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Playing both sides

Whatever may be his shortcomings, and there are several, Najam Sethi has at least tried to bring in the outspoken cricketers of the previous generation

Playing both sides
Waqas Younis and Moin Khan

I wonder when the hypocrisy will end. When Najam Sethi came in he promised to overhaul the PCB and throw out the deadwood. “Bring on the specialists” was the cry from the chairman’s throat, the irony lost on him considering what his own qualifications were for the top job.

Well, he certainly trimmed the workforce some time back, firing specialist groundsmen and some other specialists like janitors and chowkidars.

Now he has gone a step further and announced that Moin would be the chief selector as well as manager of the touring teams. That’s like assuming the Head of Sales can do the function of Head of Regulatory Affairs as well.

Let me say upfront that the formula has been tried recently, though in a slightly different context.

The ECB had appointed Ashley Giles as coach of the national limited-overs teams for up to the recent Twenty20 World Cup, while he was also a selector of the overall national side, including the Test team.

The formula proved disastrous and he has now been overlooked for the position of Team Director (Head Coach) in favour of Moores. Michael Clarke was formally appointed on the Australian selectors’ panel while being the captain of the Test side and he resigned because of conflict of interest: team members who were dropped blamed the captain as well, and they still had sympathisers in the team. Coach Darren Lehmann is part of the selection panel but that role is secondary, and since the coach has always had a say in the selection considering he makes the strategy, the role has merely been formalised.

But managing a side requires a high level of diplomatic skills and you must give the benefit of doubt to the coach and the captain when on the tour selection committee without allowing for nepotism.

That role can show him embarrassingly powerless if one of the players he has fought for to be selected is consistently ignored on tour. And if he does succeed in forcing him in the side and he doesn’t perform, Moin gets embarrassed on both fronts. Not a good state of mind if you have to attend a dinner that night by the host Board or the Head of State.

If the motive behind the madness is to ensure talented players are not sidelined on tour by the captain and the coach for selfish reasons, what if they along with the vice captain vote against the manager’s recommendation? Or is it to keep an eye on Waqar Younis’s performance?

Moin was Najam Sethi’s first choice. So now he has ensured that Moin is present on tour to see what logic is being applied in selecting the final elevens on tour. Though players get on well once they retire, it should not be forgotten that Wasim Akram would always pick Moin as the keeper, while Waqar would back Rashid Latif.

When Rashid was captain he always pulled in Waqar into the side whereas Moin wouldn’t mind dropping Waqar for not just Wasim but also other fast bowling options.

This was an open secret in their playing days, and let it be said that it may have been due to professional reasons. Both were high speed fast bowlers and would have wanted a keeper whom each thought was better at reading their bowling and vice versa when the two glovesmen were captain.

Also, the wicketkeeper plays a crucial role in advising the captain in the middle and each of them had the right to perceive one of them as the better thinker.

But even if that’s the case, there isn’t going to be much respect for each other’s judgment when on tour.

I wish the chairman had kept in mind that it was Moin who pushed up Sarfaraz Ahmed at No4 that resulted in Pakistan reaching a position to win the third Test against Sri Lana against all odds. And that under his coaching Shahid Afridi suddenly blossomed as a batsman in the Asia Cup and World Twenty20. If a recalcitrant Hafeez put his personal agenda above his country’s interests when he had the final authority on the playing eleven and batting order, the defeats should not have been held against Moin.

I can only premise that the axing of Hafeez had to be balanced for the back stage influencers to be satisfied.

His appointment in the committee to select the coach is of course ceremonial and designed possibly to make it look like he voted for Waqar Younis; makes him look good in front of Waqar though he and the whole town know it was a Najam Sethi call.

It was stupid to come out in the open and say he’ll pick the head coach directly; advised possibly by someone from outside, (the insiders would actually have encouraged him to go solo so he falls on his own sword,) he opted to front up with the committee. Whatever may be his shortcomings, and there are several, Najam Sethi has at least tried to bring in the outspoken cricketers of the previous generation. He needs people who are blunt with him even in private. He just has to pluck and throw out the floating wood that has made the waters at Gaddafi Stadium grimy. Hopefully we’ll see some qualified, younger, pragmatic and energetic executives to replace Intikhab, Zakir and Shafiq under whom the first-class cricket has become the worst class cricket.

Sohaib Alvi

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