. Means he takes all the blame and none of the credit, and rightly so. Seems like the author needs to study Ethics 101.Recommend

  • Patwari

    This is the same Najmal Soothi of “36 punctures”….!!! Given chairmanship
    of PCB as reward. To milk the dollars for his retirement [off shore] accounts.
    Very lucrative appointment. Given ONLY to very loyal supporters, of PML-N
    So he is a political appointee. He has literally destroyed cricket in Pakland.
    The team was basically a loosing team. Everywhere. Up until Oval…
    He knows nothing about cricket. Has his toadies, sycophants, fawners, flatterers.
    Hope this new team of winners will keep their morale and motivation up.
    Inspite of [guaranteed] future, perpetual, interference by Najmal.Recommend

  • Fahad Yousuf

    Mr. Writer you are actually 100% correct in your sayings. The same is actually my point of view that if winning a World Cup makes u PM then Ricky Ponting should now be the King of the World !!! Anyways this breed grown by the likes of imran khan will soon be done and dusted into the rubbish bins. Secondly the incident of Najam Sethi and his wife is a typical goons response in happiness moments. For me it is simply the case same as the young boy of model colony Karachi who was shot dead my aerial firing after Pakistan victory. Recommend

  • Zeeshan

    You seem to have Love-Hate relationship with IK, so I won’t blame you for your skewed logic!Recommend

  • Tariq Abbasi

    agree and support NajamRecommend

  • Syed Yasin Shah

    Looks like this comment has been written by Najam Sethi himself .Recommend

  • rumi52

    I have in the past read many of Najam Sethi’s articles mainly between 2000 and possibly 2010. Stopped reading around 2010. Some I agreed with, some I liked and some I found irritating. I think I found some of them irritating because he came across as elitist, I don’t have an issue with liberal view but he did come across sometimes as elitist. There is an educated elite class in Pakistan who look down upon their fellow Pakistanis for conservative views and practices. There are many liberals who show respect to their fellow Pakistanis who are conservative. I just found Mr Sethi to sometimes have a sneering attitude in his articles to the average Pakistani. That said I think he did a great job with the recent PSL. I don’t know the inside dealings of the PCB and as someone else has said if he has ‘destroyed cricket’ I can only comment on the results, which have obviously been good.Recommend

  • rumi52

    Dear ‘your father’ dear me no need to be rude and request that I have a mental assessment. Can you not disagree with me politely. Look at how Ahmar has politely defended Sethi after my original comment calling him a political appointee, Ahmar has done so without making personal comments. I found Ahmar’s comments interesting and have respect his point of view on Sethi. Perhaps naively I view these comments as an exchange of ideas. By the way I like the name Rumi.Recommend

  • Amir Sultan

    The author has time and again shown his dislike for Imran Khan. I mean how did you even dig up such a stretch of a story.
    Secondly to even assume that Najam Sethi knows the first thing about cricket is naive at best. I would not blame Imran Khan if he took this on a more personal level, to see the team he once led to victory being managed by an inept govt shill.Recommend

  • Mehmood Malik

    Nowhere in the world apart from Pakistan the prime minister of the country selects the chairman of the cricket board, cronyism and VIP culture is the reason it is not maximising the potential of our gifted players, we should be beating Kohli and co on a regular basis rather then every now and again.

    Go Nawaz Go and take Sethi with you.Recommend

  • Kasturi K

    Who started PSL for Pakistan when it has been shelved for years?Recommend

  • Kasturi K

    Who started PSL for Pakistan despite been shelved for years due to one reason or another? Give the credit where it is due instead of being biased, so contrary to ‘insaf aur musawaat.’Recommend

  • busybee


  • busybee

    I must add here in addition to Haris comment that Najam Sethi is a political appointment moreover there were numerous times when Govt should have acknowledged Imran Khan as a cricket legend but they fail to do so because of their own political bias. Imran Khan even doesn’t get invited to the events where an experienced legend like him should never be overlooked. Imran Khan wanted to coach the team remember. Corrupts like writer’s dear Najam Sethi should not be appreciatedRecommend

  • Ahmar

    No, actually I am Aamir Liaquat. Ban gaye naRecommend

  • Rooh Ullah Khattak

    May be Najam does not deserve the praise, but I guess criticising him and holding him responsible for bad performance of our team is not based on sound logic. IK may not be wrong in not giving Najam credit, but discrediting him is also not right.Recommend

  • Despicable Dude

    Sports and politics should not be mixed together.
    Najam Sethi is not making political statements from his PCB office. Can you guarantee the same from IK ? IK is a guy who even turn his TED talk political.

    Although PPP is the master of this craftsmanship of turning everything political, PTI and PMLn both are fighting hard to get the second place.
    Also what kind of services IK can offer ?? He doesnt have time, he is running the third biggest political party of the country, do you expect him to have time to coach the team ?
    Will he sacrifice his PTI time for PCB?Recommend

  • RHR

    Did you even read the article or just the title!Recommend

  • RHR

    beta read the article, not just the titleRecommend

  • Taimoor Khan

    Well said. Many of these English speaking foreign-educated burger bachay are out of touch with ground reality in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Amir Sultan

    I did. I find most the criticisms voided by Imran’s argument that Sethi should not be in that seat to begin with.Recommend

  • Amir Sultan

    On a side-note please take out the time to read the other articles by this author. He manages to make every single article about Imran khan; hardly objective.Recommend

  • only truth is nature

    Hassan,Fakhar,Imad,were identified in PSL.Weak players too were pin pointed in PSL.Najam Sethi thus needs Kudos for Pakistan’.s win besides the Coach.Recommend

  • Despicable Dude

    Uncle, I have read the whole article. come back when you have something to say that actually contributes to the discussion.Recommend