Ashraf resigns as PCB chairman
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