IS IT ON ….OR IS IT OFF……OR MAYBE ?

By Chishty Mujahid - January 18, 2020

“But pardon, and gentles all,
The flat unraised spirits that have dared
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object: can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?
O, pardon! since a crooked figure may
Attest in little place a million;……”

So much has gone on the international and domestic cricket scenes over the last few months that as Shakespeare said in Henry V (quoted above) it is impossible to cram within this piece “the very casques that did affright” the cricket scenario. So we will stick to the trials and tribulations that have faced Pakistan cricket scene.

First the “bad news” (or maybe good for some). Ehsan Mani has gone into action in his quiet, suave and dignified way and is slowly but surely “right sizing” the Pakistan Cricket Board. The General Manager Domestic has retired after having done a wonderful job, almost single handedly, for many years. There were others who left or were asked to leave. They included the Director of PSL Marketing and the Senior General Manager.

The wickets down include Director of NCA as well as its General Manager. Also gone are the Head of Social Media and the Procurement Manager.  The writing was on the wall and it did not need an Einstein to work out that the position of Chief Operating Officer was redundant and it would irk and irritate the Chief Executive Officer in more ways than one.

The CEO is raw and completely out of touch with the realities and culture of Pakistan cricket. Remember he was born and bred in England and as such was alien to Pakistan. He is trying to be a Lord Clive and run the PCB like the East India Company. As such, the thoroughbred local lad (the COO) did not fit in with his plans and programmes.

So the COO had to leave, which he finally did. The incumbent on that job had done a marvelous job not only as COO but when he was in junior positions. He was efficient and knowledgeable particularly vis a vis international cricket matters. He was regarded as an expert on the ICC and his notes and papers (prepared for those who represented PCB at ICC meetings) were systematic, methodical and meticulous and helped the representatives at those meetings sail through with grace and decorum, provided of course the notes were presented correctly. He will be sorely missed by the PCB.

By the way he is highly regarded by the ICC and was once offered a job by them. But the PCB needed him, and as such he could not be released. Now news has come that the Chief Financial Officer has also thrown in the towel. I do not know the gentleman and it will be unfair to comment on his (mis)doings. That he lasted so long means that he did a good job or like many others in the Board had influential and strong sponsors.

There is a lot of other “dead wood” in high positions who have been with the board for time immemorial but being sacred cows they cannot be touched. More power to them. Now that the cream has been whisked away and the top order batsmen have been removed we are down to the middle order who are more dependent on the tail-enders rather than their own talents and abilities.

There is much more but before I start sounding like a banshee I shall turn to the “good news.” Thanks to Ehsan Mani’s determination, sagacity and methodology International Cricket has returned to Pakistan.

The Sri Lankans have played Test Matches and the white ball format. They were full of praise for our security (thanks to our armed forces, rangers and the police), our seamless arrangements, our overwhelming hospitality—not to forget the Biryani. They did not, like the cute little girl in a TV commercial ever had to sit out a meal and say “Biryani nahee banaee… .” There was always plenty of that.

Ehsan has delivered where his predecessors’ dilly dallied – and failed. The Pakistan Super League will now be staged in its entirety on the grounds of Pakistan. To disappoint the Doubting Thomases who opined that the logistics would be difficult to achieve I must inform them that I have been informed that all arrangements–transport, ticketing, catering, accommodation et al- are in place.

So no more UAE holidays for the officials and their families. As a friend connected with PSL moaned “so no more Dubai travels for us.” Sympathizing I console him by said “I am afraid so old chap….But I prefer Multan, Lahore, Karachi and Rawalpindi.” I must add here that I have never been part of the four PSLs gone by.

The only time I went was the final in Karachi on 17 March 2019 when I was invited by the PCB and conferred with an award for my “dedicated and outstanding contribution to cricket as an administrator, broadcaster and correspondent.” Jolly decent of them.

The young barrister and Secretary of the Board has been given additional charge of the duties of COO. What these are I have never been able to find out. I know the youngster personally. He is qualified, talented, hard working and charming. I am sure he will continue to perform creditably. He is eminently suited to represent the PCB at ICC meetings because of his eloquence and personality. Good luck young “fella”!

The Media Department though overstaffed is required to popularize the PCB. But they must be trained to do more than send photographs and “pressers.” I am sure they will improve with guidance over time. The Marketing Department needs considerable improvement.

The final of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy had hardly any spectators. This is a pathetic state of affairs. They must look to improve this situation as it conveys a bad image of our domestic cricket. The Domestic Cricket Department should come up with new and bright ideas.

Both Marketing and Domestic need new blood with crackerjack professionals. PCB should enforce their policy of retiring those who have reached the age of superannuation. I am sure there are many across the board who have crossed that. As we did in corporate life the Human Resources Division should counsel those approaching retirement and this will help out in the transition.

As I said in the beginning there is so much cricket going on all over the world at various levels that it is impossible to cover all of it. There are Tests being held, Leagues galore – Bashes, Smashes, BPL, CPL, Mzansi, Qatar10, Emerging Asia Cup (now we will have a Submerging Cup), Under 19s, Under 16s, Women’s Cricket matches and what not.

I remember once watching a film which had a song “jis taraf aankh uthaoon teri tasveerain hai….” These days the situation of Television Sports Channel is the same. The spectators and audiences are reduced because if you have “surfeit of anything the appetite sickens and so dies.”

Switch on to any sports channel and you will find cricket whether live, recently recorded or historical. If you escape these, there are so called “discussions” by experts who are always critical of someone or the other. I wonder why? Why cannot we find any point of praise or approval? Someone said it is all because of ratings – whatever those are.

Now to the hot topic which, I am, told is being euphemistically discussed on social media. People are pontificating. Those who do not know Ehsan Mani opine that he is being weak and soft. Quite the contrary. He has been Chief of ICC and knows how to handle the situation. He is weighing all options. What he will not accept, and he is quite firm on this, is that they do not play a home series in Pakistan.

If Sri Lanka can play here and the Bangladesh Women can come and play in Pakistan why cannot the men? Are they more important than the females of their country? The Prime Ministers of BD have been women for decades. Are their men so delicate, such softies? Cannot they “stand like greyhounds in the slips straining upon the start?” And they call themselves tigers; must be a new breed of that feline specie.

I am not on any Facebook or any other book or Twitter, Fritter, Instagram, Telegram, Cardiogram, Phonogram or any other gram, nor on Tik-Tok or hickory dickory dock or rock around the clock. I get my feedback from friends who indulge in this past time / waste of time.

Human memory is short and it seems that the Bangladeshi tigers’ memory is shorter.

In 1999 Pakistan lost a World Cup League Match to the in Northampton. Pakistan lost by 62 runs chasing a gettable 224. For reference I give below excerpts from a report on that match and leave you to draw your own conclusions:

“After winning the toss, Wasim Akram surprisingly fielded first. Pakistan’s modus-operandi all through the competition was posting the runs on the board and defending them. They altered their pattern probably to get themselves out of the comfort zone.

The series of incredulous run-outs began when Saeed Anwar called Inzamam-ul-Haq for an easy single when the former dropped the ball to the leg-side and began running. To his utter disbelief, he got a cold response from Inzamam and was out. When the onus of resurrecting the innings was with Inzamam, he missed an absolutely straight and benign delivery from Mahmud.

The Bangladesh crowd were roaring like an embellished tiger on their jerseys. A possible upset was definitely on the cards. At 29 for four Pakistan had inflicted an implosion. When out-of-form Saleem Malik too missed a straight delivery, the clairvoyance of a possible upset was plausible.

The result of the game has been viewed with scepticism. Wisden wrote, “Since this was a completely dead match, accusations of Pakistani match-fixing grew louder again. English bookmakers had rated Pakistan 33 to 1 on, and there were no reports of unusual betting, but inevitably there were rumours about the sub-continent’s illegal bookmakers.”

Pakistan cricket journalist Kamran Abbasi wrote a hard-hitting piece in Wisden Cricket Monthly. He wrote: “Pakistan lost their heads in a flurry of poor strokes and worse running.” Saleem Malik condoned that the game was rigged. But nothing has been proved till date.

Wasim passed on an innocuous yet an interesting statement in the post-match interview which said, “I’m happy we lost to our brothers.” Bangladesh captain Animul Islam said that Bangladesh had made history. “Beating Pakistan, one of the best teams in the world, will help us attain Test status and assist in the development of our younger players,” he said.”

This win for them opened the way for them to attain Test Status a year later helped by Pakistan at the ICC meeting. Yet they played their opening Test Match against India.

Perhaps BD does not want to play Pakistan in these two Test matches because these are for the ICC Test Championship. Pakistan are languishing at No.4 in the table with India and Australia at the top and England at 3. But India and England have played seven and Australia ten matches to Pakistan’s four.

If Pakistan play two matches vs BD and win both (which they should given their current performance, fitness and form) they will leap frog over England to 3rd slot.  What type of rules the ICC have made I cannot comprehend. And there are no rules for a series where one of the participants refuses to play. In other sports it is called a walk over. The ICC is still mulling over what to do in such a situation.

Pakistan should get a firm and final “Yes” or “No” from Bangladesh to playing on Pakistani soil. If “Yes,” most welcome and Dhanaybaad ; if “No” BD will be responsible for the consequences, and the ICC Disputes Committee if it still exists should come into force. After all Pakistan did succeed in persuading New Zealand to come and play 5 ODIs in 2003/4 when their CEO had refused but PCB approached the ICC Disputes Committee and the Chairman of New Zealand Cricket agreed to tour Pakistan if PCB withdrew their complaint, which was done. And the matter was cordially settled.

By Chishty Mujahid

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