April 18, 2014

Who'll bring Pakistan back to financial health?

The PCB has ensured itself some financial security by agreeing to the ICC revamp, but it's unlikely the money will go towards securing the future of the country's cricket

Najam Sethi and cohorts: not skilled in risk management © PCB

Risk management, ever heard of it? If you have, you are probably wiser than Najam Sethi and his Pakistan Cricket Board. The board earned some praise for its initial stand against the Big Three coup by India, Australia and England. There was even a sense of admiration: international cricket's most beleaguered country defiant against the game's richest and most powerful. We all love an underdog, don't we? It's no surprise that the PCB has now fallen in line, but this week's explanation betrays a great malaise at the heart of Pakistan's cricket administration.

We can't afford to miss out on the money, says Sethi. All US$310m of it. Our survival depends on major international fixtures, says Sethi. Bilateral ties against India are a major chunk of it, says Sethi, positioning himself as a pragmatic man of principle. He talks a lot. Talk of equality, the glaring omission in the Big Three's plans, has disappeared. The Big Three did make some concessions but not much has changed in terms of equality. Pakistan was isolated, no international team would arrange a fixture against them for fear of damaging its own interests. No broadcaster was willing to commit to Pakistan's future international programme, since there wasn't one. No television meant no money. No money meant no principles, just an embarrassed, pragmatic crawl back into the bosom of the Big Three.

It's hard to blame Sethi or his cricket board for seeking a pragmatic solution, and to be clear, it isn't a representative cricket board, it is his cricket board. No business can function without income. The big money does come from major international fixtures and tournaments. A bilateral series against India is clearly the most valuable. Pakistan, isolated because of security issues, requires all the help it can get.

But it's wrong to ignore the deeper problems in Pakistan cricket, many of which are self-inflicted. In the good years, when television revenue was plentiful, before the isolation, what did Pakistan's administrators do with the income? Where was the investment in domestic cricket or grassroots cricket? Where was the investment in elite infrastructure? Where was the investment in developing a product of commercial value? Yes, of course, there was some of this, enough to qualify as lip service and to furnish business plans, but nothing in proportion to the millions of dollars that poured into the PCB's coffers. We can only imagine where it went.

Any sensible organisation, mindful of the risks associated with being so heavily dependent on one source of income, seeks others. Pakistan's cricket board has failed to do this. It is international cricket revenue or bust, and Sethi's board seems to have no other plan. Domestic cricket might not make the PCB rich but the sheer neglect of it ensures that it can't contribute to keeping the board afloat. Equally importantly, successive cricket boards have pursued a course of political isolation, which leaves little room for manoeuvre, of alternative fixtures or tournaments, when the more powerful countries don't want to play.

The picture emerges of a cricket board isolated for reasons of security and politics. Its chairman is prone to rash pronouncements, whether he is exposing the bankruptcy in Pakistan's financial plans or pleading for leniency on behalf of a player convicted of spot-fixing.

Sethi isn't solely responsible. The PCB is blighted by a series of leaders whose main purpose is posturing and headline-grabbing instead of fixing the deep-rooted problems in Pakistan cricket. There seems little ambition in Pakistan cricket administration beyond pocketing television revenue and basking in the reflected glory of its star cricketers. These aren't sustainable strategies. The risks are apparent. But the PCB, as ever, relies on the generosity of others.

Pakistan cricket requires a long-term plan for its development and financial health but it's a plan that has been too long coming. To be influential in international cricket, Pakistan require both cricketing and financial strength. The raw materials are available. The man with a plan is absent.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Android on April 21, 2014, 4:21 GMT

    Indian hockey suffered due to the kind of maladministration seen of PCB in the last 20 years by Indian Hockey Federation. But credit to BCCI - they have provided world class facilities which has resulted in establishing a knowledge base and fielding standards have improved by a factor of 1000 or more. One feels it's a matter of time before they crack the fast bowling code with Waqar Younis joining CAB, Wasim Akram with KKR, McGrath with MRF Pace Foundation etc.

  • Dummy4 on April 19, 2014, 10:45 GMT

    @truthwarrior you mean to say that All the legends during the 20 years era came by luck............Then you would also say that Einstien was become a scientist by luck....LOL

  • Amir on April 18, 2014, 21:13 GMT

    @TruthWarrior, "...Look at Pak cricket during the last 20 years; from winning the World Cup, albeit by more luck then ability, .."

    LOL...So, I believe that Pakistan's smacking of India team in tests and OIDs was also by luck and not by ability.

  • Rahul on April 18, 2014, 19:20 GMT

    I doubt if any country comes and play in pakiatan for at least next 10 year since the security and other issues associated ther

  • Abu on April 18, 2014, 10:47 GMT

    I believe sports very much reflects how well a country is positioned & run in the world. Consider how Pakistan as a nation has functioned over the last 20 years; political/security unrest, governments & inept & corrupt leaders coming & going, a dysfunctional socioeconomic system leading to chaos & corruption driving the country into a downward spiral. Now consider its global loveable neighbours next door & dispite a lot of wrongs they are seen as a powerhouse in both world economy & sports namely cricket!

    Look at Pak cricket during the last 20 years; from winning the World Cup, albeit by more luck then ability, it has been a downhill struggle for the socalled pcb institution

  • Dummy4 on April 18, 2014, 10:37 GMT

    i think sethi is trying to arrange short emergency tours to fill the gaps

    but it seems it will become an other ZC

  • Ryo on April 18, 2014, 10:04 GMT

    CricIbdia208: You should tell your Ibdian government and their BCCI to put their own house in order before demanding of others. It's not Pakistan which has been leading world cricket down a path of destruction. We're still alive and kicking as a cricket nation.

  • G on April 18, 2014, 7:07 GMT

    I think this article appears unfair to Najam Sethi probably because he is an outsider to the cricket politics of Pakistan. My only knowledge of Sethi comes from his TV program Aapas ki Baat in which he proffers liberal and fair views. His handling of Punjab as caretaker CM was also fair and hence he was brought in to clean PCB's Augean stables. Of course he will need 2 years at the helm and then if the state of PCB's finances have not improved do blame him. Give him a chance.

  • zomma on April 18, 2014, 6:19 GMT

    Modern organizations go down the gallows without 'strategic agility'; Vision, Strategy and Operations, that is what such outfits bank on. PCB unfortunately is devoid of all of them, for they dont know where they want to be in the next 5 years, have no strategic plan to get there and what to talk of the implementation team that takes it there! A visionary and strong leadership at the top, followed by a 'corporate strategy' unit headed by a renowned strategy guru and then a professional 'operational unit' that implements the strategy in letter and spirit. It is obvious to a schoolboy that achieving only one of the 3 ingredients would automatically ensure that the rest follows. i.e a visionary and strong leadership at the top. And even the present decision makers at the top know that there is no better man in Pakistan to fit that bill than Majid Khan. International repute, Administration and Cricket Management at grassroots, he possess them all. If ever a waste sir, if ever a waste

  • Oz on April 18, 2014, 5:38 GMT

    PCB is responsible, along with their government for the sorry position that Pakistan are in. PCB should urge their govt to take the necessary steps to improve relations with India.

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