Pakistan's disciplinary crisis June 5, 2010

The illogical yet predictable PCB

In revoking all the punishments they had themselves imposed, the self-defeating streak of the Pakistan board is highlighted again

Bear with me. Jamshed Dasti, the Elliot Ness to match-fixers, sport's corrupters and the inept, had to resign recently as a parliamentarian and head of the national assembly standing committee on sports. You'll remember the champion for first accusing Younis Khan and his side of deliberate underperformance in the Champions Trophy last year, sparking off a period of great unrest within the side.

Crusader Dasti was removed soon after, by the Supreme Court no less, after it was discovered that the Masters degree he held was, in fact, fake. Never mind; Dasti went back, fought for a party ticket again and got it (for the record he is a member of the PPP, the party of Bhutto and democracy and all that). He ran an election in his South Punjab constituency, won and is now back as a parliamentarian. One report had him fairly swaggering back to the national assembly to take oath, wearing a protest band round his arm and one round his forehead.

Legally and constitutionally his return is fine. He was voted back after all, and there is no bar on degree-less politicians in parliament anymore. The question is, of course, whether his return is in any way good for Pakistan? Only about as much as a bullet to the head might be for a human life.

It is precisely this kind of self-defeating strain that gushes through the PCB permanently. In revoking all the punishments they had themselves imposed - and the overturning is their decision rather than a conclusion reached independently by an arbitrator - it is apparent once again.

The procedure is in the constitution, says the board chairman, and a process was followed, and no doubt it was. Still, from the moment these punishments were handed out just under three months ago, everyone knew they would be removed eventually. The PCB's judicial landscape is full of the fanciest monikers: inquiry committees, tribunals, appellate tribunals, independent arbitrator panels. Their function remains the same: one makes a decision, the next overturns it.

So there are now - or will be in England - basically the same players who so obviously cannot play with each other, sharing the same dressing room. Presumably the responsibility will fall to Aaqib Javed to instruct Kamran Akmal how to whip off the bails when attempting a run-out. Perhaps it will be left to Yawar Saeed to help Younis eradicate those momentary lapses of concentration that have crept into his batting.

Thank god, then, that according to the chairman the infamous video of the inquiry now stands null and void. That is a relief, but should someone tell him that the contents of the video, the players and their views, might not be nulled and voided as easily?

Just to keep the mix punchy, they'll have a vulnerable Test captain to look up to. Anyone who thinks a man returning to the most challenging format of the game as captain - one he hasn't played for four years and has rarely looked convincing in - is not vulnerable doesn't think.

Not that they matter, but it's still worth glancing at the justifications given to revoke the punishments. The classiest was the revelation that the board had been monitoring Shoaib Malik for three months and found him rehabilitated. He did get married and divorced once, while playing zero cricket, which admittedly can be quite rehabilitating. Batting average 25 over 12 months, he came straight back into the ODI squad as well. No wonder some are convinced he'll be captain again for the 2011 World Cup, though he probably needs another ban, a failed retirement and an average of three over the year to nail it down.

The rest? Afridi's punishment they lifted because he had already been punished by the ICC once. The PCB would need to have crawled out from under a stone to not have known that Afridi had already been punished once for that offence.

Younis' was clever. He was banned, but only until the PCB considered him again. As he was considered in the 35 probables, the arbitrator said, it stood to reason that the ban be lifted. Which means (does it not?) that he was just dropped for a while and that too only from the Asia Cup, which even its organisers struggle to get excited about? That's an awfully long way to go to get round to that particular conclusion.

The Akmals have been provided relief because, hey, everyone else was getting it too. That makes them beneficiaries of Pakistan cricket's National Reconciliation Order (NRO), an executive order passed by former President Pervez Musharraf, which wiped the slate clean of all sins committed by any politician between 1986 and 1999.

The elder Akmal has actually been rewarded by being made top dog again. Someone should tell the fool of an understudy Sarfraz Ahmed, who didn't even make it to the 35 probables, to drop four catches and screw up a Test and then very publicly oppose the selectors and board. Then there'll be no removing him from the top spot.

To end brightly, rumours are that Dasti might become sports minister soon. We should make him PCB chairman instead.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo