Pakistan news July 6, 2011

A report from afar, devoid of practicality

The Pakistan Task Team never actually came to Pakistan, and it shows in their unrealistic report. And what of the original purpose of the team - to help Pakistan deal with losing international cricket? That has been almost completely ignored

"Pakistan has been a member of the International Cricket Council," begins the ICC's Pakistan Task Team report, "since 1953." It is an unfortunate way to begin what should be a document of such importance because it is wrong; Pakistan was elected in July 1952 and the team played their first Test later that year in October. In a way - if imperfectly - the error captures something of this report.

When the task team was first approved in June 2009 its main purpose was to ensure that Pakistan wouldn't suffer from the loss of international cricket at home and at least look at ways of resuming it. In fact when it was first offered in February that year, the Lahore attacks that eventually ruled out international cricket in Pakistan hadn't even occurred. The task team was a response to an unstable couple of years, in which some teams had pulled out of tours and the Champions Trophy (2008) had been taken away on security grounds.

It is more than a little strange, then, to see that over 38 pages and through 63 recommendations so little space and thought has been given to this central matter, the very crisis for which the task team was first formed. Only three of the 63 recommendations are actually concerned with reviving cricket and they are not so much recommendations as they are sentences of nothingness. "ICC Members should continue to support PCB through fulfillment of FTP commitments, at neutral venues in circumstances where safety and security remains a concern." Really? Yes, that is thoughtful.

"Where ICC Members are confident following their own risk assessments, they should consider touring Pakistan to honour their FTP commitments." That's that sorted then, the first step towards resumption confidently taken. "ICC should support ongoing activity involving the Pakistan ambassadors ([Mike] Brearley and [Greg] Chappell) to keep issues relating to tours involving Pakistan in the public eye." Eh? Is this even a sentence?

Matters of security in Pakistan are not in the hands of the ICC and PCB and there is nothing they can do to change that. But should there not have been more intent, or rather, any intent at all from the PTT? On the ground, what has the task team actually done to try to revive cricket here? Have there been periodic risk assessments by the ICC security task force? Does that force even exist still? Has the PTT even begun to think of a roadmap back, slave as it must be to Pakistan's internal war, but an important sign of intent nevertheless? Only the delusional expected the PTT to bring back cricket in two years, but even the realist could expect a little more than nothing.

That considerable-sized elephant in the room ignored, the rest of the report reads a little like Barack Obama's first-term report card soon might: noble in intent, divorced from reality. The changes it recommends in governance, in cutting the chairman's powers, empowering the regional associations and strengthening the hands of selectors are especially fantastic. Have they met Ijaz Butt yet? Does he look like someone who would willingly reduce his own power? Has any PCB chairman ever? And clearly they have little idea of the kind of troubles that ail regional associations if they can cover it all with this beautifully reduced proposal: "Regional bodies should be empowered to manage their affairs and given more say in the decision-making of the PCB itself."

In these places it feels like a report made from afar and in a way it is. The team met a vast number of former players and officials and other stakeholders during its work, but it never came to Pakistan to see and feel how cricket works. There were eight meetings in all but none in the country to which the report pertained.

When Zimbabwe was dealing with their own task force a few years ago, there were at least two ICC fact-finding missions to the country. The last one in November 2008 was particularly useful and it led to Zimbabwe accepting the recommendation in April 2009. But the PTT never came to Pakistan to meet, for example, officials from the sports and law ministry or constitutional experts, all of whom have a role in any of the constitutional changes the report recommends.

In other places it feels far too intrusive, an indication of confusion as to its own purpose. It suggests better balls be used in domestic cricket. It advises the board to cut the number of central contracts from 45 to 35 (incidentally the board had already cut this down to 20 before the report was published). It urges the board to look again at the value of having regional and departmental teams together in the domestic set-up. Frankly, these points may merit debate, but within the PCB and instigated by them. They are not the concern of the ICC, unless they intend to micro-manage all other Members as well.

Nothing in this report, by the way, is binding on the PCB. Implementation already appears a non-starter. The PCB will get back to the ICC with its own "observations" and there will be plenty. So the lasting impression, especially as far as the more expansive recommendations go, will be of a document that most students and well-wishers of Pakistan cricket could have produced. There is much that is right in it, but that is not the point. We all want there to be no nuclear weapons, a world of peace, no corruption, rape, murder or genocide. Not knowing how to get there is the problem.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • zain on July 8, 2011, 23:13 GMT

    where can you read a copy of the report? can you even read it?

  • albert on July 8, 2011, 11:17 GMT

    Irfan Mayani You have to understand Champions League is not sponcered by ICC,this was stared by India & Austrailia & later ECB & South African board joined,Icc cannot ask these boards why Pakistani club team is not invited.

  • Anil on July 7, 2011, 18:29 GMT

    Reposting since my earlier comment was not posted. Let's be practical. The situaton is Pakistan has not improved after the Lahore attack on the Sri Lankans. Thus, no team will want to tour there, and no one can force a team to do so. It is up to the Pakistanis (people, administration/government, PCB) to set the order right before someone can think of touring there. The only way forward is the PCB works very hard in convincing teams that Pakistan is safe, and the government backs them by assuring "absolute" security. A bomb can practically go off in SL or Ind or BD, but the difference with Pak is that foreign cricketers were attacked there. No ICC or PTT or anything can do a thing; it is absolutely up to the Pakistanis to actually set their home in order. It will take time; until then international cricket is not returning to Pakistan. That is the reality and practicality. Period. If you disagree, you are free to live in self-denial.

  • Dummy4 on July 7, 2011, 16:33 GMT

    If Osman had any clue how to fix the problems, he would have presented them in this article instead of this rant.

  • Cool on July 7, 2011, 16:10 GMT

    Actually on second thoughts, PTT's suggestions are not that out of place. Pak definitely needs to revamp it's cricket and they should start by rooting out FOREVER all the corrupt players, match fixers etc. The only problem is that there's just too many of them :-(

  • VINOTH on July 7, 2011, 14:45 GMT

    In an ideal world, PTT would have gone to Pakistan, stayed there for good, had access to the functioning of Pakistan cricket at all levels (including management), looked at security & provided an independent report to improve Pak cricket.

    But given the turmoil there & a cricket administration that quite naturally would have no more than put up with the PTT since it was a directive from ICC, how much of the above could have practically happened is everyone's guess.

    Now, there's no point in blaming PTT team for the report. The problem of security is much bigger & cricket loving people of Pakistan & it's administrators have to perhaps go the neutral venue route till things settle down.

    As far as administration is concerned, if there's merit it should not matter who says it. Former greats like Imran, Rameez along with members of the press should probably serve as mentors with a professional system at regional & national level handling governance. For immense talent there deserves it..

  • Anil on July 7, 2011, 14:44 GMT

    Osman, let's make it clear that we understand it absolutely well: that there is a serious problem with the security setup in Pakistan, that the ICC or the PTT or PCB cannot do anything, that it is up to "will power" of the government/administration and the people of Pakistan to make a credible change. That will take time. Unless an outside team is sure of its security, it will not tour Pakistan. That is as simple as it gets. If some teams like the one from Afghanistan tour there, other will be thinking about it. The only way forward is that PCB befriends other boards and makes tremendous efforts to convince other teams to come, and that the Pakistani government assures of absolute security. Afghanistan, Bangladesh would be the initial help (NOT because their lives are cheaper, I dont mean it, but because they are Muslims and less likely to be attacked). It will take time. Neither ICC nor the GOD, if it is somewhere, can ask an outsider team to tour there. No one.

  • Aditya on July 7, 2011, 14:24 GMT

    The people who prepared the report might not have put as much effort as you would have liked Osman. But your criticism of the report will mean something only if you can come up with better alternatives and real suggestions. "How is that even a sentence" isn't much of a criticism either. What else could it suggest other than suggesting that the powers of the chairman should be reduced and more powers should be distributed to regional centres? If it had suggested the specifics, wouldn't it have been micro-managing then? A report by a foreign panel couldn't do much because a report by a foreign panel can't do much.

  • Sharma on July 7, 2011, 14:00 GMT

    what is the point of this article, Mr Osman what do you expect ICC to do, and why is everyone from Pakistan cricket want something from someone all the time.

    Mr.Osman is it ICC fault that PCB and its players are in news for all the wrong reasons, Last year ECB tried to host Pakistan's matches and in return what do they get spot fixing by Pakistani players.

    Don't you think It is high time PCB and its players do something for themselves for a change instead of waiting for someone to wave magic wand and make everything better.

    It is easy to criticize someone who is trying something but not easy to do some self introspection.PCB needs to help itself first before expecting anyone to help them.

  • Usman on July 7, 2011, 13:16 GMT

    Great on! Very well said khmayecha. Good work osman!

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