If my memory serves me right it was in mid November last year that Shashank Manohar the then President of the BCCI and the current Chairman of the ICC was reported as having said that he was fed up with the statements made by Shahryar Khan (the Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board) or words to that effect. In saying what he did Manohar echoed the views of many other cricket connected experts, analysts, administrators and players both at home and abroad. The Head of organizations like the Cricket Boards or other Sports Bodies should like Octavian Caesar “use their words like their gold – where it is most needed…..” How frequently do other Heads of Sports Bodies be it Cricket, Soccer, Rugby, Hockey issue statements and address press conferences? Take for example our region’s cricket Chiefs like Anurag Thakur of India, Thilanga Sumathipala of Sri Lanka, or Nazmul Hassan of Bangladesh who hardly talk to the media.
They have Media Managers to do that job. So do we but we hardly hear a beep out of PCB’s overstaffed Media wizards; maybe they have to take the permission of the Chairman. All that Shahryar requires is a microphone, a camera and two or three “journalists” to lecture on any subject be it groupings in the team or the atmosphere in the Team dressing room, team and player performance, selection, zero tolerance of indiscipline, revamping the PCB, right sizing the organization and reshuffling the portfolios, appointment of advisors, coaches, managers and other staff or the financial matters. I could go on and on but time and space do not permit to delve into details of the innumerable statements of the Chairman and of course the counter statements he makes in his now familiar U-turns and somersaults. Human memory is short but Shahryar’s seems shorter.
There is no doubt that he is a highly educated, qualified and polished gentleman. Because of his training and background he is very well mannered, soft spoken, cool, calm and collected even in the trickiest of situations and remains unruffled even when he is contradicting himself which he does with a straight face. Remember that royal pedigree, Cambridge education, Foreign Office training, ambassadorial postings make him a very pleasant and becoming personality. After such glorious past he should have retired, relaxed, and basked in well earned reputation as a diplomat rather than taken the thorny road of trying to run the Cricket Board and soiled his reputation and blotted his copy book. But perhaps it was the razzle dazzle and blinding glory of cricket, the connected facilities, the perquisites, the luxurious travels, the exorbitant allowances, chance to entertain friends and cronies to the cricket at “home” and abroad, and the false sense of absolute power with no accountability which has made him cling on to this position in spite of criticisms, advices and even pleadings to step down gracefully. It is time that he lets his wisdom prevail and depart with dignity and decorum of which he possesses an abundance.
Like India having Anurag Thakur to take over from Manohar, PCB is fortunate to have someone who now has enough experience and track record to take over. In his position in PCB as Chairman of the all powerful Executive Committee and also the Head of PSL Najam Sethi is eminently suited for the job and is an obvious and automatic choice. In any case Najam, has according to some “pundits”, been the de facto Chairman of the PCB for some time. We must not forget it is rumoured that Shahryar’s stubbornness to dig in his heels and refuse to budge is also because of family pressure and the sycophants and toadies whom he has collected around him in the PCB who keep “pleading” with him not to leave.
For the tour of England by Pakistan this summer there have been wide ranging preparations such as the “Boot Camp” in the prestigious Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul followed by the “Skills Camp.” were made. The idea ipso facto is praiseworthy but the reports of these efforts as far as I know have not been made public. It is said that two or three of the fittest players were axed from the final squad; one glaring example being Fawad Alam.
This southpaw all rounder should have been selected maybe as the third opener or even slotted in the middle order in place of Iftikhar Ahmad; Fawad is more than a useful left arm spinner and a brilliant, mercurial and safe fielder. Another player who can rightly consider himself wronged is young Ehsan Adil a swing bowler who would have been more useful than Sohail Khan in English conditions. The rest of the test squad more or less selected itself and there are hardly any surprises.
The opening pair can be chosen from Shan Masood, Mohammad Hafeez or Sami Aslam. The next five, if fit, are automatic choices – Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Misbah ul Haq, Asad Shafiq, Sarfraz Ahmad. The remaining four berths can be filled by three fast bowlers and one spinner; or two of each category. Pakistan do not have a genuine all rounder like Woakes, Stokes or even Moeen Ali. Misbah should if required try the medium pace of Younis Khan, and the leg spin of Azhar Ali.
There have been too many negative and pessimistic analyses for the forthcoming series with some experts even talking of a 4-0 whitewash by England. It must be recalled that Pakistan have beaten England in England on a number of occasions from 1954 to 2010 and can repeat the feat this time. At “home” they have whitewashed England 3-0 so why this defeatist attitude?
Also too much is being made of the Mohammad Amir factor. By the much trumpeted PCB’s principle of zero tolerance for indiscipline (now being applied in the case of Ahmad Shahzad and Umar Akmal – too little too late) Amir should NOT be playing for Pakistan. However, for whatever reasons now that the powers that be have brought him back we must counsel, encourage and support him but not go overboard. Watching some channels it seems that only Mohammad Amir is going to England as there is so much coverage of him; what about the other 25 or so players and officials? Let us not be emotional; let us be practical.
The English media or for that matter any media does not draw daggers against any touring team or its members without cause or if the conduct of the squad on and off the field is satisfactory. Usually it has been the case of the players bringing censure upon themselves by some misdoings. Every time the English media has criticized Pakistan team and players it has been justified because of the “misconduct” of the players be it on or off the field – for example be they Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, be it Shahid Afridi or Inzamam-ul-Haq. And of course be they the “terrible trio” – Amir, Asif, Salman Butt. We will not go into the details but those who follow cricket closely will understand that hopefully the players will refrain from “crossing the line” and not repeat any acts that brought sorrow to the Pakistan teams from the 1970s to 2010 . A heavy burden is also on the shoulders of the Pakistan Tour Management of which there are plenty.
The Manager for the tour has been a former Test player, captain, coach, manager, director, and may have worn other hats as well, in Pakistan cricket off and on (more on than off) for the last 57 years. Intikhab Alam is a gentle soul who hates to displease any one. He is an intelligent, hard working, honest man who endeavours to please rather than be strict or critical. As such he has been popular with captains and players every time he has been put in charge.
Quite in contrast to some other Managers of Pakistan such as Naveed Akram Cheema who was a strict no nonsense top Civil Servant. PCB’s Tour Managers have been a mixed bunch with no set pattern. They have included top Civil Servants like Syed Fida Hassan, I.A. Khan, Shahryar Khan, Justice Saad Saud Jan; former cricketers like Dr. Jahangir Khan, Shujauddin Butt from the Army, M.E.Z. Ghazali from the Navy, Hasib Ahsan, Mahmood Hussain, Zaheer Abbas, Moin Khan, Zakir Khan, Syed Faqir Aizazuddin; Company Executives Yawar Saeed, Omar Kureishi, non cricketing Military Officers like Lt. General. K.M. Azhar and Brig (Rtd.) Ghazi Haider.
A mixed bunch really; some were strict and efficient and as such not very popular; others soft and lenient who sought favourable comments from the players. Of these Yawar and Intikhab have been the longest serving having had several “innings.”
Besides the Manager another key figure on this tour will be the Media Manager who will be required to play a major role on this tour. The code of conduct for the players re the Media in particular will be very important. Players should get specific permission from the Team Management before they give statements or interviews to the Media. Owing to the communication gaps in the languages innocent remarks and statements can be very easily misunderstood, twisted and given misleading interpretations. Stick to the task of playing cricket in the true spirit, and socialize with family and friends and avoid selfies and social media; of late even religious scholars have landed in trouble because of exposure on social media!!
I have heard, and here I may be quite wrong for which I apologize in advance, that Chairman Shahryar who, like TV channels all over the world, wants to be the first to break the news had announced Brian Murgatroyd as the Media Manager on tour. Brian wisely turned down the offer; he would have been a good choice as he helps PCB in their home series in the UAE in spite of the fact that the PCB Media and Marketing personnel are there but usually arrive at the grounds well after the commencement of play.
Shahryar had done the same when he announced Tom Moody, Stuart Law and Dean Jones as the Head Coach one after the other. All three said “no thank you” and Shahryar was left with a lot of egg on his face. The choice finally was Mickey Arthur, a case of availability rather than capability, who has had a chequered and turbulent ride as coach of South Africa and Australia. Arthur took ages to arrive in Pakistan sorting out his nationality problems, and the Chairman kept announcing the extension of his arrival date.
This means that PCB had appointed a Head Coach whose nationality was not even certain; shows desperation. The advisors in the PCB including those wise ex-captains who hardly watch domestic cricket in Pakistan, should know that once you “select” a candidate , you should follow all the procedural steps, sign a contract and then announce.
That is the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) of recruitment in any reputable company. PCB let down Aaqib Javed by their dithering. Mudassar Nazar wanted to return to Pakistan and be the Director of NCA. Mudassar is a fine former player, a friend of long standing, great company and a jolly good fellow. But principles are above friendship and it is not fair that the academic qualifications for the post had to be downgraded to accommodate him.
He must have had very strong recommendations. Hope something useful and worthwhile comes out of the NCA at last. NCA and its staff spent five long years without finding a decent opening pair or a speedy paceman and had to wait for the “prodigal” convict to return and fill the gap of the spearhead of Pakistan attack. Who is accountable?
Talking of Media Managers I have heard that PCB , in their infinite wisdom (no marks for guessing whose idea it was) have decided to send four Media Managers – staggered for trips of 15 days each.
The Media gurus of the PCB’s overstaffed Media Division include the Director Amjad Hussain Bhatti a well meaning government functionary who tells all that he knows. That he knows very little is probably because he is not kept in the loop on various matters.
The team Manager is Agha Akbar, a former veteran journalist, who was not considered in the top tier of the “oldies goldies” like Anwar Hussain, Farooq Mazhar, Omer Kureishi, Abdul Hye Bhatti, Haleem Ahmed, Rehanullah Siddiqui, Qamar Ahmed to name a few.
He is also not grouped in the same category as some of the current bright “youngsters” like Abdul Rasheed Shakoor, Abdul Majid Bhatti, Sami ul Hassan Burney, Abdul Waheed Khan, Osman Samiuddin, Shahid Hashmi, Umar Farooq, Rishad Mahmood, Khalid Hussain, Khalid H. Khan and some others.
The other two who are slated to take the trip to England will be the hard working, efficient and enterprising Raza Kitchlew but he has his limitations. The fourth is a new recruit with, I am sure, excellent credentials and connections. In my humble opinion the best man for this task on a tour of this magnitude would have been Shakeel Shaikh who besides being a veteran journalist is a sort of spokesperson for the PCB. He is also a member of the Governing Board . He would have had the clout and the authority to grapple with any situation. However, we are also informed that the Chairman, who will be in England on holiday, will look after Media Matters as well as keep an eye on the players. With him there we do not need a horde of others. Why go on a holiday and then slog it out at the cricket?
It is a positive step for PCB to send the team to England 4 weeks in advance to get acclimatized. It is on PCB’s expense because the “hosting” by England and Wales Cricket Board will begin in July before the first side match. The team has gone to Hampshire where they are encamped for training. But the Media Manager (who needs him when the Chairman is there ?), the Security Manager (if he is not needed now why inconvenience him during the games?), the bowling coach and the fielding coach will go end June. Why? Mysterious are the ways of the PCB.
Then there is the usual somersault by the PCB. It had been decided that the Chief Selector (it seems he is the Lone Selector; the others have not been heard of at any stage) Inzamam-ul-Haq having done his job of selecting the squads will not be proceeding to England. Now comes the news that he will go to England after the third Test to finalize with Mickey Arthur and the Tour Management the formation of the shorter format team. Strange.
But PCB acceded to Haq’s intentions to travel to England. When some say that Haq is more powerful than the previous Chief of Selectors they certainly have a point. Earlier Teams were discussed and finalized on Whatsapp and Twitter; now the Selector has to travel to England to finalize the teams. I am sure at some stage PCB will also compensate M/S Tauseef Ahmed, Wajahatullah Wasti and Wasim Haider the other Selectors and send them on a junket as well.
The PCB probably is once again overspending and living beyond its means. 4 weeks in England for about 2 dozen people lodged in 5 Star luxury in South of England plus all the allowances and fringe benefits does no t come cheap. Probably to offset this burden the donation to Edhi Foundation was a measly Rs 500000 (less than US$5000/=); and this was supplemented by another identical amount by the profitable cash rich Pakistan Super League. I had mistakenly misread the donation originally as a total of Rs 10,000,000 (Ten Million- Rs One crore). Maybe it is 10 million after all. This also conveyed a clear message that the PSL and PCB are two distinct entities. Separate cheques were presented to the Edhi Representative by Shahryar and Najam. PCB could have done better than to donate a sum less than a month’s salary of one of its scores of Senior General Managers to a cause as noble and deserving as Edhi Foundation. Then follows an even more strange move from the Chairman. In an appeal to the ICC full members he has appealed each member to give 20% of profits from their home series to PCB for the development of cricket!! I hope I have misread and misunderstood the report or news item is not what it appears. But if true why pass the hat around in shape of a begging bowl. Only if …..
Meanwhile best wishes and prayers for the success in England of all four Pakistan Teams. Go for it young ladies and men; you know you can do it. May victory be yours!