Mohsin Khan is generally a soft-spoken gentleman who thinks twice before uttering anything even mildly controversial. But last week, the former Pakistan Test opener minced no words when he lambasted the country’s cricket chiefs after they voted in favour of appointing Waqar Younis as Pakistan’s head coach. Having thrown his hat into the ring like several others, Mohsin was hoping to get the job mainly because he believed his was the most deserving candidacy. After all, he was Pakistan’s coach when they whitewashed England — then the world’s number one team — to achieve perhaps one of their greatest successes in Test history.
It does sound a lot like sour grapes.
But dig a little deeper and you’ll see that Mohsin has a point. He might come across as a disgruntled candidate who was overlooked in the presence of somebody with better credentials. But Mohsin has certainly hit the nail on the head by calling the procedure followed by the cricket board to appoint the national team’s head coach as a “total farce”.
True that the board placed newspaper advertisements and appointed a committee to evaluate the various candidates, who applied for the job during the 18-day window. But for anybody following cricket it was a foregone conclusion that the Board had already made up its mind to bring back Waqar for a second stint as Pakistan’s head coach. Once that decision was made, the rest was little more than eyewash.
The Board went through the motions and the three-man committee appointed by PCB to find the best man for the job followed suit. A candidate like Mohsin, who was the coach when Pakistan recorded their most famous Test triumph of recent times, was rejected without even getting a call for an interview.
What if Mohsin had managed to make a better, more impressive presentation in front of the PCB committee? What if he, instead of Waqar, would have managed to win over the committee’s support?
There is a reason why certain procedures are adopted to make sure that there is some level of transparency in things like hiring people, especially for key posts. At the time when the Board chiefs are talking about boosting Pakistan cricket by bringing in professionalism and transparency, episodes like Mohsin’s outburst will only make the waters murkier. They have already set the tongues wagging. Questions are being asked whether PCB would be able to make others follows its rules and regulations when the Board authorities are themselves ignoring them.
The worst part is that the Board has turned what should have been a good decision into a questionable one. After all, Waqar isn’t a bad choice to lead Pakistan’s campaign to build a balanced squad that is strong enough to win back the world title in Australia next year. But instead of emerging as a truly unanimous choice, Waqar has become a contentious figure, somebody, many would now suspect, who has returned to the fray from the back door.
One expected PCB to do better. In fact, one expected Najam Sethi to do better. He might hide behind the various committees and make it look like that PCB decisions are made by them. But the truth of the matter is that the Board remains very much a one-man show even under the command of the eminent journalist.
Just like his predecessors Sethi is the one calling the shots and, it seems, loving it. He is the one who handpicked Moin Khan to effectively become the second most influential figure in Pakistan cricket. Moin remains in that position even though he was made to pay for Pakistan’s below-par showing at last month’s ICC World Twenty20 championship in Bangladesh. But after deciding against extending Moin’s stint as head coach, Sethi brought back the former Pakistan captain by handing him the dual role of chief selector and national team manager. That, too, was an unwise decision and duly caused resentment among a wide section of the former stalwarts’ club.
As they say in Urdu (I’ll translate): “listen to all but do what pleases you”. Sethi has mostly been doing that since a court order brought him in power as the interim chief of the PCB last year. He was appointed to help end the turmoil in Pakistan cricket which was gasping for air after Zaka Ashraf — his predecessor — got himself elected for a four-year term through what the courts ruled was a “dubious” and “polluted” process.
A well-respected journalist, Sethi should have made a difference. At least he should have been different from many of his predecessors who basked in the glory after attaining what is a seemingly all-powerful position, the position of PCB chairman. He should have cut down to size the various vested-interest elements in the Board who have survived for years. They know little about their jobs but have mastered the art of sycophancy. They tell each and every chairman that he is God’s gift to Pakistan cricket and hail all his decisions. And hence they stay. Many of them even flourish regardless of their incompetence and vested interest. They don’t even have to hide these flaws. But that’s a different story.