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Is the force with you Mr Chairman?

Is Shaharyar Khan merely a chessboard king or does he enjoy any real powers as PCB chairman? How the ex-diplomat deals with the Moin Khan issue in the coming days should answer this question

Is the force with you Mr Chairman?
— Photo by Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

To fulfill great responsibility you need great power. A vastly experienced man like Shaharyar Khan must know that. His is certainly a great responsibility. As chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Shaharyar is spearheading a campaign to rejuvenate the country’s favourite pastime. A dominant performance by the national team in the UAE where it floored Australia and is now handing a similar treatment to New Zealand has provided a much-needed shot in the arm to Pakistan cricket. But it is still a long way to go before things begin to really normalise for our cricket. How Shaharyar and his team at the PCB perform in the coming days is going to have a great impact on the outcome of this campaign.

When Shaharyar got elected as PCB chief, his critics dismissed him as a puppet chairman. They argued that Shaharyar’s predecessor Najam Sethi would continue to pull the strings from backstage. And when Sethi, who enjoys the full support of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif – PCB’s chief patron –  was elected as chairman of newly-created but powerful cricket committee of the Board, the critics insisted they were right all along.

But Shaharyar rejected the impression that he was a powerless chairman, stressing that he has necessary authority and would exercise it if and when required. He did show his teeth when dealing with Shahid Afridi after the former skipper’s controversial remarks about World Cup captaincy. At that time, it seemed that Shaharyar was nobody’s puppet.

But then cropped the case of Moin Khan.

It’s an open secret that the former Test stumper enjoyed Sethi’s complete blessings. In any case, unless you are the chairman’s man, you can’t get two of the most sought-after jobs in national cricket – the posts of team manager and chief selector. Sethi handpicked Moin for both the assignments when he was the Board’s chairman. For whatever reasons, Sethi thought it was a good idea to have one man juggling with two key positions.

On his part, Shaharyar didn’t agree. Soon after he took over as chairman, the ex-diplomat made it clear that he didn’t support the idea of giving dual or multiple jobs to one person. Though there are various PCB officials holding dual jobs, it was the case of Moin Khan, because of its high-profile nature, that came under the spotlight. Moin didn’t help his cause by first trying to undermine the importance of Younis Khan and then finding himself sitting next to Afridi when the all-rounder told a press conference that he wanted to know who the Board wants to keep as the team’s World Cup captain. On both the occasions, Moin had to bite the dust and became a target of stinging criticism from various quarters. At one point in time, it seemed that the Board would sack him as manager but in the end Shaharyar announced that he was against the idea of rocking the boat during a series.

 Misbah has given us glimpses of the fact that he has the ability to combine the best of both worlds – the never-say-die attitude of the tortoise and the speed and swiftness of the hare.

Board sources say that Shaharyar will take key decisions after the New Zealand series. Till then Moin would continue to serve in the dual capacity of team manager and chief selector. Shaharyar’s indecision has once again raised the question as to where the power centre actually lies. Is it him or is it somebody else who is calling the shots. By announcing that he won’t change horses midstream, Shaharyar has bought sometime for himself. But sooner or later, a decision will have to be made. Is Shaharyar merely a chessboard king or does he enjoy any real powers as PCB chairman? How he deals with the Moin Khan issue in the coming days should answer this question.

While Shaharyar has failed to impress much while dealing with the Moin Khan issue, he certainly looked good in his treatment of Misbah-ul-Haq. He kept banking on the aging Pakistan captain even when he was going through tough times and his faith in Misbah has certainly paid off.

Talking of Misbah, the Pakistan captain seems to be a character straight out of the Aesop’s Fables. Remember the Tortoise and the Hare? We all know that Misbah is no tortoise something that he proved yet again with his stunning exploits in the Dubai Test against Australia. But he does have the doggedness, zeal and perseverance of the tortoise something that helped him prevail over the hare.

In fact, Misbah has given us glimpses of the fact that he has the ability to combine the best of both worlds – the never-say-die attitude of the tortoise and the speed and swiftness of the hare. And that is why he has won the race.

With 15 Test wins from 33 outings as skipper, Misbah has bettered the record previously shared by two legends – Imran Khan and Javed Miandad. With three big Test triumphs in a row, Misbah has ended the pre-World Cup captaincy debate once and for all. Shaharyar and the PCB have been backing Misbah all along but the seasoned batsman had been under pressure because of indifferent form with the bat. But with a series of tons and that too with an impressive strike rate, Misbah has made it clear that he’s the man to lead Pakistan at next year’s World Cup to be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand in February-March. For the sake of Misbah and his Pakistan team, I really hope that he goes on and repeat his Test fireworks in the five-match One-day International series against New Zealand next month. While Pakistan’s Test fortunes have gone up their ODI stocks have stumbled in the lead up to World Cup 2015. To put Pakistan’s ODI team back on track, Misbah will need to play the lead role. Also, I expect that Younis Khan will be back in the one-day eleven with a bang following his astonishing run of form in recent Tests. Even if both Misbah and Younis click in the ODIs, Pakistan’s chances of regaining the World Cup crown Down Under will appear to be slim. They lag far behind major contenders like title-hungry South Africa, hosts Australia and defending champions India. But the two seniors can provide the team with a solid foundation on which Pakistan can build a winning unit. With runs flowing from the bats of the experienced duo, things will begin to fall in Place for Pakistan. Add a fit-again Mohammad Irfan to the mix and bring in match-winners like Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Hafeez, Umar Akmal and possibly Saeed Ajmal and we might have a side that could emulate Imran Khan’s Tigers next March.

 

Khalid Hussain

khalid hussain
The author is Editor Sports of The News. He can be reached at [email protected]

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