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Unwise words

Keeping in mind that Shaharyar has had a distinguished forty-year diplomatic career and has done some good work since coming back as PCB Chairman, it is surprising that he did not consider the fallout and long-term implications of what he was saying about the PSL

Unwise words
Shaharyar Khan.

It’s been a bad week for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) though it has been primarily so because of events to the west and east of its headquarters: first because of an armed conflict some miles away in India and then because of some carelessly given comments by its own chairman in England.

The first has led to the potential cricket resumption between India and Pakistan been whacked back to the pavilion, while the second has led to a DRS review sought by Shaharyar Khan.

What happened in Gurdaspur is sad: whether it was a false flag operation to discredit Pakistan will obviously never be confirmed given the nature of such events. But whatever the origin, besides claiming human lives the incident also claimed the life of a Pakistan-India cricketing event that many were aspiring for by the end of the year, even though it was to be in the UAE.

I suppose Misbah-ul Haq might as well plan to play on for a couple of years more given his announcement that he will retire after the series against India.

To be realistic it was always going to be difficult given the way India has maintained its hawkish stance ever since Pakistan and China signed up for the economic corridor.

The voices coming from their intelligence chiefs were more than audible that they would not like normal resumption even though PM Modi had signaled good days ahead in his recent meeting with Pakistan’s PM.

It has put cold water over the MoU that Najam Sethi had signed and so pleasurably announced in his last days as Chairman PCB and which current chairman Shaharyar had built upon in his recent visit to India.

Perhaps Shaharyar had smelt something of a downer as he said on his return from India that he had a Plan B if India didn’t turn up, hinting that there were snags. I’m sure he was also sending signals to BCCI that he was not going to go down on his knees if they didn’t want to play.

I was surprised when former PCB chairman Zaka Ashraf said that PCB today was pursuing a policy of “pleasing the BCCI”.

His main gripe it seems has been that PCB sent Hafeez to the Chennai lab for testing of his bowling action when he was recently reported again. Hafeez himself had asked to be sent to Chennai instead of Australia, South Africa or England.

We also don’t know whether these stations would have been available on the date that Chennai was and as such Hafeez may not have been back in time to play at least the first two ODIs as Chennai is something like an hour’s flight from Sri Lanka.

And we all know how important winning three ODIs in this series was. That Hafeez took four wickets besides a hundred in the opening ODI proved that to be a wise decision to have him tested nearby.

Further, the Chennai lab had passed Hafeez on the previous occasion. And Saeed Ajmal before him.

I think Shaharyar has stood up to the BCCI and if PCB really wanted to please BCCI it wouldn’t have got Zimbabwe to come and play in Pakistan considering that India is said by many to have been discouraging countries to tour Pakistan.

Where Shaharyar has blundered, however, is closer to home even though the act happened a few thousand miles away. It came via his reported comments that the PSL plan was “dicey” and it was unlikely as grounds in the UAE had been booked by the Masters Cricket League for the same period in which PSL was planned. And that Qatar was an unsuitable venue with only one ground.

A PCB press release countered the reported interview the very next day (note that Shaharyar himself did not directly issue a clarification to the newspaper or its reporter though he had given the interview directly) by stating that he had been misinterpreted. The fact remains that it has dented the efforts of the Executive Committee led by Najam Sethi as not the entire interview can be retracted by him.

Saying that he has nothing to do with PSL and that it is something that is being handled by Sethi is disappointing.

First, it shows that you do not trust the efforts of people under you, especially when they are members of the board of governors. Secondly, it shows unconcern and lack of oversight on the part of the chairman. A leader cannot dissociate himself from any project that is being handled by the organisation he leads.

When he said, “I’m not a great T20 man”, he was actually degrading the event. And when he said, “My theory is that if you can’t do something well, don’t do it”, it was a clear indication that he does not think it will be done well.

In both instances it is unjust to people who are trying their best to hold such an event against all odds.

It is to be seen if the clarification given by him the next day is enough to repair the damage to Sethi’s team.

The greatest harm has been done to the potential sponsors who will read into this and wonder if the board of governors and the chairman are on the same wavelength.

Or if the chairman has no idea what is going on in PSL, should they be investing in it?

Considering Shaharyar had said in the original interview that he wanted the PSL to be staged in Pakistan “but they don’t take my advice on this” has also revealed that he is not much regarded by “them”, clearly indicating the Executive Committee.

It has put PCB in poor light in front of the cricket boards as the Chairman is complaining that he is not heard.

Keeping in mind that Shaharyar has had a distinguished forty-year diplomatic career and has done some good work since coming back as PCB Chairman, it is surprising that he did not consider the fallout and long-term implications of what he was saying.

Note that he has not retracted the interview; the PCB press release drafted in Lahore has just said he was misinterpreted. This seems unlikely. These interviews are on tape and no reporter in UK gives such quotes. The law is very strict there and reporters can be sued for spreading mischief.

The PCB Executive Committee has been left to pick up the pieces and salvage the situation. I feel it has been well and timely handled and they have made the best of a bad situation.

Sohaib Alvi

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