n the past, one of the biggest charms for anybody looking for the coveted position of Chairman Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) was the authority that came with it. There were also the perks and privileges but it was the power that really tempted influential figures to seek the post.
But it seems Ehsan Mani is an exception.
He has always been averse to the idea of such concentration of power. And since taking over as Chairman PCB, he has been making all out efforts to delegate authority.
In the second part of a detailed interview with ‘The News on Sunday’, Mani talks about his plans for the Board and his vision about making Pakistan the best team in the world.
TNS: You have time and again conceded that PCB is not a professional organisation. What are you doing about it?
Ehsan Mani: We are taking a variety of steps. The first was to curb the chairman’s powers. With the concentration of power in one person, you are just exposing yourself. You are just as good as the chairman. You have to delegate authority. That’s why we have brought in Wasim Khan as our CEO.
TNS: You have fully supported Wasim Khan. But if you talk to Pakistan cricket’s stakeholders, he appears to be a divisive figure, praised and criticised in equal measure.
EM: I don’t think that Wasim Khan is a divisive figure. The thing is that people don’t like change. There is a pushback whenever you go for it. We are not a very professional board. Wasim’s appointment was the first step in that direction. We have senior managers in the Board. Some of them are good while others are not that good.
Wasim, meanwhile, brings in a lot of experience. He has played top-level cricket. He has been really successful in developing youth cricket in England. He brings the sort of professionalism which we really needed. In the past we had chief executives who were not on the same page as the chairman. Then they decided to make the chairman chief executive. That was a wrong move. I have worked with huge companies in Britain and know how things should work in a successful organisation. You need to delegate duties and authority.
It’s vital. Otherwise you can’t hold people responsible. The chairman’s job should be head the board and provide it with its vision. The chief executive’s job is to implement the plans. How can the chairman make the plans and then implement them himself. The most disturbing thing I have seen in our culture is that nobody opposes the chairman. Whatever the chairman says they agree. I want challenge. I want someone to tell me if I’m making an error in judgment.
TNS: Are you confident that your drive for professionalism in Pakistan cricket will succeed?
EM: I’m sure it will. I’ve got no time for office politics. People who want to be a part of the change can stay and contribute towards our future plans and people who are opposed to it can move on. The process of change will continue. I want to leave behind an organisation that is run in a professional manner by real professionals. I want to bring the right people with the right skills. Unfortunately in Pakistan there are very few former cricketers with management skills. In contrast, Wasim has an MBA, he has run a county. Our job is to make PCB the best cricket board in the world. He is adding value. He is bringing new ideas. I know there is a pushback. I don’t have a vested interest and neither does Wasim. He is there to make a difference. And he has my full support.
TNS: So does Wasim ever think about why he moved back to Pakistan? Is he having second thoughts?
EM: No not at all. But sometimes I do. Coming from a corporate culture where I have been associated with large property companies and have also been involved with banks in the UK, when you see a culture where there is a lack of professionalism you start having second thoughts.
But we are systematically and logically dealing with it. There have been bad decisions. During a span of four years between 2014 and 2018, PCB employed 207 people. This is mind boggling. How can you do it during times when you were involved in a number of major projects and in the middle of a financial crunch?
TNS: How much more time will the restructuring in PCB take?
EM: I hope that within the next six months we will achieve 90 percent of our targets.
TNS: One of the biggest challenges faced by PCB is the revival of international cricket in the country. It has taken ten years for Sri Lanka to return to Karachi. There are fears that it could take ten more before top teams like Australia and England come here to play a full series.
EM: I’m much more hopeful. After what happened in 2009, there was a shock in the country and in the world. We were in denial. We were blaming everyone else but ourselves. There was a lack of professionalism. But things have changed.
The biggest challenge was to make Pakistan genuinely safe. Other people had to believe it. My strategy was to bring as many foreign experts and consultants to Pakistan.
In the past, there was no forward planning. Give them money and they will come, that was what we were doing.
I decided that we can’t continue that strategy. We would have become bankrupted. Either Pakistan was safe or it was unsafe. Now, we believe it is and we want teams to come here without any extra incentives.
We are planning for 2021-22. Recently Cricket Australia’s Chairman visited Pakistan. Their CEO is also coming. Top officials from England and Ireland are coming this month. We usually take them to meet officials of their High Commissions. We tell them that the UN has declared Pakistan a family positing. Then Prince William and Kate are coming. You will be amazed how much of a difference that makes for countries like England, Australia and New Zealand.
MCC wants to send a team to Pakistan; probably they will come next year. So gradually things are getting better. There can be no progress overnight. We have to adopt a step by step policy.
TNS: India will be the sole host of 2023 World Cup. Pakistanis are bound to feel deprived. How much time do you think it will take before we host a major event like the World Cup, T20 World Cup or Champions Trophy?
EM: It’s really unfortunate that the ICC has allocated all major events to just three countries – India, Australia and England. We didn’t challenge it when they were doing it out of greed and lack of knowledge about how things work in international cricket.
But what’s done is done. We have to start the groundwork now. We don’t have the infrastructure today to host the World Cup on our own. We can host a T20 World Cup or the Champions Trophy. I’m confident that in five years time we can host a T20 World Cup or the Champions Trophy.
TNS: But do you think that ICC will award us a major event?
EM: It will be tough. When I went to the ICC after a break of 12 years last year I was shocked to see that Pakistan was completely marginalised. It was sad and disappointing. There wasn’t a single Pakistani on any important committees. We had no role in policy-making.
But things are changing. On the insistence of ICC Chairman I have accepted to head the Finance committee. We are now ready to tackle with important challenges in the future.
The main thing is to promote personal relationships with other member nations. Some PCB chairmen were very good in my time (as ICC President). Lt Gen Tauqeer Zia was one such example. Shaharyar Khan was very good. But there have been big gaps as we often had an ‘us or them’ attitude. We have to be on the same wavelength. We have big challenges. Commercially, we are roughly getting one fourth of what India gets. That’s unfair and we need to fight it. But suing a fellow ICC member is not the way to go about it.
TNS: This brings us to our bilateral relations with India. In the past PCB has been desperate to revive ties with India but you have a different approach. Why?
EM: The thing is that I know that Under BJP rule, India’s political position towards Pakistan has hardened. So it’s futile to run after them to revive cricketing relations with us. Today, BJP people are running the Indian cricket board (BCCI). In October, BCCI will have its elections and from what I know it seems that people affiliated with BJP will take over. So there is no point in pushing for Indo-Pak matches at this point in time.
TNS: So will India play against Pakistan in the World Test Champions?
EM: I don’t know. But it’s India’s problem. They didn’t want to play against us in the World Cup but had to play. I think they will do the same in the World Test championship otherwise they will have to forfeit. I believe that the international cricket community will make India pay if it continues to take decisions under political pressure and interference.
TNS: Where do you see the Pakistan cricket team in the next four years?
EM: My main focus is to improve our performance in the field. I believe that if we beat the best teams in the world then other countries would want to play against us, even in Pakistan. That might not happen if we always hit and miss. If they see a professional outfit, they will want to play us.
My medium-term target is to have a professional team. My long-term focus is to be the best in the world.
The board I admire the most is New Zealand. It’s a small country with few resources but they are a very good team at every level. My short-term model is New Zealand and the long-term model is Australia.