PSL final in Karachi countdown begins

Najam Sethi -The Midas of Pakistan Cricket

By Chishty Mujahid - September 3, 2017

Najam Sethi can deservedly and justifiably be termed as the Midas of Pakistan Cricket. All of you, I am sure, have heard of the Phrygian King Midas who according to Greek mythology, had the power given to him by the gods in answer to his prayers that whatever he touched turned to gold. This had its benefits (he became the richest and most powerful personality) until, of course the food that he touched became of solid gold (pangs of hunger) as did his daughter. But that is a long story and I have no desire to delve deep into Greek mythology or into the history of the Phrygian kings of whom according to history there were three kings named Midas including the man with the golden touch.

Najam Sethi the current Chairman of PCB has that power; whatever he touches in cricket in Pakistan turns to gold – be it the Zimbabwe team’s tour, the PSL and the final in Lahore and now the International XI to be followed by the West Indians and others.

There are also rumours that the sycophant loyalists like the COO and some senior managers are facing transfers because  PCB cannot sack its managerial employees as they are always reinstated by the courts. There is the appointment of a CEO on the cards – I am told that there is no position of COO in the constitution but there is one for CEO.

As some say that Shahryar started all this and Sethi only pushed the button. True but Shaharyar was too busy dilly dallying, taking his U turns and going round and round in circles, clinging on to his chair at all costs. Khan was hesitant to push the button. His training restricted him only to issuing statements or as they are referred to in diplomatic circles rejoinders.

However, we must remember that Najam was solely responsible for the PSL which was his dream child and which he will never give up. There is too much at stake. We do not know how much money has been spent on this venture, and what profits have been made by the PCB and the franchises. The accounts will tell the entire story. Leagues are so infectious that now Afghanistan has also jumped into the fray.

About a month or so ago Najam Sethi took over as the 32nd Chairman of Pakistan Cricket since it all began in 1948 with the Nawab of Mamdot as its Head. Najam is in his third stint. Before him Zaka Ashraf and Shaharyar Khan both have had 2 innings each. A cursory glance at the heads of PCB will reveal that since the last 14 years the Chief of Cricket’s position has been like the game of musical chairs and has been shared by Zaka Ashraf, Najam Sethi and Shaharyar Khan.

All have come to be the Head Honcho through so called processes which have been given the name of elections. These are nothing but a white wash and an apology for the accepted electoral processes. None of the other cricket boards all over the world have such sham elections where a nominee of the Prime minister is “elected” as Chairman and struts around as if he has won a sweeping mandate.

The Chairman is selected from among a handful of cronies and is always unopposed; no one dares oppose. And he very proudly calls himself an elected Chief. They have given a new meaning to democracy which would have put the Greeks to shame. But more power to them……. And why not because Najam is doing a brilliant job.  

 

In any case on this occasion Najam Sethi has been nominated by the Prime Minister who against all norms of the ICC should NOT be the patron of the PCB. In any case this one has been declared to have been unseated as Member of Parliament and the Prime Minister and as such the patron of the PCB. If Najam Sethi wanted to be “elected” by the 8 or 10 voters he should at least have had taken the mandate of the Prime minister in power. But as usual I have digressed and taken the wrong turn. Let us get back to Midas.

Najam Sethi is a man of determination and grit. Najam is Midas – whatever he touches turns to gold. Best wishes and luck to him. He is a smooth talker and a brilliant journalist. Unlike the 26 other Heads from 1948 to 2003 he is neither a Head of State – Governor General/President, Governor of a Province, Prime Minister, Chief Minister, a top Civil Servant, a Judge, an Army General, an Air Marshal, a senior diplomat but is a commoner who has been an interim Chief Minister and for his loyalties to the then Prime Minister was given the plum job of PCB Chairman.

I will refrain from going into details as this is neither the time and place for that. Najam Sethi puts his money where his mouth is. He said he will organize the PSL and he did; we will not go into how and by what means but he did. He, with the backing of the armed forces and security agencies managed to get the final of the PSL in Lahore for which he claimed full credit.

 

Now he has succeeded in getting a World XI to play in Lahore; once again under the umbrella or the Ranagers and the Armed forces and the agencies. Had Shahryar Khan not dragged his feet and not taken U turns and not been obsessed by playing against the Indians at all costs this event would have come to pass several years ago.

The PCB has given a rather hasty farewell to Shahryar Khan in a function held in the PCB premises although the draft for the domestic competition took place at a five star hotel. Shahryar deserved to be sent off with more song and dance rather than a quiet private slip away. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander

The Giles Clarke Commission has been seized of this matter for at least half a decade but the PCB big wigs were enjoying themselves in staging home series in UAE. I am informed although I cannot vouch for the veracity of this statement that the PCB are coughing up a cool PKR 35 crores (PKR 350000000) and if my rough calculations are right it is equivalent to US$ 3.5 million. Add to this another million dollars or so as other expenses; and for this astronomical amount a top class team would have gladly come to Pakistan much earlier.

However, we should not take anything away from Najam Sethi and congratulate him for this third breakthrough after the Zimbabwean team’s tour and the final of the PSL. We must not forget that the late Dr Mohammad Ali Shah did succeed in bringing an international side to Karachi; there was full house for that match and live television coverage. In between other international sides have visited Pakistan including an Australian Army Team last year.

Had PCB acted swiftly and wisely immediately after the sad incident involving the Sri Lankans in Lahore in 2009 we should have taken positive and reconciliatory measures. Sri Lankans as ever were always willing to help us out. Arjuna Ranatunga then and Thilanga Sumathipala now are both sympathetic. But the PCB were laid back and lazy. That is why it has taken so long. But let us now rejoice and welcome the International side and pray and wish that this series is a roaring success.

But how long will Pakistan cricket be restricted to Lahore only. What about Faisalabad, Multan, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, and Karachi. The state of the stadia there are not even fit for village cricket leave alone domestic white ball format or longer version cricket. The PCB cannot see beyond Lahore. The Karachi’s white elephant Cricket Academy is rotting – the Director is yet to be appointed as they cannot find a favourite “yes sir yes sir three bags full” man and the National Stadium is in a state of dilapidation as are the others except of course the Gaddafi.

The PSL spot fixing “saga” goes on. Sethi had no business to announce at the beginning of the PSL event that “they” have solid proof and in fact acted as the prosecutor, judge and jury by sending a couple of players back and letting some carry on. He should have let the proceedings take a transparent and impartial route rather than pronouncing judgment. It reeked of bias.

The Tribunal is now in its fifth month and it is not going to end soon. Najam Sethi thought the matter would be over and done within a few weeks if not days and as such appointed a tribunal of his choice. All members (deep connections with the PCB) have vested interests. They should have been entirely independent as those in the past investigative commissions. It is likely that the matter will continue for some time to come as there will be appeals.

I hope the honourable members are being given a decent fees and this must be adding to the expenses of the PSL/PCB because men of the caliber of a former judge and general do not work for nothing and should not. The third member is a permanent “employee” of the PCB and like some others who are not a few finds himself in some position or the other all the time.

Najam Sethi has also got one and all confused with the PCB and PSL equation. When he was not the PCB Chairman he was working fervently to incorporate the PSL as an independent company – what happened to it? We shall never know. Now that he has replaced Shaharyar he has merged the two and now describes PSL as another “department” of the PCB like the Finance, Human Resources or other Departments. Well played Najam. Glad you have learnt to take U turns from your predecessor.

Now that he has the power to hire and fire – which was hitherto with Shaharyar, Najam Sethi can revamp and reshuffle the PCB/PSL. There is a lot of dead wood in the organization. It is also overpopulated. Too many people; most of them doing nothing. Too many sinecures – sit at home and draw salaries and enjoy the perquisites. Where are the old stalwarts like Zakir Khan and a few others.

There are also rumours that the sycophant loyalists like the COO and some senior managers are facing transfers because  PCB cannot sack its managerial employees as they are always reinstated by the courts. There is the appointment of a CEO on the cards – I am told that there is no position of COO in the constitution but there is one for CEO.

Why does not the PCB try a female CEO. There is always a first. The Marketing Chief is doing a great job (so we are told) and should be due for a promotion. And there is the favourite General Manager of International Cricket; as also the whole army of the media department. There are reports that Najam may go for an electronic media man.

What about the Director of Cricket who was inducted into the ranks and file of the PCB in spite of severe opposition from the weak Chairman Shaharyar. There are names of a few outsiders and former cricketers who are lining up to take some lucrative appointments. Please give Najam Sethi some time and space and he will use his Midas touch to great advantage for Pakistan Cricket. The days of the sparrow are gone; and Midas is in. Currently Najam is doing the rounds giving exclusive interviews to his favoured channels and really doing a marvelous job by praising the anchor and then expounding his case. He is a past master at that.

But how long will Pakistan cricket be restricted to Lahore only. What about Faisalabad, Multan, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, and Karachi. The state of the stadia there are not even fit for village cricket leave alone domestic white ball format or longer version cricket. The PCB cannot see beyond Lahore. The Karachi’s white elephant Cricket Academy is rotting – the Director is yet to be appointed as they cannot find a favourite “yes sir yes sir three bags full” man and the National Stadium is in a state of dilapidation as are the others except of course the Gaddafi

I have always maintained that there is a manufacturing defect in Umar Akmal and to a certain extent in Ahmed Shahzad. They need a course in counseling and the results will be remarkable. There is more to the case of Umar Akmal than meets the eye. How can a player pass a fitness test in Pakistan and then go to England and be declared unfit; and not once but 7 times.

It is obvious that Inzamam and Arthur were not on the same wave length here. No one seems to give the details of fitness or otherwise. If fitness is the problem Shan Masood and Mohammad Rizwan should be made fitness monitors as their performances do not justify selection. Fawad Alam is not only fully fit but a consistent performer. Why is he kept out? Not even a central contract for him. Umar Amin on the other hand is being favoured in spite of mediocre results. There is no doubt about Amin’s talent but Fawad on current form is far superior. Are we being told the entire story.

Mickey Arthur has a terrible track record and he needs more counseling than anyone else. He needs to be given a crash course in Pakistani and eastern culture; and also in the English language – slang will not do. Arthur if you recall was thrown out by the South Africans and the Australians. He was picked up by Pakistan because the Chairman PCB was so obsessed and wanted a foreign coach after Stuart Law, Dean Jones and some others had refused the offer.

The jobless Arthur was the only one available and was snapped by PCB on his terms and conditions. I am privy to the inside story but since I am sworn to secrecy I am not at liberty to reveal. Some of his acts and deeds are horrendous. His dressing down of Sohail Khan in the middle of the ground during a break and in view of the crowds and cameras was a shameful act.

He also kept Sohail Khan out of the Pakistan Team for some time since. Arthur is obsessed by this fitness fad. Are we managing a cricket team or a squad of wrestlers, kabbadi players, boxers. How fit were the Pakistanis who had been winning matches after matches for the last 60 years. Just as a few examples what was the fitness level of Wazir Mohammad, Zulfiqar Ahmed, Maqsood Ahmad, even Fazal Mahmood. How fit were Alimuddin, Saeed Ahmed, Majid Khan, Sadiq Mohammad, Mohammad Ilyas and Mushtaq Mohammad.

Or for that matter what was the level of fitness of Inzamam-ul Haq, Mohammad Yusuf, Abdur Razzaq, Tauseef Ahmad or Wajahatullah Wasti? Need I go on.  Inzamam once told the coach Richard Pybus who objected to his eating Parathas or was it sheermals for lunch that he had scored over 4000 runs on this diet and had no intentions of changing his diet. A couple of foreign examples will also help illustrate the point. How fit was Colin Cowdrey, Colin Milburn, Ramesh Pawar, Samit Patel, Shane Warne, Duleep Mendis, Arjuna Ranatunga, ………. And what about Imad Wasim, Rahat Ali, Yasir Shah.

In the good old days when the security was not as strict as it is today we commentators were usually invited to lunch in the dressing room. The menu was lavish with soup, biryani, qorma, eastern salads, raita, vegetable bhujia, puddings, ice cream. Those were the days. Today the top priority seems to be on fitness. What about the talent, the performance, the wickets, the runs, the catches.  

We have always said that the PCB moves in mysterious ways. What was the idea of calling back players from the CPL all the way from the West Indies as also from England. And that also for fitness tests for the Domestic T/20 which in the end was postponed. The players came for three days or so. Who paid for the fares and the accommodation.

Permission has been given to players to go the BPL at a time when the domestic season would be in progress. PCB has denied permission to our players to participate in the Afghanistan League. But Shahid Afridi is going without seeking the Board’s permission – a clear snub. Younis Khan and Misbah are still waiting for their farewell parties. No other Board in the world “Buys” out cricketers’ retirement. We paid Inzamam a heavy sum to give up ; and am sure have tried to negotiate with others having set a precedent.

The PCB has given a rather hasty farewell to Shahryar Khan in a function held in the PCB premises although the draft for the domestic competition took place at a five star hotel. Shahryar deserved to be sent off with more song and dance rather than a quiet private slip away. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

As the international XI is preparing to come so are the Sri Lankans who according to their Chairman Thilanga Sumathipala have agreed to play one T/20 match in Lahore. It is prayed that all these events go ahead successfully and we have a regular flow of teams coming to Pakistan (the PCB must insist on this and Najam must use his Midas touch) which besides Lahore also has other cities in its four provinces and Fata (Fata will soon have a member on the Board of Governors) which has a fairly strong side.

In other parts of the cricketing world there is a lot of cricketing activity. Sri Lanka are getting a drubbing at the hands of the touring Indians in Tests and ODIs. They had earlier been beaten by Zimbabwe in ODIs 2-3. Zimbabwe will now emerge stronger as they have strengthened their management by bringing in Faisal Hasnain a Pakistani administrator and former Finance Director of the ICC as Managing Director of the ZCU.

Sri Lanka will it seems will have to play the qualifiers for an entry into the ICC WC 2019. Their cricket has hit rock bottom. There are groupings; the selectors headed by Sanath Jayasuriya have resigned. Asanka Gurusinha who was a member of the World Cup winning side in 1996 has been invited back after 20 years in Australia to become the Director of cricket. This does not seem to go down well with the others officials and players.

The Manager Ranjit Fernando has stepped down after the debacle in the Champions Trophy. The fans are crestfallen. The players have been booed and the grounds for the ODIs against India were almost empty.

Meanwhile the West Indies have hit back by defeating England in a Test at Headingley, Leeds. Shai Hope scored a century in each innings and Roach took a 4 wicket haul. The West Indies have announced their resurrection.

The ever improving Bangladesh defeated the touring Australians within four days to notch up a memorable win in front of a large crowd including the BD Prime Minister.

Finally this piece must end with a bizarre incident at the Oval London where an arrow was shot out of a bow almost on to the pitch and the county match had to be abandoned. It is estimated that it was shot from the gasometer side almost 800 meters away enough to scare the daylights of the players and spectators.

By Chishty Mujahid

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