With Malice Towards None

By Chishty Mujahid - June 8, 2020

koī baat aisī agar huī ki tumhāre jī ko burī lagī to bayāñ se pahle hī

bhūlnā tumheñ yaad ho ki na yaad ho

if some thing might happen, that was not to your liking
the forgetting before speaking it out, you might remember or you might not.

“Nothing can compensate for the loss of a special friend and colleague……” These were the first thoughts which crossed my mind when I was informed of the passing away of my friend of long standing young (he was a dozen years junior to me in age) Ahmad Raza Zaidi.

Mr. Zaidi was a senior civil servant of the prestigious Audit and Accounts Services of Pakistan and just a year or so before his passing away he was serving as a junior colleague of Sardar Ahmad Nawaz Sukhera himself a highly qualified and greatly respected Secretary in the Ministry of Information. As a civil servant AR was meticulous, efficient, authoritative and respected.

AR as I always referred to him was a passionate cricket enthusiast and radio and television commentator in English. I had the pleasure and honour of “sharing the mike “ with him on numerous occasions both at “home” – in Faisalabad (a city from which he hailed), Multan, Sialkot, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Peshawar and other cities as well as outside Pakistan particularly in Australia, Southern Africa, Sharjah and India.

In cricket commentary he was articulate, knowledgeable and popular. “Off the field” he was social, friendly and supportive. A gracious host and a pleasant guest. A family man he was a very caring husband and doting father. My wife joins me in sending our deepest and heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Zaidi and his children. May Allah bless AR’s soul and grant him a place in Paradise. And give his next of kin the courage, strength and fortitude to bear this irreparable loss.

AR you will be sorely missed by all in cricket, in Radio Pakistan and Pakistan Television, as well as in the Governmental circles and the Islamabad Club of which he was a regular member.

AR Please remember you will always be in our thoughts and prayers.

I was further saddened to learn a few days later that another member of the Radio Commentary fraternity Mr. Taufiq Tirmizi had expired. I must confess that I was not acquainted with the gentleman and was informed of his demise by my younger colleagues Danish Naeem Abbasi and Asim Bashir. May God grant TT a place in Jannah and give members of his family strength and patience to bear this great loss.

I must hasten to add that neither of these gentlemen succumbed to Covid-19 virus which has claimed many lives including sportspersons throughout the world.

While still on the subject of commentators and as I do not use any notes or memorabilia I must mention that the PCB has taken over the broadcasting management of radio and TV commentaries. This is because PTV and PBC (Radio Pakistan) are nearly broke if not bankrupt.

Gone are the days when Pakistanis used to relay running commentary on Radio and Television for home matches from the venues. Teams by both were also sent out whenever Pakistan were touring abroad.

Hopefully I shall get an opportunity to write fully on this matter some time down the road but for the moment let me just say because of favouritism and (maybe other factors) we have a big crowd of commentators from all over the world with varying accents and pronunciations and expressions.

Most of them have no business to be anywhere near a microphone. They have probably never been trained or paid much thought and attention to pronunciation, diction, modulation and have never been through the rigours of audition and training as we had to go through half a century ago.

The Management of the Broadcasters is dominated by Indian companies although Pakistani camera crew, engineers, technicians, producers, directors are regarded as among the best in the world. Without going into details there were at least 29 Indians in the PSL V crew besides of course their supervisors and managers. The rather sloppy opening ceremony was also handed over to Indians.

Later it has come to light that there was subletting for streaming to a betting company. What are the Media Gurus up to or are they not consulted. It is said that he matter has been settled by the errant company saying “sorry.”

I was glad to learn that in PSL V PCB introduced commentary in Urdu but only for us natives on our local channels; and that too for short bursts. They chose commentators from their English panels. Why could not some very fine of our Urdu broadcasters be handed over this assignment.

We have Mirza Iqbal Baig, Tariq Saeed, Azhar Hameed, Raja Asad Ali Khan, Abdul Majid Bhatti, Abdul Waheed Khan, Yayha Hussaini, Sikandar Bakht (in fact we have two of them) Asim Bashir, Danish Abbasi, Tanveer Iqbal and many more who could have done the job and not taken taken Urdu commentary as a joke and made Pakistan a laughing stock of the followers of Urdu and Hindi Commentary.

Just before I move on let me tell you that the fee for a TV commentator is between US$750 to US$2000 per diem whereas a Radio Pakistani commentator is paid between PKR 1800 (US$12) and PKR 6000 (US$ 35) per day; and a PTV broadcaster slightly more. Then they ask me why do our “leading “Pakistani commentators not opt for Radio Pakistan and PTV commentary. I rest my case. More of this later in a fuller piece.

As a postscript of this let me pay tributes to Geoffrey Boycott who has just retired from cricket commentary. I only understood half of what the great player said and disagreed with the other half. I will never forget the way in which he caused the run out of Derek Randall who I think was making his debut. John Arlott’s (commentators on TV are not supposed to talk and chatter continuously) remarks were a few words “How tragic; how tragic; how tragic.”.

This Corona Virus pandemic has also played havoc with the sports calendar of the year. The Olympics have been postponed. The various cricket events from Australia/New Zealand to South Africa, Pakistan, India and Zimbabwe have been put on hold.

It is said that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. This saying dates back to at least the 4th century (although it sounds biblical) and is attributed to a theologian St Jerome and can be considered as the oldest saying in the English language. Who knows could have been even before that? However this pandemic period which is idle in mind and body seems to prove the truth of this saying.

Had the cricket calendar gone according to schedule all and sundry would be busy planning, and playing cricket rather than being idle and thinking up weird theories of how to fill the now emptying coffers of the cricket authorities.

Besides the self styled super players are also spreading their wings, glorifying themselves particularly on You Tubes and Y Tubes and tubes of a sort and expounding their theories and misleading the young ones.

Wonder how many You Tubes and other tubes and websites we will end up with particularly with the dwindling numbers and quality of Sports TV Channels. I am not computer savvy but do come across references to interviews and views on You Tubes. Also these websites have got into the activities of players pairing themselves and other such gimmicks.

In Leagues it is usually foreigners who hanker after assignments in PSL, IPL, BPL, CPL, as players, mentors, coaches, managers, PR men , commentators and others like conducting races, catch a crore and what not. I say more power to them. Without going into controversies or rubbing people the wrong way suffice it to say that most foreign players are spent cartridges or have played international cricket in single figures.

But I must pause here and say that in the PSL 5 we saw a few current English players – Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Christopher Jordan, Mueen Muneer Ali. But the majority of the rest of the foreign players were either retired from international cricket or dropped from their national sides or just maximum first class cricketers.

Imagine Pakistanis like Khurrum Manzoor, Yasir Shah and Mohammad Abbas sitting on the benches match after match. Full credit goes to Ehsan Mani and Wasim Khan for arranging all matches in Pakistan as he had vowed. They were ably assisted by members of the Pakistan Armed Forces, Rangers, Police and the local administration. That they were robbed of the chance to complete the mission by the cruel hand of Corona Virus was misfortune rather than fault. Whether the three remaining matches for PSL 5 will be played when and where is anybody’s guess. Besides there are more important matters to ponder at the moment.

We shall return to that in due course once I comment on a great news which has just been conveyed to me; and this is what I had been hoping for. The PCB had donated a substantial amount to the Prime Minister’s Corona Fund. A worthy gesture but knowing the wealth of the Board and it salary sheet I thought it was not enough. I am not sure what was donated (I am terrible at figures) but it should have been 50% of the salary of the senior management and lesser of the other staff.

Now it has gladdened my heart that the CEO Wasim Khan has donated PKR 1.5 million over the next quarter to the PCB welfare fund for the lower paid and manual staff of the Board which include players, officials, scorers and ground staff who are in dire need of financial assistance. The details will obviously be worked out by the PCB hierarchy. Whatever the reactions this is a commendable gesture. This assistance is not to be confused with the donation to the PM’s Relief Fund at least that is what is my understanding.

The Chief Operating Officer Salman Naseer has followed suit by chipping in PKR 0.5million. There are nearly 10 directors and innumerable General and Senior Managers and Managers and other Officers who I am confident will do the same and there will be sizeable kitty for the poor and needy.

Wasim and Salman have taken the lead and we can expect sizeable donations from Zakir Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq, Sami-ul-Hassan, Nadeem Khan, Waqar Younis, Mushtaq Ahmed, Saqlain Mushtaq, Nasser Assel, Iqbal Qasim, Wasim Akram, PSL Director, Marketing Director, Financial Head, Security Director, Director Human Resources and as the list goes on the PCB staff can be well looked after for a long time to come. And this philanthropic trend should not be a one off event but must become a regular feature.

Not only should the PCB Management should take a cue from the CEO and COO but those connected with PCB should also be encourage to contribute. These may include the PSL franchisees, sponsors, advertisers, broadcasters, suppliers/tailors of uniforms (and kits), travel agents, hoteliers caterers. You are free to add more lest I have forgotten any. This has been the case in some transnational companies over the years in times of need.

In one corporation during my tenure the company had a bad year and all senior managers had their remunerations reduced by 30% to 50%; and also agreed to take motor cars of a lower liter age. This was until the situation improved and returned to “normal.”

I am not sure about the details but most Boards like Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, England, Sri Lanka have been right sizing their approved establishments and saving finances. PCB did try but perhaps because of a lack of expertise in Human Resources did it upside down.

They served notices on 55 employees. Let us say the salary of these 55 at an average of 50000/= per mensem works out to PKR 2750000/= . Knowing the salaries and perquisites of Senior Management of PCB this amount is sufficient for 2 or max 3 Managers.

PCB may or may not have an approved establishment but this should be prepared. Also a thoroughly professional “green field” exercise should be carried out to determine the exact number of personnel required to run the PCB. There should be a precise organogram with reporting relations. There should be job classes with job values.

Also an open annual appraisal and accountability. The difference will be evident and the spending of every rupee and paisa will be justified. There have been serious discrepancies in employment in the past. The examples are many but a few will suffice to illustrate the point. The required qualification for Director of NCA was Graduate. In order to accommodate the favourite this was downgraded. The required qualification for another Director was M.A. from a recognized university but once again for a person already selected this was relaxed. The requirement for a new CFO is I am told a graduate whereas the previous incumbent was a qualified Chartered Accountant.

I have not yet understood the hiring policy of the PCB. Some wise guy stated (hopefully as a jest) that to be in the upper echelons of the PCB you have to be either a foreigner or a dual national. I see nothing wrong in this as long as you have requisite qualifications and experience.

On reflection to this theory it came to light that the Chairman is a pucca Pakistani but has a UK residency and has been there for the last 40 years or so. The CEO is a born and bred Britisher; the COO as far as my knowledge goes is a Pakistani though educated and trained as a lawyer at the Inn of Court in UK. The former Director of NCA was a dual national. The new Director of High Performance the two Test wonder is definitely British as he was a leading restaurant owner in England.

Saqlain Mushtaq is also British and Waqar Younis is an Australian. Mushtaq Ahmed although I am not sure is probably a dual national. The be all and end all of Pakistan cricket Wasim Akram is probably a Pakistani though he has spent decades in England and has close connections with Australia. I can go on but do not have enough interest or information. Let those who conduct the so called transparent and robust interviews to recruit these stalwarts deal with these matters.

Three candidates who more than deserve to be officials of the PCB and have all the necessary qualifications are Jalaluddin of the Customs a qualified coach (hat trick in ODI vs Australia) and a dual if not treble national.

Haris Khan the Customs officer and a former off spinner who should have also played for Pakistan and is a dual national. And finally Mohammad Wasim he of the colourful clothing and who scored a hundred on Test debut and is a qualified coach. Wasim has three nationalities – Pakistani, Dutch and New Zealand. In fact I think he has played Tests for Pakistan and International cricket for the Netherlands. Let us get them in. Why have they not applied and undergone transparent and robust interviews.

Another point which has been raised by many and to which I have no answer. What was the hurry in giving central contracts when there was no cricket for half a year. The Board was faced with a similar situation in 2003 before the ICC CWC in South Africa. The Chairman was requested to grant central contracts. He was advised that this should be done after the World Cup. He was apprehensive that the leading players would pull out. He was assured that no player would like to be left out of the World event. In any case there was no international cricket for the period of the World Cup. He agreed. Not a single player even suggested withdrawing. As an afterthought it would have been good had some pulled out because Pakistan performed terribly owing to in fighting in the team. The same formula could have been applied on this occasion. Central contracts after the England tour.

That Pakistan are going to tour England is an excellent idea. I am also made to believe that all expenses will be borne by the England and Wales Cricket Board. Is that why we are taking 27 players (and there would be the retinue of at least a dozen officials). Had this been a normal tour (which hopefully it can still be) we would be sending two teams. Because of the paucity of space let us briefly examine the logistics as I understand them (which may be completely wrong). The tour itinerary as provided to me is given below. There will be 3 Tests and 3 T20Is

Pakistan tour of England, 2020: First Test; July 30, August 03, at Lord’s. Second Test August 7-11, at Old Trafford; Third Test August 20-24, at Trent Bridge.

First T20I; August 29, at Headingley; Second T20I, August 31, at Sophia Gardens; Third T20I, September 02, at Rose Bowl.

It is said that 25 players (for Tests and T20Is) will travel together> Why? The Test squad could travel on say 10th July and spend 14 days in quarantine, play the 3 Tests and come home. The T20 squad could travel on 12th August spend 14 days in quarantine, play the 3 white ball matches and return on 5th September. Why keep so many players idling unless there are plans of which we do not have knowledge.

And what about the officials? Will there be one set or two. I hope the things work out smoothly. At the moment I am confused and shall be grateful if someone can remove this confusion.

According to my view only one official will be enough and that is Misbah-ul-Haq since he seems to wear every hat available. But we have over loaded our “coaching” and “high performance staff.” What are their job descriptions. Is Nadeem Khan to report to Misbah or vice versa. And who will Mushtaq Ahmed, Saqlain Mushtaq, Grant Bradburn, Nasser Assel, Shahid Aslam, Mansoor Rana, Talha and Malang be responsible to. I am sure all this has been worked out. And what about the Cricket Committee? What is Iqbal Qasim going and where is Urooj Mumtaz.

Wasim Akram is on some tube or some channel giving advice to Babar Azam which is not his responsibility or boasting that he would have dismissed Misbah-ul-Haq within 4 deliveries had he been given a chance to bowl to the current Chief Coach, Chief Selector etc. etc (he has so many jobs that the time is not far when Ehsan, Wasim Khan, Salman, Zakir, and Sami may not be needed – that would be right sizing).

Wasim Akram does a wonderful job selling air conditioners and also some “rugdha “vs a branded detergent. He and Waqar must be the only Hilal-e-Imtiaz who are models except for Darren Sammy who is a Hilal-e-Pakistan who also appears in Pakistani commercials. Currently he is livid at being called names by IPL spectators. Good that now cricket will be played under the open sky but behind closed doors.

I am not quite sure whether there is a selection committee in place but Babar Azam was reported as having said somewhere that Sarfaraz will be wearing a mask on the flight to London. Azhar Ali, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez should be ready for quarantine; as should Abid Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Shan Masood, Haider Ali, Asif Ali, Iftikhar Ahmad, Shadab Khan and the young fast bowlers Haris Rauf, Shaheen Shah, Usman Shinwari and Naseem Shah. I think I have made Misbah’s job just that much easier.

So much for the England tour. I wish both teams good health, safe cricket and success. Also no chewing gums, no licking the ball, and make sure to wear a mask. The distance between the slips will be measured and if less it will be a no ball followed by a free hit. Hand sanitizers should be available on the field.

Since there will be no spectators the card board cut outs of spectators should be multiracial and the back ground sound well synchronized. We are in for an interesting time. Three West Indians Darren Bravo, Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmeyer have pulled out of the tour to England which precedes Pakistan’s trip. We need the money and are also tough people (just look at the SOPs being disregarded during lockdown; no virus can dare come near us “darna naheen hai larna hai.”

Talking of “larna” there is a lot going on as the players and analysts have nothing better to do. Shoaib Akhtar is ready to take on any one including a first rate lawyer of PCB Mr. Tafazzul Rizvi. Shoaib should express his thoughts that is his right but mind his language. After all you are a man of international fame. Then there is Akash Chopra who is willing to take up the cudgels on behalf of the Indians who according to some including Ben Stokes did not do enough to win a World Cup Match. The Pakistanis woke up and joined in taking the matter a little further which caused a furore in the Indian camp.

Then there is PCB and Tafazzul vs Shakeel Shaikh who is joined by Nauman Butt. Amir Sohail has irritated Wasim Akram by speaking his mind freely. Wasim is such an important figure that no channel is willing to call him and ask the facts. Amir Sohail quite rightly told off one anchor that next time this subject is brought up Wasim Akram should be there. Experience shows that except for one or two cases nothing comes out of these. These are just there to get some attention.

The lockdown gave me so much time to read that I went through the entire Justice Qayyum Report. Maybe next time life and health permitting I shall try and give some thoughts on it. It is evident that there is more to it than has been commented. But that is another story……

I wish all of you a safe and healthy time ahead. Keep safe and enjoy the cricket. May Pakistan have a safe pleasant, and successful tour of England.

P. S. Before I forget and time, space and deadline runs out I read in some report (if wrong my apologies) that when the Zimbabweans visited Pakistan to break the deadlock of international cricket each player was given a bonus of US$15000/= and when the West Indians came PCB dished out a paltry sum of US$25000/= per player. Nothing extra was given to the BD Ladies team – how unfair. I hope the England and Wales Cricket Board will be generous enough and gift at least US$100000/= to each of the Pakistani players.

By Chishty Mujahid

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