Whither International Cricket?

By Chishty Mujahid - September 16, 2019

I have innumerable bad habits. If you are interested, my wife will gladly provide a comprehensive list.

However, I must confess that two very bad and old habits which have persisted for the last six decades are a complete aversion to maintaining a record of events, and sheer laziness.

From my younger days, I have never kept an account of my expenditure and also never maintained what you may call a “diary.” In my youth, I did carry a simple camera (the focus and click type – you know what I mean) on tours.

But having lost or misplaced about half a dozen in double quick time I immediately jettisoned the idea of becoming a slave to creating permanent records. You may by now have realized that I am not very technically savvy and did not even possess what for some odd reason is called a Smart Phone (what is so smart about it I am yet to find out) until one was literally forced upon me a year ago.

But I am still not on any Fritter, Bitter, Twitter, Face Book or any other book, nor on any other log in the application which requires passwords (I usually forget my password and also the answers to the so-called “security” questions (which in any case are very insecure).

So here I am completely dependent on my memory and recollections for subjects and topics in which I am interested. Although I can remember passages from William Shakespeare, and verses from William Wordsworth, John Keats, John Milton, Geoffrey Chaucer (in olde [old] English), Sir Walter Raleigh, Lord MacCaulay, Samuel Taylor Coleridge – need I go on?

And from some of my favorite Urdu poets like Allama Iqbal, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Shaikh Ibrahim Zauq, Hakim Momin Khan Momin, Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, Hafeez (both Jallandhari and Hoshiarpuri) Khumar Barabakvi, Raaz Muradabadi, Syed Mohammad Jafri, Zareef Jabbalpuri. And of course the beautiful verses from the Holy Quran (of which I always wish I could memorize more). The lists can go on but before you start wondering what this piece is all about and where is it leading to, I must return to my favorite, expensive and time-consuming addiction – the great game of cricket.

What is happening and where are we going with this glorious sport all over the world? At one time not very long ago it was a regal, gentlemanly game played mostly by amateurs for pride and passion. Even those who ran and managed cricket were “Honorary”. They are now overpaid as some TV anchors would make us believe.

However, to cut a long story short, as with otherworldly things this game also fell victim to commercialization. And why not?

Money poured in and a lot of the players changed almost overnight. The game was revolutionized beyond recognition. It became colorful. It could be played at night. Cricket balls changed colors – from red to pink, yellow (or was it orange) to white.

Even in some formats of the game two cricket balls are used. The laws kept being chopped and changed (there should be some work for those “lawmakers” at the ICC and MCC) and betting flourished as it had done in the sport since the 14th century.

This also led to the evil of match- and fancy-fixing. The players and even more so the sponsors became more and more avaricious, and the authorities were found to be helpless even with fifty cameras all over the ground, on the ground, above the ground, in nooks and crannies, on cranes and on drones, and where not and whatnot.

Five-day cricket became a drag (for the impatient) and the 50/50 matches are also considered boring. 20/20 became the product of the first choice and now even shorter versions are being considered.

The importance of the national cricket teams has been pushed into the background and “leagues” are ruling the roost. The Indians, I think, took the lead in this with IPL and the following was so popular because of the glitter of gold that all else followed.

Another league in India the ICL came up only to be put down. Sri Lanka had their League, as did Bangladesh and Pakistan (PSL). Australia and England also succumbed to the temptation with Bashes and Dashes and Crashes.

The West Indies not to be left behind have a very thriving league with a new one which I think is called the Fan Selector League where instead of the captain the fans decide on the bowling changes and maybe even the field placements and the batting order.

I spied oldies like Brian Lara and youngsters like our own Mohammad Hasnain (what is he doing in Port of Spain and not in the PCB camp?) rubbing shoulders in the West Indies. I say more power to them. If there is good money available all talented individuals young and old have a right to offer their services.

New Zealand has joined the party and there is a league there as well. Hong Kong has always been in the news with their six a side version of the game. South Africa was considering some sort of a league.

Afghanistan has a league going on in Sharjah. I am not sure but there must be some leagues which I have missed out. Maybe the smaller African countries and Scotland and Ireland are also active. As long as these are good for the players, I am supportive of the idea.

A positive development in the game has been the emergence of Women’s cricket. Not only are they playing Test matches but also the shorter formats. Good to see and hear that they are in TV live coverage as commentators but are also making inroads into international umpiring.

In Pakistan, they have been inducted into the Governing Body of the game as well as I am made to believe in the process of selection. It is time we had some women heading the various cricket boards. I am not sure but there should be (and perhaps soon will be) some Women’s Leagues organized.

Talking of international umpiring it is evident from the blunders made by top names in the ICC CWC 2019 and the 2019 Ashes clashes that time has come to review and revamp the entire system. The World Cup was wrongly “gifted” to England by a horrendous decision by Kumar Dharmasena. And the Headingley Test was “awarded” to England by extremely sloppy umpiring by Joel Wilson.

Various other umpires including Aleem Dar are getting decisions wrong. All these show signs of “burning out.” These umpires should be given more rest and gaps between assignments. Aleem and Kumar are overworked. Wilson and Ravi and some others are simply incompetent.

ICC should seriously reconsider the idea of “third country” umpires and have a panel of the best in business who should supervise the games. I am of those who firmly believe that all umpires are neutral and unbiased once they don the white coat or the red, black, green, purple, blue or whatever color is required these days. As such to deprive umpires of high standing the supervision of matches in which their countries are participating is a travesty of justice and should be rectified immediately.

Things have been happening at home as well. The Patron of the PCB Prime Minister Imran Khan’s cabinet has approved the constitution of the PCB. Though this was not required it does lend strength to the fact that it has the blessings of the democratically elected representatives of the people.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses the legislative assembly in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir on August 14, 2019, to mark the country’s Independence Day. – His visit to mark the country’s Independence Day comes more than a week after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered a surprise executive decree to strip its portion of the Muslim-majority Himalayan region of its special status. (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI / AFP)

After initial hesitations when their draft for domestic cricket was thrown out of the window by the Prime Minister and Patron of the Board, PCB bigwigs produced all-region domestic format which was approved and is being implemented.

Well played Imran Khan. At least a beginning has been made and now I am sure it will succeed. Domestic cricket should be on Regional/Provincial/City basis. That is when the interest of the fans will be evident. The departments can fund and sponsor the teams.

PCB has got their work cut out. What is now needed is for the authorities to make the home grounds comply with international standards and ensure they are spectator friendly. We also await some sort of a right-sizing of the bloated numbers of staff.

Perhaps job descriptions, organization chart, key tasks, and appraisal procedure. A “Greenfield” exercise must be carried out. Unlike some TV Channels whose anchors keep harping on the money PCB is giving its employees I say good luck to them.

They have not forced their salaries and perquisites at gunpoint. They are all negotiated and agreed. I am sure they must have been blessed by the Prime Minister and the relevant members of his cabinet. It is the duplicity or is some cases the triplicity (if there is such a word) of jobs that should be addressed.

PCB should be accountable through an audit for their (mis)deeds. It seems that the letters of appointment of some higher officials are so loosely and poorly worded that getting rid of them (although they may be deadwood) is well-nigh impossible. I know the case of a Manager whose services have been terminated three times and he has been reinstituted by the courts of law.

There are certain “holy cows”, great survivors who have been in the employment of the board for over a quarter of a century and cannot be touched as they have very influential and powerful sponsors. At times they have been asked to sit at home for years on end and get their salaries without work (fair arrangement I suppose) only to return to power once the management at the top changes.

There also seems to be no method for recruiting personnel. The advertisements are made to suit the already shortlisted aspirants. The selection a few years ago of the Director NCA will prove my point. The current hunt for coaches etc. is still in the process. The panel appointed to interview the candidates is hand-picked and to some observers does not make sense.

But I am sure they must have conducted the usual “robust interviews”. When will the final results be out? Why cannot we have a permanent selection board/committee? PCB has some very experienced and qualified Human Resources/Administration/Finance/Legal Heads, a COO who is currently twiddling his thumbs and a CEO who is trying to find his feet and learning Urdu.

They all can do a splendid job. It is also hilarious that some candidates who are not selected or not called for interviews sit on TV channels criticizing the entire procedure. There is also the case of the recently appointed trainer by the PCB. I am not sure was this vacancy announced and interviews held or were this an “off the shelf” appointment.

With the constitution and domestic cricket format in place, and the required support staff in the pipeline, we can look forward to the fulfillment of another welcome statement of Imran Khan that the entire PSL V will be staged in the grounds in Pakistan.

Also, we have Sri Lanka coming for the white-ball format games in Lahore and Karachi and the Bangladesh Women’s Team who were here a few years ago and played at the DHA Stadium under strict security. Why has Sri Lanka backed out of playing Test matches in Pakistan and agreed to the shorter versions is anybody’s guess. There are many more spectators in a shorter format game than in a Test match.

The above as I had forewarned you are from memory and there may be some errors and lapses which please forgive. I request you all to, misquoting the Bard of Avon, “gently read and kindly judge what I have had to say”.

Let us hope and pray we have a good year full of peace, tranquility and competitive cricket.

Extracts
The Patron of the PCB Prime Minister Imran Khan’s cabinet has approved the constitution of the PCB. Though this was not required it does lend strength to the fact that it has the blessings of the democratically elected representatives of the people

Various other umpires including Aleem Dar are getting decisions wrong. All these show signs of “burning out.” These umpires should be given more rest and gaps between assignments. Aleem and Kumar are overworked. Wilson and Ravi and some others are simply incompetent

There also seems to be no method for recruiting personnel. The advertisements are made to suit the already shortlisted aspirants. The selection a few years ago of the Director NCA will prove my point. The current hunt for coaches etc. is still in the process. The panel appointed to interview the candidates is hand-picked and to some observers does not make sense

By Chishty Mujahid

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