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October 12, 2011

Pakistan cricket

Good riddance to Calamity Butt

Kamran Abbasi
Ijaz Butt and Shahid Afridi address the media, Lahore, May 25, 2010
Butt's reign of blunders demonstrates that Pakistan cricket is a resilient enterprise  © Associated Press
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Ijaz Butt is a miracle man. It was a miracle that he survived so long, and a greater miracle that Pakistan cricket survived him. One consolation from Butt's reign of blunders is an appreciation that Pakistan cricket is a resilient enterprise, capable of withstanding any number of escapades at the precipice of destruction. Butt's failed suicide mission has affirmed that Pakistan cricket's demise will only come with the demise of the country.

Under Butt's half-seeing eye, each routine incident became a crisis, every disaster a calamity. Butt treated a national obsession with utter contempt, yet that obsession is so compulsive that it will endure thanks to the passion of players and supporters. When the Test series begins in Abu Dhabi next week, with one Butt gone and another Butt squirming in a London courtroom, Pakistan cricket will suck in the first breaths of a new life.

Butt's incompetence is surpassed only by his arrogance. The spot-fixing scandal shames Pakistan cricket each day, a potent testament to the failures of his cricket board, an organisation entirely incapable of handling any challenge. An attack on Sri Lanka's cricketers on the doorstep of the PCB's headquarters, isolation of Pakistan cricket and its cricketers, and a corruption crisis all demonstrated the failures of governance on Butt's watch.

The PCB became unloved at home and abroad, a friendless and joyless body seeking domination by oppressing its prize assets, heroes of Pakistan cricket past and present. It was obvious to everyone except the man himself that he was a bumbling misfit. Thanks to the indulgence of his friend and patron, President Asif Zardari, Butt treated and abused Pakistan cricket like a personal fiefdom.

This was an extreme example of the danger of personal connections prevailing over competence. Butt had no right to head Pakistan cricket but he arrogantly berated his enemies and interfered with the responsibilities of other board officers, including the national selectors. Worse still, his board damaged relationships with star players, Younis Khan and Shahid Afridi being prime examples. All along, Butt unapologetically revelled in the fame that his position and his connections brought him. He had no insight into his unworthiness for the post, only a hubristic conviction in his own decision-making.

Shaharyar Khan was the last of man of quality to head Pakistan cricket, a welcome improvement on the amateur enthusiasms of General Tauqir Zia. But The Oval Test of 2006 weakened Khan, and his successor, Naseem Ashraf, was a chancer on a mission of self-promotion. By the time Butt took charge, the office of board chairman had been devalued and the low expectations of Butt's regime were amply fulfilled.

Butt leaves Pakistan cricket in an abject mess. The chief selector is also interim national coach. The interim chief selector has a penchant for public disputes and a brazen disregard for conflicts of interest. Several major players are suspended or disenfranchised. Pakistan no longer hosts international cricket. The cricket board is marginalised in international cricket politics. The national team is lowly in international rankings, and the feel-good factor of 2009's World T20 victory has long since evaporated. Three years of damage will take a generation to repair.

Butt has truly failed and his purported successor, Zaka Ashraf, is unknown to the world except for a worrying proximity to the President of Pakistan. In Pakistan, it seems only the president's relatives or close friends have the essential skills and experience to run a major enterprise. What a pitifully untalented lot we are. The new chairman's strongest endorsement is that it is hard to imagine how anybody could fare worse than Butt, although plumbing new depths of incompetence has become a national pastime.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's cricketers attempt to build on encouraging progress since the spot-fixing allegations, and the supporters, almost with one voice, shout good riddance to Butt, the man who came closest to destroying Pakistan cricket. Among the legion catastrophes that have besieged Pakistan cricket in the past decade, the biggest calamity of all was the man himself.

I asked Pakistan cricket fans to tweet me their verdicts on Ijaz Butt's reign. Here is a selection of instant reactions:

@ndorobo: Finally, Pak cricket can wake up and rise again.

@passioncricket: Congratulations. At last, a dark era in Pakistan cricket has finished.

@yasirshahid: So Butt is gone. This is the closest Pakistanis are going to get to their Tahrir Square moment.

@mediagag: The night is darkest just before dawn. Really don't think any night can be darker than Ijaz Butt.

@saz69cent: There are people nominated for top PCB positions I wouldn't trust to park my car.

@aatifnawaz: I'm gutted he's gone. My stand-up comedy career may well die with the end of his tenure. Here's to hilarious mis-management!

@wittytweetspk TauqeerZia Was Better Than ShaharyarKhan WBT NaseemAshraf WBT IjazButt. I fear the day when we will long for Ijaz Butt!

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

RSS Feeds: Kamran Abbasi

Keywords: Club/league cricket

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by SK on (November 12, 2011, 0:45 GMT)

I very much doubt things are going to change until we get rid of the pathetic Zardari.

YasirShahid's tweet is spot on if very disheartening. We need to pull a miracle (after Butt) & now get Zardari out as well.

Posted by Irfan khan on (November 11, 2011, 17:46 GMT)

Wats with being over critique and blah blah .......For heaven's sake look what he has done to our cricket ....Eradicating player power is one thing but wiping off the face of cricket in this country is a blunder of gigantic proportions .....If Ijaz butt can run the affairs and still get away without any remorse for the loss inflicted then that pretty much sums up the stubbornness of the devil himself .......He was truly the BUTT-HEAD we never needed .....

Posted by aftab qureshi on (October 21, 2011, 16:20 GMT)

I am delighted to see the big back of Mr. Ijaz Butt although you may have been over critical. At the same time, I am one of those who believe that the headquarters of Pakistan's cricket problems is in the Patron-in-Chief's office. But I am willing to wish Zaka Ashraf well despite that. One piece of advice for him, though: dont make big decisions about the game without consulting the known cricketing minds in the country. Call Imran Khan for advice, not Asif Zardari!

Posted by Jay on (October 21, 2011, 12:31 GMT)

PLease put Imran Khan and Wasim Akram in charge of PCB. I want to see more India Pak mathces and Pak players in IPL.

Posted by Sam on (October 19, 2011, 13:57 GMT)

@Cric_fan: Shoaib Akhtar is busy baring all his feelings for Indian Cricketers.. he doesnt have time to look in his own house!

Posted by Zahid on (October 17, 2011, 21:48 GMT)

I really disagree with Mr. Abbasi in his approach in making assessment of Butt's tenure. In making any assessments of any individuals abilities and achievements, you must compare him with the contemporary leadership in the society. As a chairman of PCB, Mr. Butt must be compared with railway minister, Chairmen of PIA, Steel mills, Pepko and other institutions. In a relative study, you might find Mr. Butt to be one of the best management experts available to the currunt government. Take my words, he will be awarded a national medal in 2012.

Posted by jogesh99 on (October 17, 2011, 12:57 GMT)

Would you like us to lend you Lalit Modi? Thank your stars bros.

Posted by Salim Khan on (October 16, 2011, 15:58 GMT)

No doubt, Butt was a bad choice but he survived for 3 years and so many years Pakistan cricket suffered. Well the new choice for chairman PCB looks very awkward and I am not very confident that the new guy will do any better.How will Mr.Zaka handle the board when he has no experience of having played cricket. So Pathetic?

Posted by nasir on (October 15, 2011, 21:21 GMT)

Don`t worry Mr Abbasi it is the other side of the same coin, Butt & Zaka selected by same person who`s is known to whole nation, nothing will change.May ALMIGHTY help our nation & cricket.

Posted by Bosco Martyres on (October 15, 2011, 14:24 GMT)

The fact that the only qualifications for the job the new PCB chief has is that he is a pal of that scoundrel Zardari, does not bode well for the future of Palistani cricket. When oh when are we going to stop playing games? When is honesty, justice, integrity, and competence going to be the factors that determine a person's qualifications? When are the people of Pakistan going to rise up and boot the scoundrels out from all aspects of their lives. The time is NOW

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamran Abbasi
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. @KamranAbbasi

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