October 18, 2010

How low can the PCB go?

Pakistan's board has reached a nadir, and now has 30 days to do what it should have done 10 years ago, with the threat of harsh sanctions should it fail to comply

On the day the ICC officially acknowledged that the PCB can no longer be trusted to run cricket in Pakistan, the chief patron of the board, President Asif Ali Zardari, "felicitated" the chairman of the board and players for the Oval ODI being cleared of any suspicions of spot-fixing. Quick as a flash, the PCB released a counter-statement, thanking the president "for his uplifting message" of above-said felicitations. Nero would've been impressed.

In years to come, when we try to fully explain the depths of denial state institutions in this country are stuck in, this classic interaction of officialdom should be repeatedly used. For if the message isn't clear enough, here it is in bold: the running of Pakistan's cricket, and very possibly its future, is no longer entirely in the hands of Pakistan. The ICC will say it differently, talk of greater scrutiny and closer monitoring and last resorts, but diplomat-speak cannot hide it; the ICC's task force on Pakistan is now the reporting authority on Pakistan cricket, and suspension of membership is on the table.

The flippant might argue that as long as Ijaz Butt is in charge, control in someone else's hands is a good thing. But for a nation so hooked to displays of false, blustering pride, so consistently paranoid about its sovereignty, the reaction was strangely muted. Most TV channels echoed the celebratory feel of the president's declaration, running with the Oval ODI being cleared, an indication of just how readily media in this part of the world descends into jingoism. Introspection, in any case, is too long-winded and messy. Two leading English-language newspapers mentioned the ICC warning only in passing, apparently not understanding the full implications of the press release. Long-suffering and deprived fans understandably took to the domestic Twenty20 with beautiful, heartening gusto.

It took a typically blunt Imran Khan to cut to the chase: "The ICC move to warn us and put us on notice is a shameful day for every Pakistani. It is a shame for Pakistan cricket." The cackle of former cricketers and administrators, usually so deafening, has not been heard.

There hasn't been a stronger, more damning indictment of the way cricket is run in Pakistan since full membership was achieved in 1952. Most pointedly the message is aimed at this board, but really the ultimatum is the logical conclusion of the last four years in particular and probably applies retrospectively to all administrations since the first days of match-fixing, the mid-90s. It is actually an equal indictment of the ICC that it has taken it so long to recognise that Pakistan is the sick man of world cricket, a truth most Pakistanis and the world have known all along.

There hasn't been a more damning indictment of the way cricket is run in Pakistan since full membership was achieved in 1952. The message is aimed at this board, but really it probably applies retrospectively to all administrations since the first days of match-fixing

No board has been as accommodating of tainted men as the PCB has. No other board bans a man for five years for saying something out of line publicly and doesn't ban him at all for doping. No other board has taken as many of its own players to court. No other board imposes life bans and fines and turns around on them as often. No other board blames others for its own security failures. No other board so demoralises its own side by changing captain, coach and selectors as often. No board has so shunned, or ignored, the standards the rest of the world adheres to - or at least, in some cases, shows itself adhering to. As part of a global body, those are standards that need to be met at some basic level.

Now, having not done so for 10 years, the board has less than 30 days to implement - not show to be doing, but actually put in place - four anti-corruption measures, measures that were necessary after the Qayyum report became public. Once - and if - that is out of the way, there is the trifling matter of carrying out "any reforms which may be deemed necessary to restore confidence in the administration of the game in Pakistan". And you suspect Mahmoud Ahmedinejad might have more luck winning the confidence of the West.

Giles Clarke, the man Butt peeved, is now the man Butt will report to, the man with whom he has to work to bring about those reforms, a man with wider powers at the head of the task force than ever before. The details of precisely what kind of powers the task force has to bring about change in Pakistan will only begin to be chiselled out now. Issues of governance, of how the board is structured, how it operates, will be "discussed" and "recommendations", in the ICC's wonderfully polite words, will be made. If they had sense they would try and clip the chairman's powers and seek out or develop other power centres, such as the governing board or senior officials. The global body has limited jurisdiction over the affairs of its members under normal circumstances, but these are not them.

And the threat of sanctions in case progress isn't made is very real, the possibility of suspension more credible than ever before. Some will contend that the posturing is a roundabout way for the ICC to remove, or at least stop having to deal with, Butt. In a way it doesn't matter anymore. The ICC will dilly and dally, and hem and haw, but eventually it will reach a point where it will have to take the least desirable step. It has seen such situations twice before, with South Africa and Zimbabwe. The question the PCB must ask then is: who will oppose any move to suspend them? Not many.

Very little time is left in which to achieve a great many things. This is not the time for felicitations. It is a time to get real.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on October 21, 2010, 22:45 GMT

    It doesn't matter WHY the Sri Lankan players were shot at or who shot them. All of that is trivial. The bottom line is, they visited Pakistan and someone shot directly at them possibly with the intention of killing them. Don't blame others for not visiting Pakistan after that. I personally wouldn't want to visit a place where I was directly shot at. I'm shocked that some Pakistanis still urge other teams to visit Pakistan. Given the circumstances there, I as a Pakistani would in fact discourage anyone from visiting because God forbid if something happens we'll be even more embarrassed than we already are.

  • Yasin on October 21, 2010, 15:06 GMT

    PCB is a sick body it needs cure for sure particularly from the foreign hands in this case foreign hand happened to be the ICC. For ICC finding correct prognoses not an issue the real issue is: knowing the fact that PCB with its corrupt practice will manipulate the prognoses as they have the proficiency to do so Till recently ICC has been relaying on oral medicine with minimum or no improvement finally ICC Associates & its Affiliates reached a common consensus i.e. for a rapid result they must resort to non oral medicine. Study suggests that non oral medicine has improved the health of this type of sickness up to 70% in much shorter time ICC also has the recommendation of Ayurvedic treatment by the BCCI however all indications suggests that ICC will relay on non oral medicine to cure this unique illness of the PCB Recommendation of Acupuncture has been accepted by the ICC only if pins could be replaced with cricket wickets which are under deep study by the ICC & the one new Affiliate.

  • Azim on October 21, 2010, 15:00 GMT

    P - Pure C - Corrupt B - Board

  • RAHEEM on October 21, 2010, 14:33 GMT

    yes,indeed how long ?the answer is simple no long ,but what to do with present patron and chairman in power the poor Pakistanis can just lament.no use commenting or discussing as long Aijaz Butt is there and who can remove him he is really a life long chairman, Hurrah for him.asfor comment from indian no comment.

  • Rauf on October 21, 2010, 14:30 GMT

    @karthikfromchennai: I wouldn't be laughing at these turn of events if I were you. Pakistan still OWNS India in all time head-to-head in Tests and ODI http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/India_versus_Pakistan_cricket_rivalry . 1) Tests: Total played 59, won by Pak 12, won by India 9, drawn 38. 2) ODI: Total played 119, won by Pak 69, won by India 46, drawn 4. If Pakistan is banned for life, this record will be etched in stone forever so that we can flash it in front of you from time to time. You may want to turn your LOL's into some hope that India plays Pakistan and then hope that they win to equal or better their poor record against their old nemesis... LOL.

  • karthik on October 21, 2010, 12:47 GMT

    We all should thank Pakistan as they are the final frontiers in world cricket. No team could win a series in Pakistan...because no one can tour Pak. Thus leaving Pakistan maintain their excellent home record ...they would never lose a home series...lol...

  • Dummy4 on October 21, 2010, 11:29 GMT

    Yup PCB could go much much lower than this !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Rauf on October 21, 2010, 9:38 GMT

    @nlambda: To prove beyond a reasonable doubt in the court of law, one must be able to prove that the accused had means, motive, and opportunity to commit a certain crime. People who shot at the Sri Lankan team had means and opportunity but what was their motive? If they were Pakistanis then what has Sri Lanka or it's cricket team ever done to Pakistan or it's people to deserve being shot at? On the contrary, they visited Pakistan when no one else wanted to. Things don't happen in a vacuum. Motive is the key so you need to cut thru the sensational headlines to get to the real thing.

  • Dummy4 on October 20, 2010, 21:42 GMT

    Pakistani should be indefinitely banned from world cricket. This is what they've brought upon themselves and have no one to blame but themselves, much less the number one test team. To all my Indian brothers, please don't bother defending your country to these blind, delusional idealists. We (Pakistanis with logic still left in them) understand that it is no one's fault but PCB's. Joseph Dunninger once said, "For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation will suffice."

  • Dummy4 on October 20, 2010, 11:38 GMT

    Ijazz Butt leaving would be the first step to recovery. How can a chairman decide who is and who isnt, in the cricket squad. His handling of the recent spot fix scandal and Pakistan stripped of co-host status (world cup), was shambolic to say the least. He has 8 test caps, which looks like is enough experience and qualifications needed to run pakistan cricket. What a joke! He was appointed by the president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zadari, who is the patron of PCB. This is where the problem lies. Pakistan cricket is not a INSTITUTION. It is run by the pakistani politicians. It needs to be a independent institution. If this does not change, then Pakistan cricket will carry on declining. We'll just have another clown replacing Ijazz Butt.

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