Pakistan news May 12, 2011

We have eradicated player power - Butt

ESPNcricinfo staff

The chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Ijaz Butt has claimed victory over player power in the national side, saying it has now been completely eradicated.

In recent months, Butt has quietly moved away from the public limelight, allowing senior board officials to do much of the board's talking. Though unsaid, it seems to have been the result of last summer, where Butt's various public utterances on the spot-fixing scandal resulted in the ICC warning the PCB eventually to clean up its affairs, including governance.

But in a (now) rare interview to Dawn, Butt says that Pakistan cricket has benefited in some ways under his administration. "Let me assure you that player power, though present in the past, does not exist in the national team at the moment as I have taken strict actions to eradicate it," Butt said.

Infighting, player indiscipline and clashes between the players and boards have been an inextricable part of Pakistan cricket, particularly over the last few years. Last year, the PCB banned Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf from playing for Pakistan in any format for an indefinite period, while handing out one-year bans to Shoaib Malik and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and imposing fines on Shahid Afridi and the Akmal brothers. The punishments came in the aftermath of a disastrous tour of Australia in 2009-10.

Though the punishments were all either reversed or lessened soon after, Butt said the message had been sent out. "To crush player power, I penalised even prominent players like Younis Khan, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal without showing any reluctance which in the past had damaged the team spirit," he said.

After a brief period of relative calm, things have begun to heat up again with a selectorial spat between Afridi and coach Waqar Younis brewing away, one that seems to have taken in chief selector Mohsin Khan as well. But the board has acted in both cases, first preventing Khan from holding a press conference in which he was to air his discontent and then reaching a resolution with the chief selector. Afridi has also been hauled up by the board for his remarks upon returning from the Caribbean in which he hinted at the differences with the coach.

Butt said that a decision on the issue would be taken after he received manager Intikhab Alam's report. "An undisciplined person, whether he is an official or player, will face punishment at the end of the tour."

He acknowledged that the existing system of selection under which the selectors choose the squad and the tour selection committee the playing eleven had some flaws, though he said it suited Pakistan. One of the solutions, he said, was a strong head of the tour selection committee.

Butt also admitted that on some occasions he had differed with selectors and had asked them to review the selection of some players. "Whenever the selectors refused to review the selection, I used my constitutional power and made the changes," he said.

Butt also highlighted the financial successes under his administration, nearly three years old now. No international side has toured Pakistan since the Lahore attacks on Sri Lanka's cricketers and support staff in March 2009 and the 2011 World Cup was taken away, but Butt said the board's reserves had increased to Rs. 3.2 billion (US $ 37.7 million).

"We achieved this despite playing our home series at neutral venues," he said. "The PCB was financially weak with the reserves of Rs1.6 billion (US $ 18.8 million) when I took over the charge and it owed over Rs1 billion (US $ 11.7 million) to different parties."