LAHORE: Even for a dispassionate observer, Pakistan cricket, and more precisely Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), is under an unceasing barrage of criticism. One cursory glance at the reportage everyday, both in the print and electronic media, and it seems as if nothing in the PCB is being done right. But the fact is, despite Pakistan losing the Asia Cup final and not making the ICC Twenty20’s semifinal for the first time, Pakistan cricket looks like it is on the way up from its middling to lower-end existence in contemporary cricket. The confrontation with the ‘Big Three’ stands resolved, and Pakistan is no longer standing alone miserably, under the threat of seclusion of the kind only South Africa has known in living memory, or at best being treated condescendingly as Bangladesh is.
In the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) new Test team rankings, Pakistan have improved their position, by progressing to fourth in Test cricket, in ODIs they are sixth but they are separated by just nine points from South Africa at fifth (now Proteas are a topnotch outfit, yet no heavens have fallen in the Rainbow Nation at such a fall) and 15 points from Australia at first and third in Twenty20. This reflects Pakistan are in the top cluster and with the rub of the green going their way, just a couple of series in each of the three formats and they might catapult itself close to the top. By that token our media should not sound as shrill and as desperate as it does. But Najam Sethi, the restored chairman who sounds pretty sensible compared to his predecessors, has recently said: “Team Pakistan are the most abused and most humiliated outfit in the world. The same goes for the Board.” This is sad but it is true.
Now look at the initiatives that the Board has been trying to take. In a short span of less than three months since his reinstatement, Najam Sethi has turned the PCB headquarters in a beehive of activity. The work on the blueprint to transform Pakistan’s first class structure is being worked at hammer and tongs, and is said to be in advanced stages. Clearing up the Board from the deadwood that has gathered moss over there by way of political appointments over the last decade and a half, is another project. To equip Team Pakistan with high-calibre backup as support staff is also only partially achieved so far, with Moin Khan named chief selector and manager, and Waqar Younis appointed chief coach through a selection process.
All these initiatives seem to be positive, for they are likely to turn Pakistan cricket into a lean machine. But in cricket, as in every other sphere of life, change has always been challenged by the well-entrenched vested interests that benefit from the status quo. Though some of the criticism may be well-intentioned, but the PCB is not just being thwarted by the well-orchestrated tirade, it is also being maligned in the process. A look at facts reveals how. Waqar Younis was the most popular choice across the country as chief coach. And Moin Khan was the aggressive go-to man whenever the Pakistan team was in crisis in his playing days. His knowledge of the modern game and his work ethic are most likely to stand Team Pakistan in good stead.
Yet on these two appointments, the PCB has been put on the mat. You will find across the board criticism over the last eight years about the Board being a bloated, inefficient and overemployed entity. Yet when the PCB tries to shake off only a portion of this deadly fat bogging it down, the same media that criticised it on the issue, takes stabs at it in favour of the sacked. It is painted as if only the lowest strata has been expunged from the PCB. Polite inquiry revealed that nearly 75 percent of those shown the exit were manning between top to middle income corporate positions. Just one former cricketer was setting the Board back by Rs.15 million a year, and these days finds every wrong in the PCB. Still he has the cheek to say, ‘ it’s ‘not vendetta’.
The courts too have been quite benevolent in favour of the fired. While it is true that the wronged can only find relief from the courts, it can be said that the courts should look into an organisation’s rationale for the sacking. Why would an employer send an employee packing if he or she was an asset for the organisation? Finally, the Board’s attempt to revamp the first class structure. Now everybody who is anybody in Pakistan cricket is in agreement over one thing. Our first class cricket is anything but first class. But the moment the Board tries to make it competitive and raise standards by empowering the regions while making the latter accountable as well, the bogey that cricketers would be unemployed enmasse is raised.
This time round when this Board has tried to find a way around it and keep the departments involved, which will, quite opposite of what is being propogated, instead of killing jobs add scores more for the retired or just-retiring cricketers in various capacities, it is still being flogged no end. Why? It takes people out of their comfort zones, and since this is uncharted territory, everyone in or around the top echelons of departments feels squeaky lest it make their cushy jobs insecure. But if the intent is to really change Pakistan cricket for the better, the PCB should not bow before this criticism. It should stick to the course, and let its performance speak for it. Even if it fails in achieving its objective hundred percent, it would at least have tried and that too is much better than wallowing in status quo that has kept Pakistan limited to middling to lower-end in world cricket for the last so many years.
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