Much has changed since last Sunday when I wrote as to why Najam Sethi must resign as chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
Sethi, after showing an initial reluctance, saw the writing on the wall and finally opted to step down last Monday. Just hours later, Imran Khan, in what was one of his first steps as prime minister, announced that he had nominated Ehsan Mani as chairman of the Board.
So Pakistan cricket, like the rest of the country, is now looking forward to change. The question is whether the 73-year-old Mani is capable of bringing any worthwhile change in his capacity as Pakistan’s cricket chief?
Mani certainly has the credentials. While Sethi was a cricketing nobody when he was first handpicked for the job by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Mani has loads of experience – top notch experience. He served as President of the International Cricket Council (ICC) after representing Pakistan in the international body for several years. A chartered accountant by profession, Mani was also involved in several key ICC committees and projects that included the 1996 World Cup which was held in the sub-continent.
In a nutshell, Mani has the required qualification for the coveted job. He has been quite eager for the job as well. Ever since his stint as ICC president ended back in 2006, he has been keen to be a part of Pakistan cricket but this is the first time that he has finally been brought in the fray.
Mani still has an election to win before taking over as PCB chairman but that’s a mere formality. He has the seal of approval from the prime minister and that should be enough. Mani should begin his stint as PCB chairman sometime next month. He will need to perform several tasks right away.
The easier ones, inherited from his predecessor, include tasks like pushing the national team towards improvement especially with next summer’s all-important World Cup just months away and taking steps to further boost projects like the Pakistan Super League (PSL).
Harder, would be tasks that include revival of international cricket in Pakistan and resumption of cricketing relations with India. Harder still, would be the task to put the PCB in order. But that’s the one task which Mani shouldn’t overlook. That’s because if an organisation has to make real progress then it has to get rid of what is dragging it down. Mani should know in a Board that is quite overstaffed there is plenty of dead wood that is dragging it down. And that’s just a part of PCB’s problems.
Over the years many Board chiefs took over with promises that they would bring professionalism in the PCB. Not a single one of them could achieve that goal. Some tried but failed and others didn’t even bother to do that.
Then there is always talk of structural changes whenever a new boss takes over. There is talk of bringing in a proper system but nothing really happens. Sometimes they form an executive committee and sometimes a board of governors is established with claims that such bodies were the solution to Pakistan cricket’s numerous problems. In either case these groups of quite ordinary gentlemen are mere rubber-stamps. With such boards and committees around, a PCB chairman remains all-powerful. But seldom do they use those powers for the cause of Pakistan cricket.
That should change, especially because Mani gets his mandate from a man, who is arguably the greatest cricketer Pakistan has ever produced. Imran might have much more important issues on his agenda but I am sure that somehow the prime minister will take out time for Pakistan cricket.
The new PCB chairman, once he is elected, will need to get to work without wasting much time. Such is the state of Pakistan cricket that there is even some uncertainty hovering over their next home series – against Australia in October. The schedule of the two-Test series is yet to be announced.
However, instead of getting bogged down with the daily business of running Pakistan cricket, Mani will need to keep his eyes on achieving long-term, more important goals. The good thing is that he has been passionate about key targets like the revival of international cricket in Pakistan and resumption of Indo-Pak cricketing ties.
Last year when PCB decided that it would file a compensation claim against the Indian cricket board (BCCI) Mani feared that such an action would lead to bad blood between the boards and would further damage cricket relations between the two countries. It will be interesting to see how Mani tackles this issue as PCB chairman.
The Board, which is now under his command, is pursuing compensation claim of US$70 million against BCCI for not honouring a bilateral cricket series agreement.
“I have concerns about the consequences of this case whatever its outcome. What I am concerned about is the affect it is going to have on cricket relations between the two countries in the long run,” Mani was quoted as saying in an interview last December.
“I just think all avenues of talks, discussions and back door diplomacy were not explored by the PCB before going ahead with its compensation claim in the ICC.
“I would have waited and first exhausted all options of trying to get something out of India for them not playing bilateral ties with Pakistan before opting for the compensation claim option,” he commented.
Mani also expressed fears that even if PCB manages to win its case against BCCI there were no guarantees that the Indians will actually pay compensation.
Suing BCCI was Sethi’s decision. As an outsider Mani didn’t agree with it. But now Mani is going to be the new chairman and I’m sure he will have his own game plan to deal with this sensitive issue, the outcome of which is going to have long-term repercussions for Pakistan cricket.
Mani doesn’t come across as a man, who would shy away from tackling tough tasks. For the sake of Pakistan cricket one hopes he won’t.