So Imran Khan is going to be the new Prime Minister of Pakistan. That’s great news for millions of his supporters and fans, both in Pakistan and abroad. That also seems like great news for Pakistan cricket’s fan base, which must be hoping that the cricket legend would now throw his weight behind the sport and help lift it to new heights. In fact, it would expected of the new Prime Minister that under his command, the government would treat sports as a priority. Due to a variety of ills including neglect, poor planning and infighting among the various sports bodies over the years, Pakistan sports is in grave danger. There now appears to be a chance of a rescue.
However, it is not the Prime Minister’s direct responsibility to take care of Pakistan sports. He will certainly have much more pressing issues that are more important to the nation than to help rebuild Pakistan sports. The country’s economy is in poor shape and that’s only one gigantic problem facing the new government.
But somehow in Pakistan the Prime Minister, whether he likes it or not, is directly involved when it comes to sports especially cricket. As chief patron of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), the Prime Minister effectively has the power to hire or fire a chairman. The current PCB chief was handpicked by Nawaz Sharif. Before Sethi it was Zaka Ashraf who got the coveted job thanks to his friendship with Asif Ali Zardari and before that General Pervez Musharraf brought Dr Nasim Ashraf out of nowhere to head the Board. Neither of the three had any real association with Pakistan cricket prior to their appointments.
PM, Imran will also have the authority to bring in a new leadership in the Board. Whether he exercises that authority remains to be seen.
Sethi hasn’t exactly been in Imran’s good books. In fact, after Nawaz Sharif it was Najam Sethi whom Imran criticised the most in the aftermath of the 2013 elections. Time and again, Imran stressed that the fact that Sethi was directly appointed to the PCB post by Sharif. He minced no words in saying that Sethi was rewarded by the former PM for his alleged role in rigging the 2013 elections in various constituencies of the Punjab. Sethi, who was caretaker Chief Minister of the province before the 2013 polls, denies such allegations.
On his part, Sethi has been trying to consolidate his position as PCB chairman. Recently, he got a vote of confidence from the Board of Governors. Sethi’s supporters argue that the chairman has worked wonders for Pakistan cricket by taking a series of steps that include the successful launch of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) a few years ago. His opponents, however, point at the fact that Sethi is a cricketing outsider, who just got the job because of Sharif. He should go, they believe.
Surely, Sethi is now walking on thin ice. People like former Test cricketer Zakir Khan, considered to be a close friend of Imran Khan, would now be lobbying for change in the PCB set-up. Such a change might coming in the coming weeks.
However, I believe that if change is brought about in the PCB then it shouldn’t be for personal reasons. Over the years, Imran has always spoken about enforcement of proper systems and that is what Pakistan cricket needs. It’s easy to bring in a new PCB chairman because a PM can do it at his whim. General Musharaf did that and so did Nawaz Sharif. But that is not going to change anything in the PCB or in Pakistan cricket. What would happen if, five years from now, Imran goes on to lose in the next public elections? A new PM will come and he will bring in a new chairman.
The new government should think long-term. It is time that we devise a system in Pakistan cricket that has a mechanism to bring up leadership that is worthy of running the sport in a professional manner. And such a system shouldn’t be confined to cricket alone. It is needed across the spectrum of Pakistan sports. Under’s Imran’s command one hopes that things would go in the right direction.
Pakistan set sights on Asia Cup
Talking of leadership, Sarfraz Ahmed continues to have a whale of a time as Pakistan’s captain. Recently, he led Pakistan to a sweeping 5-0 triumph in the One-day International series against hosts Zimbabwe. Pakistan were ruthless during the series as they thrashed a depleted Zimbabwean team with players like opener Fakhar Zaman creating new batting records.
However, Sarfraz’s job will be tougher when Pakistan will feature in September’s Asia Cup in the UAE. The blockbuster of that tournament would be the game against arch-rivals India in Dubai on September 19. Pakistan triumphed by 180 runs when the two teams last met in the ICC Champions Trophy final in England. But that result is not really going to matter as the Indians will go after Pakistan with all guns blazing.
Squash colts triumph in Chennai
The Indians also tried to do that in Chennai last week but couldn’t succeed. In what was one of the biggest upset in the Men’s World Junior Team Squash Championship in India, Asian rivals Pakistan denied the hosts a place in the quarter-finals after a stunning 2-1 defeat in the last sixteen round at the Express Avenue Mall in Chennai.
The Indians, seeded five, were confident of beating the Pakistanis, who were seeded 11 in the contest. But Pakistan clicked when it mattered most to win the last-16 encounter. Haris Qasim defeated Rahul Baitha 5-11, 16-14, 11-6, 11-7 in 56 minutes while 16-year-old Abbas Zeb silenced a vocal Chennai crowd to prevail over Yash Fadte 6-11, 11-9, 12-10, 11-2. It gave Pakistan a morale-boosting victory. However, they went on to lose against England 1-2 in the quarters.