Pakistan cricket in a spin over reforms

Last Updated: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - 12:09

Karachi: Pakistan`s under-fire cricket board and some of its finest ever players and administrators are on a collision course over an ICC directive designed to free the game from government interference.

Pakistan is one of three countries, along with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, where the government calls the shots in appointing the hugely powerful head of the cricket board.

Even the cricket board under which the country won the World Cup in 1992 was dissolved following incessant government interference.

Critics also say that under the current set-up, the PCB chairman is far too powerful. Veteran administrator Sirajul Islam Bukhari, president of the Karachi City Cricket Association, described it as "a one-man show".

"While under the council system, the chairman did not enjoy such sweeping powers and there was no political interference," said Bukhari, referring to a previous system under which a 15-member council used to deal with day-to-day matters.

Arif Abbasi, former chief executive of the PCB, added: "We must open our eyes to reality and have a proper election, with wise people contesting and the old system of council and general body in operation."

Ultimately, however, the argument comes full circle because no reform of the PCB can be made without approval from the government, which has so far shown little appetite for sweeping change.

President Asif Ali Zardari`s spokesman told AFP that the two year delay before the rule comes into effect would give the PCB time to look at changing its constitution to comply with it.

"The board`s drafting and working on the new constitution and we`ll see how it goes," said spokesman Farhatullah Babar, adding "It`s not a matter of being happy or unhappy (with the ruling)." But the International Cricket Council, the sport`s world governing body, says all its members must cease that practice before June 2013 -- or face sanctions that could include suspension.”

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) defends the government appointed system as "needful and a system which has worked successfully in the past."

Not so, say some notable former players from the cricket-obsessed country, where the game has suffered a slew of high-profile corruption cases off the field yet remains a unifying national force in the face of adversity.

Pakistan`s only World Cup-winning captain, Imran Khan, is the most prominent critic of a system which sees the country`s president hand-pick the PCB`s top man -- a high profile post because of the sport`s popularity.

"This is the most unique system in the world with the president of the country, who doesn`t have time, appointing the chairman of the cricket board," said Khan, who turned to politics after giving up the game.”

"We need to have an elected PCB president (chairman) and an elected council, and if we make our cricket board an institution, then Pakistan can dominate world cricket as we have more talent than other countries."

Former spinner Iqbal Qasim underlined the frustrations of many within the game in Pakistan who believe the national team is being held back by poor administration.

"We need to devise a proper system, even an overhaul, with more and more representation of former cricketers, and all those who have the ability to make strong decisions," he said.

It is clear from the numbers why ex-players are demanding change. Of the 26 PCB chairmen since 1948, only five are former players, among them incumbent Ejaz Butt.

The job, which comes with a hefty pay packet and plenty of prestige, has usually gone to military men, judges and politicians. The country`s president must also approve all nine members of the cricket board. The PCB insists the status quo works just fine.

"It should be appreciated that the system that has propelled Pakistan to the top of the cricket world has been in place for approximately 60 years and cannot certainly be labelled as faulty," said the PCB.

The board also says that a one-size-fits-all directive cannot be imposed on Pakistan because of the unique security situation it faces, with international sides unwilling to visit after a gun attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009.

Eight Pakistanis were killed and seven Sri Lanka players, along with an assistant coach, wounded, and the cricket administration says it needs government support to woo back touring teams.

Despite calls for more ex-players to be involved in the PCB, Butt`s tenure has been a turbulent one. Butt`s office would not comment, but his supporters say that the rot set in well before he arrived, with doping, match-fixing, defection and discipline problems all dogging the game in Pakistan in the last few years.

Even the cricket board under which the country won the World Cup in 1992 was dissolved following incessant government interference.

Critics also say that under the current set-up, the PCB chairman is far too powerful. Veteran administrator Sirajul Islam Bukhari, president of the Karachi City Cricket Association, described it as "a one-man show".

"While under the council system, the chairman did not enjoy such sweeping powers and there was no political interference," said Bukhari, referring to a previous system under which a 15-member council used to deal with day-to-day matters.

Arif Abbasi, former chief executive of the PCB, added: "We must open our eyes to reality and have a proper election, with wise people contesting and the old system of council and general body in operation."

Ultimately, however, the argument comes full circle because no reform of the PCB can be made without approval from the government, which has so far shown little appetite for sweeping change.

President Asif Ali Zardari`s spokesman told AFP that the two year delay before the rule comes into effect would give the PCB time to look at changing its constitution to comply with it.

"The board`s drafting and working on the new constitution and we`ll see how it goes," said spokesman Farhatullah Babar, adding "It`s not a matter of being happy or unhappy (with the ruling)."

Bureau Report



First Published: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - 12:09

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