LAHORE: And now when Chaudhary Mohammad Zaka Ashraf has been reinstated as the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman by the Islamabad High Court and some stability to Pakistan cricket is in sight, the federal government’s decision to file an appeal in the Supreme Court against the IHC division bench is really annoying. Pakistan cricket needs stability but we are not a nation of sage souls. The patron of the PCB, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, should respect the decision of the court and let Zaka Ashraf complete his term. Pakistan cricket remained embroiled in legal entanglements in the year 2013, with the court orders keeping the sport on its toes. Nothing, perhaps, sums up the contradictions of Pakistan cricket, and the abyss into which it descended in the last one year. The PCB became more or less dysfunctional. And with filing of an appeal in the Apex Court, a new legal battle will ensue and cripple Pakistan cricket more.
After Ashraf’s dismissal, the federal government appointed veteran journalist Najam Aziz Sethi as acting chairman but the IHC also stopped him from exercising his full powers and ordered him to hold fresh elections. In a response to the court’s decision, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif amended the PCB constitution, making himself its ‘patron’ and restoring Sethi’s powers. With no elections in sight, the government appointed a strong Interim Management Committee (IMC) with Sethi as its head to oversee cricket affairs.
Zaka Ashraf’s restoration has been hailed by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Indian Cricket Board, which is a clear indication that Zaka Ashraf commands respect in the comity of Test playing nations. When Zaka Ashraf was appointed as the PCB chief, replacing ‘buffoon’ Ijaz Butt, the people of this land of the pure heaved a sigh of relief. Zaka Ashraf not brought good luck but also stability for Pakistan cricket with him.
When Zaka Ashraf took over, many had their doubts about his credentials. With little or no cricketing experience, Zaka Ashraf was installed as the PCB chief at a time when Pakistan cricket was at its lowest ebb. He had succeeded Ijaz Butt, the man who made Pakistan cricket a big joke and a mess. Under Ijaz, Pakistan cricket saw worst tragedies and the operational showing of the PCB remained under the spotlight, with loads of criticism coming from almost every quarter including the ICC.
All of this condemnation was, indeed, justified. Rhetoric, hasty decisions and events sans logic saw Pakistan cricket plunging to its lowest ebb in recent years. The stage was set for some well-respected, able and competent sports administrator to rescue Pakistan cricket. For many, Zaka Ashraf just didn’t fit the bill. But Zaka Ashraf was able to demonstrate his skills with brilliance. A top job always requires good administrator. Some of the best heads of the PCB were not former cricketers but people with good managerial background. Running cricket is not rocket science, just the use of the rarest of qualities and common sense. Luck, too, was on the side of Zaka Ashraf who opted to go with the flow until he was removed from the job. It is pertinent to mention here that when Zaka Ashraf was Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) head, the bank had posted a profit of Rs.12 billion, the highest by any bank in 50 years. During his tenure, Zaka Ashraf will try his level best to take the PCB to new heights.
Under Zaka Ashraf, Pakistan won Test series against England, won the 11th Asia Cup in Bangladesh, reach semifinals of the World Twenty20 and biggest breakthrough for Pakistan cricket was revival of bilateral series with India after hiatus of five years. Pakistan won the ODI series against India 2-1. No cricket contest on earth, including the Ashes, can match the appeal and fervour generated by the Indo-Pak series. For this revival, all credit goes to Zaka Ashraf. And the recent Test series leveling victory against Sri Lanka in the United Arab Emirates shows that Zaka Ashraf is lucky for Pakistan cricket. The saner elements in the country not only want Pakistan cricket to come out of the mire, but also need some respite from this unending deluge of miserable drama in the PCB. The legal entanglements have hurt Pakistan cricket badly and will continue to do so if the federal government is not serious enough about the country, which is already facing innumerable problems. But it seems that the circus in Pakistan cricket will continue unabated.
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