Pakistan cricket August 18, 2008

Ashraf resigns as PCB chairman

Top Curve
Board u-turns under Ashraf
    Mushtaq Ahmed: Soon after coming to power, sacked Mushtaq as assistant coach, citing Justice Qayyum report that pointed to his links with match-fixing. Re-hired him soon after for World Cup 2007

    General staff: Sacked 80 PCB staff, and then promptly re-hired them

    Doping tribunal: Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif were banned after they were found guilty of using steroids, only for the decision to be overturned within a month despite both admitting usage, after an appellate tribunal was set up

    Constitution: Promised PCB's constitution would be ready within a month of his appointment. Changed the date three times, and kept on extending it until it was finally ready in January 2008, some 14 months after the original promise

    Resignation: Handed in his resignation during World Cup 2007, withdrew it about a week later after it was rejected by the patron

    Foreign coach: Said specifically after World Cup 2007 in a press conference that no foreign coach would be appointed for Pakistan. Appointed Geoff Lawson a few months later

    Younis Khan: Said, after Younis Khan had turned down the captaincy, that he would not be made captain again. Yet for Pakistan's tour to India in end-2007, personally appointed Younis vice-captain - he became captain when Shoaib Malik got injured.

    ICL: Announced no player in the ICL would be allowed to play for Pakistan or in Pakistan domestic cricket. Except Inzamam-ul-Haq, who was allowed to play a one-off Test as farewell and reportedly given a Rs 1 crore golden handshake for it

    ICL, mark II: Announced Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and Mushtaq would not be given NOCs to play county cricket because of their ICL links. Yet both were given one soon after

    ICL, mark III: Promised Mohammad Yousuf that he would play in the IPL, having paid him to come out of his ICL contract. Currently the matter is stuck in legal limbo forcing Yousuf to miss the first season of both leagues

    Shoaib Akhtar: The board stated publicly that Shoaib didn't have to pay any fine in order play in the Champions Trophy, only to then say three days later that actually he does

Bottom Curve

On the day Pervez Musharraf resigned as president of the country, one of his main beneficiaries and closest allies, Nasim Ashraf, offered his resignation as chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

His resignation has been sent to the presidency - in Pakistan the president is also patron of the cricket board and the person who appoints the chairman - where a final decision will be taken. In this case, the decision is likely to be taken now by the caretaker president, the chairman of the senate Mohammadmian Soomro, according to Pakistan's constitution. Career obituary-writers will in any case wait, recalling that Ashraf had similarly offered his resignation after the 2007 World Cup disaster, only for it to be rejected by Musharraf at the time.

"Nasim Ashraf has sent in his resignation to the President's secretariat," Shafqat Naghmi, the chief operating officer told Cricinfo. "The next step will be taken from there on whether or not it is accepted."

When asked why, with the Champions Trophy so close, he chose this moment to resign, Naghmi said, "He just said he felt it was his moral obligation to do so. He told all the directors this. He has also said he will be around and working till the new chairman takes over." Such was the confusion on an immense day that Naghmi's resignation was reported by a local TV channel soon after, only to be denied by the official himself.

Ashraf's future had been the subject of intense speculation over the last few weeks. He returned from a holiday in the USA this morning: with impeachment pending against the president over the last few weeks, Ashraf's holiday was seen by many as a timely move to shift away from the public eye. This was hotly contested by the board, the latest attempt being an official SMS sent out to announce flight details of the chairman's arrival. Upon his arrival this morning Ashraf said he was not going anywhere.

If the resignation is accepted, it brings to an end what will rank in time as one of the most blighted and tumultuous administrative reigns in the PCB's history, a feat in itself given the administrations that have come and gone.

Trouble beckoned from the very beginning, in October 2006, when Ashraf replaced Shaharyar Khan. The doping scandal in which Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif found themselves was the first crisis, though it wasn't one of their own making. But their ban and the subsequent overturning of the punishment was the first of many u-turns that characterised the board's bungling.

Criticisms against Ashraf varied: he was thought to be too involved in on-field team matters, the most emphatic example of which was the e-mail rollicking he sent to the team management after a loss to India in the Kitply Cup.

The board's workforce is also said to have ballooned during his time. At the time of Shaharyar's departure it was said to be 300-strong, whereas it is believed to employ nearly 700 people in all today. The benefit of such numbers was not readily seen in small matters or significant ones: during the Asia Cup a minor controversy broke because the PCB forgot to put up India's flag at the National Stadium in Karachi.

Appallingly, this board failed to organize the annual domestic Twenty20 tournament after December 2006, a damning indictment of their ineptitude given that this remains the most successful and popular tournament in the domestic calendar. The failure to ensure that the Rawalpindi Stadium would be ready in time for the Champions Trophy will also rank as an administrative failure, though in its defence the board wasn't given full control of the stadium from the local administration till November last year.

And as a barren international calendar emerged for Pakistan this year, little could be done to organise anything. This was understandable, given how packed the FTP generally is, but the mistruths in claiming that a series against South Africa had been arranged, or that New Zealand were confirmed to play three ODIs in August, were not.

There were also persistent whispers of gross financial mismanagement, though nothing concrete ever emerged. Further blows to credibility came from a series of futile, petty but high-profile court cases against its own players and even employees.

Progressively poorer performances on the field during this time have helped matters little, overshadowing a Twenty20 run to the final as well as the hosting of the Asia Cup. All of which means whoever does come in - and whenever he does - will find the cricket board of this country in as poor a shape as it has been for some time.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

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