Wasim Khan, CEO of the Pakistan Cricket Board spoke exclusively to ScoreLine on the way forward, strategy and hurdles in setting matters afloat for betterment of Cricket from the country
ScoreLine: The current global pandemic has come as a shock to the entire world community. How has this been absorbed by the Pakistan Cricket Board?
Wasim Khan: It can’t be denied that the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the entire world and cricket is no different. At present, PCB is navigating itself through the pandemic; we have gone through a contingency planning process so as to ensure we remain viable as a business. Unlike many of the other Boards, we remain in a decent position over the next 12-18 months.
Over the past two months we have not been sitting idle, we have made progress in terms of our future plans like the central contracts for men’s players and have made some very important hirings like Nadeem Khan as the Director High Performance. This year we have introduced the likes of Haider Ali, Haris Rauf and Mohammed Hasnain into an ‘emerging players’ category; year-on-year, this will be used to identify and integrate some of our upcoming stars into the system.
Various departments have continued to work on their deadlines and we have been working in regular and at times well beyond regular working hours to ensure we don’t lag behind when things return to normalcy, all in all I am pleased with our response to the crisis.
We are currently developing a 5-year strategic plan for cricket in Pakistan. Ensuring there is clarity on the direction of travel is important and not least at a time like this, we remain focused on spending our resources on areas that will take Pakistan cricket forward. A monitoring and tracking process will ensure this plan is not pretty words on paper, but that we can deliver it and be accountable for it.
ScoreLine: Do you foresee Cricket within the next couple of months for Pakistan?
Wasim Khan: Our domestic season starts in September, which is still some three and a half months away. The situation at the moment is a bit unpredictable but our plan A is to start the season on time. Of course, this might not be in our control if the prevailing situation either continues or deteriorates. Hence, we have a back-up plan of delaying the start of rescheduling the domestic season if needed.
With regards to our home international commitments and the staging of the HBL PSL 2020 play-offs, we will speak to all relevant stakeholders, cricket boards and work out the schedules once we have clarity on the resumption of cricket.
ScoreLine: What direction is the global cricketing community taking to safeguard the game’s interests?
Wasim Khan: The ICC is well aware of the situation and is trying to work out the ways of resuming the international game. In terms of ICC events we have the ICC T20 World Cup scheduled for Australia in October; in our recent Chief Executives Committee meeting all members and the ICC management spoke about various strategies for overcoming the crisis; collectively it is important that we show solidarity and unity so that the game can come out of this in one piece.
So I am confident that we have some capable administrators at the helm of global cricket at present who will collectively work on overcoming the present situation and deliver viable solutions in the coming days.
ScoreLine: How difficult was it to halt the Pakistan Super League of 2020? What thought processes went through the management to make the decision?
Wasim Khan: We have always maintained that the health and safety of players and all relevant stakeholders is of paramount importance to the PCB. When the Covid-19 outbreak started in Pakistan we started consulting both with Sindh and Punjab governments and all relevant stakeholders.
At the end of the Karachi-leg of the HBL PSL we were heading towards the end of the tournament in Lahore when we heard about the possibility of a player getting affected amid the growing danger of the spread of the virus across the country. That was when we decided to postpone the semi-finals and the final.
Of course, it wasn’t an easy decision but it is important to understand that it was a decision that was taken in the best interest of the players, officials, broadcasters and the league overall. It is at times like this that you have to stand up and make decisions. We did that.
We are confident of bringing the league to its logical conclusion by holding the play-offs and the final later in the year in an appropriate window. With the success of the tournament prior to its postponement, there remains a great deal of interest from fans as well as millions of TV and digital audiences around the world.”
ScoreLine: How do you foresee cricket during a post COVID-19 period?
Wasim Khan: It is still early to say with any degree of certainty how cricket will be once we return to the cricket fields around the world. The ICC Cricket Committee only today announced recommendations on amendments to certain regulations, such as not being able to apply saliva to the ball. We are living in a changed world so our survival as a game will depend on our ability to adapt in line with medically-led safety advice.
The priority will be the health and safety of all involved with the sport as well as the fans once they return to stadiums; at present it is an evolving situation; rest assured we at PCB are keeping a close eye on the developments and are in constant touch with both the ICC and cricket boards around the world.
ScoreLine: There was a new structure in process of implementation prior to the pandemic. Is that still in place and if so what are the plans and timelines for its complete delivery?
Wasim Khan: With the arrival of Nadeem Khan we have already completed a major restructuring process by merging and creating a bridge between domestic and high performance. Nadeem will oversee these two departments with teams working under him. We are redefining high performance and are restructuring our coach education programmes. We will also be renaming the NCA the National High Performance Centre, with a clear mandate to revamp our coaching courses and to get our coaches up to world standards. A Head of International Player Development will ensure that tailored training and coaching programmes are delivered to our elite cricketers in a structured way, getting them ready to take the step up.
Nadeem has made some very robust plans and has put some extensive work in developing these plans. He will have a capable team under him to ensure that the plans are executed properly as we have collectively envisioned. With the merger of these two departments we are heading into an exciting new phase in Pakistan cricket which I am confident will bear fruit in the years ahead.
ScoreLine: Will the above (new structure) be done in phases and if so could you give us details?
Wasim Khan: In his media conference Nadeem explained his plans and strategy in detail; prior to that and leading up to his appointment he shared his vision with us and we found it very exciting in terms of how he would like to lead it.
We are looking at developing players, umpires, match referees, etc. We will periodically monitor our progress and identify areas of improvement; there will be accountability and transparency in all processes. Since the plans are elaborate we will have a phased approach; the details will be shared with media in due course.
ScoreLine: There has been much hue and cry with regard to the departmental structure of cricket that existed within the country for many decades and provided the necessary talent available at national level. Do you see any hitches in a proposed drastic overhaul of such an established system?
Wasim Khan: I think at some stage we need to move this narrative on. Our job is to support the resurrection of domestic cricket and to close the gap between our domestic game and international cricket. There is much work for us to do. We will remain focused on further consolidating the existing domestic system. First and foremost we are taking the learnings from this last season and ensuring that we improve all aspects. The performances of the coaches of all six associations will be reviewed while the formation of the interim committees is in its final stages. We have been hugely encouraged by the feedback of players who were involved in the first season of the new structure.
Our aim was to have 50 percent of the expenses of domestic cricket covered through sponsors. While we started to make decent progress in the process of bringing on board domestic sponsors, we witnessed the negative impact of the pandemic as the interested parties pulled back due to resource constraints. PCB will not compromise on the investment into our domestic game for this coming season.
ScoreLine: On a personal note, how has the transition been from administering the game in England to managing within Pakistan?
Wasim Khan: Despite the challenges, I have loved the role and the challenges that it has brought. We have so much potential and so much to achieve and I feel we have just started what should be a long and hopefully a very rewarding journey with long-term benefits for Pakistan cricket.
Each country has its different challenges; my view is that you have to adapt quickly and always be prepared for the unexpected. If your mindset is right and strong, it’s easier to drown out the negative noises around you and stay focused on your goals.
Much has been achieved by the PCB in the last 12-14 months: the return of Test cricket; delivery of the whole of the HBL PSL in Pakistan; restructuring across various PCB departments; the MCC touring for the first time in 50 years; a new domestic structure; and the creation of a 5-year Strategic Plan for the PCB are some highlights. In order to measure progress, you need to understand what had been done previously in the last three years. Reflecting on that, I think it has been a decent first 14 months in the role.
I am pleased with my contribution to Leicestershire County Cricket Club; my off-field role as CEO was to ensure the club recovered from the significant losses of previous years. Thankfully, in my first three years we returned a net profit for each year against a tough economic backdrop.
I am very really upbeat about the future here at PCB. We have had an action packed 2019 while we carried the momentum forward in 2020 before the unfortunate Covid-19 outbreak. I am fully confident that we will hit the ground running as soon as things return to normalcy with our eyes fixed on the goals we have identified for Pakistan cricket.
ScoreLine: Do you feel that international cricket will completely return to Pakistan soon?
Wasim Khan: We had decided last year that we will play all our home cricket in Pakistan and since then we have left no stone unturned to ensure that we make it happen. We have hosted two successful bilateral series against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, hosted the MCC, hosted women and U16 series against Bangladesh besides staging the entire HBL PSL in the country.
These are all unprecedented events (in the context of the last 10 barren years of cricket in the country) and have surely raised and restored Pakistan’s image as a safe and secure country for international cricket.
I am fully confident that we will have England and Australia tour Pakistan as per their FTP commitments in the next two years while we have home series scheduled against Zimbabwe and South Africa later in our home season. So yes I firmly believe international cricket is back with full force in the country.
ScoreLine: What about the fear of first class cricketers losing jobs?
Wasim Khan: We have tried to help the players who went jobless through different means including financial help through a package that was announced recently. It is important to note that all performers at the domestic level were absorbed in the six first-class teams and second elevens. The ones who didn’t get contracts offered were perhaps not up to the desired standard anyway or were past their cricketing prime.
This year we are increasing the salaries of the players and we will make announcements on the increase in due course; our aim will be to try and increase salaries each season so that players playing at the first-class level can become financially stable; this remains one of our goals