Politics April 21, 2010

Who is Pakistan's chief selector?


We now wait for Big Mohammad Irfan to take off, another flight abandoned in the age of volcanic ash © Associated Press

Pakistan’s version of Big Bird, Mohammad Irfan, was all set for a last minute entry into the T20 World Cup. Big Irf’s story would have been a traditional and modern day triumph. Traditional in the sense that Pakistan cricket is known for launching unheard of fast bowlers onto the world stage. A modern triumph, too, as Big Irf was discovered by a fan who championed his cause via website Pakpassion.net and then continued his story on another website, Cricistan.

Pakistan’s newly installed captain, coach and chairman of selectors—let’s be clear, men with considerable international experience—decided that they wanted Big Irf to replace one of their injured pace bowlers, a surprise package indeed. Such instinctive decisions set Pakistan cricket apart from others. They lift the gloom of failure and inject hope and curiosity. This one had an added twist of incredible height. Whether Big Irf is just under seven feet tall or just over, bizarrely, nobody seems quite sure.

Mr Butt, chairman of the cricket board, galumphed into this glowing scenario and turned a fascinating decision on its head. The simple point here is that the selection process should be autonomous from the chairman of the cricket board. If he doesn’t like the decisions, he should sack the head of selectors and his panel. Mr Butt’s meddling has immediately undermined the authority of Pakistan’s new management team. A wise chairman would have supported his chosen leaders. Typically, Mr Butt decided on a show of strength, a slap down for Shahid Afridi, Waqar Younis, and Mohsin Khan.

Arguments against Big Irf’s selection have been spurious. There is scope for players outside the provisional squad to be selected. Visas can be acquired quickly, and the team may have avoided the UK because of volcanic ash in any case. The chief selector may have spoken without the approval of the rest of the selection panel, but his opinion backed by the captain and coach should have held sway. Mr Butt may have appointed Mohsin to head the selection panel but he has behaved as if he is the chief selector, Mohsin merely his vassal.

With the recent McCarthyite purge orchestrated by Mr Butt and the promise of a new start, Pakistan fans were sold the lie that higher standards were in operation. Sadly, Mr Butt has failed the first test of his new regime. It will ever be thus. Apparently, we get the leaders we deserve but not even Pakistan cricket deserves the unworthy gang that runs the Pakistan Cricket Board.

What of the fans? We now wait for Big Irf to take off, another flight abandoned in the age of volcanic ash.

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Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here