Politics August 13, 2010

Selection case that damns Ijaz Butt

The Karachi City Cricket Association has called for the removal of Ijaz Butt as chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board

The Karachi City Cricket Association has called for the removal of Ijaz Butt as chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board. Its central grievance is that Karachi-based players are being discriminated against in the selection process. The facts, they argue, speak for themselves. Tanvir Ahmed is the only Karachi-based player left in the squad.

Critics have started calling the Pakistan team a Punjab XI. They identify the omissions of Younis Khan, Fawad Alam, and even Mohammad Sami as evidence to support their case. Danish Kaneria, another Karachi player, was suddenly chopped from the squad and replaced by a promising Punjabi teenager. With Umar Gul out with injury and Yasir Hameed unable to earn selection, the taunts of Punjab XI may well become reality at the Oval.

If only Punjabis stride out to represent Pakistan in the next Test it will be a shameful moment in the history of Pakistan cricket. The Pakistan team has always been a microcosm of the greater struggle of the Pakistani nation, whose founder's ambitions were to bring together the peoples of the four major provinces of Pakistan. Among the many disasters during the regime of Butt, this suggestion of ethnic prejudice is among the gravest.

Karachi has produced some of the greatest cricketers in the history of Pakistan cricket. Hanif Mohammad, the holder of Pakistan's highest Test score, and Javed Miandad, in my view the best of all Pakistani batsmen, both hail from the heaving, over-populated metropolis that is Pakistan's largest city. Indeed, a neat but inaccurate generalisation suggests that Karachi has produced Pakistan's batsmen while the northern parts have produced the bowlers.

The power struggle between Lahore and Karachi, Punjab and Sind, has been an ever present backdrop to Pakistani life, waxing and waning with political regimes and the passage of time. Now the decision-making of Butt's regime has brought the issue into sharp focus again. He denies any regionalism in the selection process, saying that the selectors have chosen the best players available but here is why he, personally, has a case to answer:

1. The notion of an autonomous selection panel is a myth. Butt has taken too personal an involvement in selection matters, sometimes making decisions without the knowledge of the chairman of selectors. Some of Pakistan's greatest cricketers have begun working with the cricket board and then resigned. Butt's interference has been a deciding factor. Hence the responsibility for the current situation rests with him and his master, the patron of the cricket board.

2. The gross imbalance in the origins of the squad members is a statistic that cannot be ignored. This is not an argument for a quota system, nor is one desirable. But it beggars belief that a province the size of Sind, and with its tradition of cricket, cannot produce more cricketers to represent Pakistan. There are two possible explanations. Either the selection process is biased or the development of cricketers in Sind is being mishandled. In either scenario, Butt and his cricket board are responsible.

3. Some of the omitted Karachi cricketers have arguable cases. One player's case is clear cut. Younis Khan, who the cricket board has admitted has no case to answer, remains unselected. He was available for selection at the start of the tour but wasn't included. Now that the board has decided to recall Mohammad Yousuf - and let us put aside the issue of whether it was right or wrong to change the squad at this point - why is Younis, a Karachi-based player, not offered the same clemency? If anything, Younis had a stronger case for a return considering his recent appearances for Surrey.

The failings of Butt and his PCB regime have become legend. By constantly interfering with selection policy he must take direct responsibility for the failures of selection on this tour, which have left the team pitifully short of viable options. Even the existing options, such as Yasir Hameed, have not been tried. Further, the regional bias in selection, whether through intent or mismanagement, is also his responsibility.

In these circumstance, how can the Pakistani selectors continue in post? Mohsin Khan's reputation is being damaged by the second. A hero of Pakistan cricket is being walked all over. He only need look at the examples of Abdul Qadir and Aamir Sohail to see what the correct course of action is. It takes integrity to step away from a senior position on a point of principle. But integrity is in short supply among those who run Pakistan cricket.

These pages have been calling for Butt's resignation or removal for over a year. This has been the most damaging regime in the history of Pakistan cricket. Butt has run it like a dictator, taking comfort in the strength of his political connections. Meanwhile, the organisation that he runs has disintegrated below him.

The most important outcome of the work of the Pakistan Cricket Board is the performance of the cricketers who represent the aspirations of an embattled nation. The performances speak for themselves. The imbalance in selection means that a team unrepresentative of Pakistan is taking the field. Whatever that team is, however, it deserves our support. But the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, the man who engineered this disaster, does not.

Of course, President Zardari has other matters on his mind, such as dodging shoes and convincing his people that he does care about flood victims. He might also consider the irony that his visit to England was less important to Pakistanis than the visit of his country's cricketers. They are the most visible and engaging ambassadors of Pakistan on the international stage.

Just as Pakistan deserves better from its leaders in so many other spheres, cricket is no exception. While President Zardari would never sack himself, he can easily sack Butt. Politicians, administrators, former players, journalists, and fans need to raise their voices in protest. Zaheer Abbas, a Punjabi living in Karachi, said Pakistan cricket is heading for disaster. I'll go one step further - Butt has led Pakistan cricket to calamity and must be removed.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on June 13, 2011, 18:14 GMT

    shame abbasii shame... my believe that you work on some agenda is getting ever stronger.... you used a overwhelmingly acceptable argument that butt has to be removed concurrent to this regional discremination... this argument to remove butt could have easily been won by you had you just stated the ground realities rather then making up facts to create a corelation

  • testli5504537 on August 30, 2010, 0:11 GMT

    Ijaz Butt is the real problem of pakistan cricket. its not the province or race. we had 3 4 pashtoon players in the side for so long and there was time when there was no pashtoon player at all. i believe some players are very talented that they cant be ignored at all. Akmal brothers belong to a mediocre family. Umer Gul i know him personally is from a lower middle class or lower class and still in the pakistan side. there were so many karachi based players as well. so it was never the class or province before. Ijaz Butt is the real problem. we have people who never regret doing anything. there is something known as ZAMEER which some people don't have. Ijaz Butt is one of such people who has no ZAMEER at all. he will never say sorry and will never regret. He really ruined the pak cricket. Younis khan (NMW is his background) he is the best test crickter among the others with the batting avg of 50 plus. Same for Fawad Alam who did well recently. time for Ijaz Butt to leave the office.

  • testli5504537 on August 29, 2010, 11:40 GMT

    ...That's if there are any honest players! What are the odds of the first ball of the 3rd over, and the last of the 10th being no-balls? About the same as the ump being hit by lightning. Did Amir and Asif pocket all the dirty money? Gosh, that seems unfair to the rest of the team. What do the honest players (if any) think? What do Pakistan fans think? I think life bans for all involved would be a good start...

  • testli5504537 on August 24, 2010, 6:46 GMT

    This article helps explain why Pakistan continues to under-achieve, thank you. On merit, I think Pakistan should have beaten Aus 2-0, mainly because of its fantastic bowling attack - probably world's best at the moment, I reckon. Aus's only hope was for Pak's (very good) batsmen to have brain fades (eg slog mindlessly when time/runs were not an issue and stonewalling defence was required). Which is exactly what happened. (Not banning proven cheats for life doesn't help either. What do the honest players think?)

  • testli5504537 on August 23, 2010, 20:15 GMT

    I am a true Karachi was born and raised in Nazimabad area -- which is the nursery of cricket. I am not biased at all. The unfair business has applied to the players all over the country (not just Karachi). Stop think that you are NOT in the team bc you being from from Karache -- I don’t buy it. Sami, Kaneria and Faisal Iqbal - they are shame for Karachi -- proven losers. Khurram Manzoor, Yasir Hameed -- they both are technically incorrect batsman and can NEVER perform. Shoaib Malik is the worst all time esp. in Test cricket - Pakistan team is better off without Malik. Kamran Akmal - must be taken wicket keeping role away. He is the father of awfulness!!! Fawad Alam is talented but I wished to see him playing a winning hand - NEVER! Taufeeq Umer and Asim Kamal -- I believe they have been wasted - both were fighters and committed. Abdul Razaaq - another prime example of injustice! Khalid Latif -- is also good and must be given chance.

  • testli5504537 on August 23, 2010, 14:31 GMT

    Its a shame that KCA has come up with such an issue. If one of its representative like Arif Abbassi or any other tom, dick and harry is appointed as Chairman PCB, they will never object then. I hare Mr Ijaz Butt too and he must be removed to bring sanctity in the Board but spreading provincialism or regionalism cannot be appreciated. Look at media, all HQ,s of tv channels are in Karachi and no expert from punjab is getting any opportunity to air his comments. Did anyone from Punjab or KPA ever complain? Karachi has always loved to be at loggerheads with Lahore. If no cricketer is coming up from there, its not our fault. I hate cronyism and sure there are instances when weak personalities like one test match cricketer Azhar Khan, Mohammad Ilyas or a weak personality like Iqbal Qasim are appointed as selectors because they r Mr Butt's yesmen. Why can't we appoint javed Miandad, Zaheer Abbass or Abdul Qadir as members because PCB is afraid of their independence

  • testli5504537 on August 21, 2010, 22:02 GMT

    10 players out of 11 are punjabi...coach, bowling coach, fielding coach,manager ALL PUNJABI.....Chairman of PCB is PUNJABI.....half of selectors are punjabi..Pkaitan cricket academy and PCB mainoffice is in PUNJAB...... DON'T DENIE THE FACTS......THIS IS NOT MERIT BASE PAKISTAN'S NATIONAL TEAM ......THIS IS PUNJAB'S TEAM......

  • testli5504537 on August 21, 2010, 21:53 GMT

    10 wickets he took in that match ...and since then he never been given anY stable chance...he would be kicked out on one match failure but all other punjabi players are keep on getting chances after chances..in last year Australia tour he was the one who started Australia demise by taking initial 3 wickets in the Sydney test...then in next innings kamran dropped one catch on his bowling too.....what reward he got for that performance??..poor man was given one more test match and then was kicked out of the team.....and look at kamran...who dropped 5.......5 catches in same test...and continue to drop catches and miss stumps, is still in the team in fact he is VICE CAPTIAN...wowww....what a merit base team What Umer Akmal have done since last year Newzealand tour???....only one hundred and since then constant failure but he is keep on getting chances after chances in last 12 test matches...and poor Fawad who made century on his debut was kicked out after only 3 test matches. GREATTT

  • testli5504537 on August 21, 2010, 21:43 GMT

    What about Asad Shafiq..who made more then 1000 runs in domestic criceket why Amin and Azhar were selected when they made less 500 runs each in same domestic season?? Sarfraz is clearly the best wicket keeper with his domestic record and technique....on what basis Zulqarnan was given preference over him.....and how long this dumb kamran akmal who hold sthe world record of dropping catches and missing stumps on the international level will be sucking pakistan's team's blood? Tanvir Ahmed who took 80 wickets in domestic and wahab was selected to play who too only 14 wickets in domestic...why??...Tanvir is very good swing bowler who could be as successful or even more then Wahab if was given chance in England seaming wickets...why he was not given any chance in entire tour until now??? Yousuf and Younis both are world class players....if Yusuf can come back in the team why not Younis????? M. Sami..genuine fast bowlers who bowled out New Zealand in New Zealand few years back by taking

  • testli5504537 on August 21, 2010, 21:35 GMT

    Fawad Alam...made century in Srilanka last year...168 run on his debut...then what happened..he was given just two more test matches and since then he id out of the team???.....why all dumb punjaabi player mentioned above keep on getting chances even they are getting failed again and again and why this poor player was kicked out after 2 test matches even after he did made debut test century???...remember he is the best fielder in Pakistan side and can be handy left arm spin bowler too khurram manzoor have already made 90 odd in one test match and then on his given chance in last Australia tour he made 77 runs when no other batsman could cross 30 marks.......and in next serious (this England series)...he was dropped....do u drop any punjabi player who would made 77 in last match? On what other basis Umer Amin and Azhar was selceted??..on domestic level their average was less then 30 while Fawad 83 and kHurram 67 domestic average was not good enough???..

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