Pakistan news July 13, 2011

PCB raises questions about task force report

The PCB has raised serious questions about the ICC Pakistan Task Team's (PTT) report, pointing out a number of factual errors in it and calling it "a scholarly exercise" rather than being a Pakistan-specific document. In an unusually long and fairly withering press release, the board said a detailed response to the 38-page report and 63 recommendations had been sent to the ICC; only some of the responses were being made public.

The PTT report, released last week, had recommended what amounted to a root and branch reform of the game in Pakistan, calling on a range of macro and micro changes to how the game is run there. The report recommended changes to the board's administration, to the process of selection, managerial appointments, the central contracts pool and even the kind of ball used in domestic cricket.

At the very outset of their response, the PCB raises one of the main criticisms of the report and the work of the PTT. "The entire report has been prepared without PTT ever visiting Pakistan (except for a brief chat of a few hours that Dave Richardson [ICC general manager and PTT member] had with a few ex-players during his visit to Karachi in January 2011 or perhaps some input to PTT from Ramiz [Raja, PTT member])," the release says. "This raises serious questions on the observations given in the report."

Haroon Lorgat, the ICC chief executive, also visited Pakistan before the 2010 World Twenty20, a visit during which issues related to international cricket in Pakistan were discussed with board and government officials.

The broader recommendations of the report centred on the powers of the chairman and expressed particular concern at the manner in which he is appointed - by the country's president, the patron of the board. The board treads a careful line in its response, mindful of the governance changes the ICC wants implemented over the next two years, and merely explains the reasons behind the system. "The circumstances in Pakistan are unique and cricket administration requires and deserves government support, without which international cricket may not be able to return to Pakistan. Keeping in view the extraordinary security situation in the country, having the president as patron of the PCB adds tremendous value and comfort. It should be appreciated that a system that has propelled Pakistan to the top of the cricket world has been in place for approximately 60 years and cannot certainly be labelled as faulty."

The response also takes on what is seen by the architects of the report as the most central issue to Pakistan's future: the resumption of bilateral ties with India. But the PCB believes both the BCCI and the PTT/ICC have effectively failed to act on good intentions, questioning whether the ICC has even approached the BCCI on this matter. "We feel that perhaps the PTT/ICC should have taken a lead role in ensuring that all bilateral tour commitments are honoured by India vis-a-vis Pakistan," the release states. "In fact this was also within the ambit of TOR's of PTT. We do not have anything to suggest on record that PTT/ICC made any efforts to engage with the BCCI or the government of India in this regard."

The roles of Mike Brearley and Greg Chappell as ambassadors of Pakistan cricket are also highlighted in the response, for the apparent lack of involvement they have had. While appreciating the appointment, the board says "we are yet to observe any endeavours from their side. Although, with their standing in international cricket, they could have gone a long way in supporting cricket in Pakistan. We still welcome them to come to Pakistan and expect that they will now play a proactive role in supporting the return of international cricket to Pakistan."

This observation, on the return of international cricket, is likely to be the source of growing contention between the ICC and Pakistan. In the original terms of reference of the PTT, the focus was on ensuring that Pakistan didn't suffer in the absence of international cricket at home. Reference is made to the recommendations of a security task force with regards to playing cricket in Pakistan. Since then the parameters of the PTT have grown to take in integrity and governance issues, to the extent that in the report only three of the 63 recommendations even referred to the revival of international cricket in Pakistan.

But in the wake of the release of the report, senior PTT and ICC officials have implied privately that the revival of international cricket is not the primary concern of the work; the PCB referring to it implicitly in their release, with reference to the roles of Brearley and Chappell, suggests they believe it is.

On the more micro issues, such as selection, the PCB "points out a number of recommendations that are incorrect, superfluous or redundant." The number of centrally contracted players in the PTT - as ESPNcricinfo pointed out initially - is incorrect, the board says. The board also argues that the selection committee is already independent and free from outside interference, thus rejecting outright the report's recommendation that it should be.

"Regrettably, PTT did not meet the chairman of selection committee to get his views," the board says before detailing the process of selection and the board chairman's role in it. "We therefore feel that the recommendations of the PTT that the PCB chairman has the right of veto are not based on facts. The process of selection is a time tested one and has worked for Pakistan. The view that there is interference in selection matters is therefore factually incorrect, devoid of reality and henceforth rejected."

The suggestion that the selection committee and not the board chairman recommends a captain, which is then approved by the governing board, is also rejected. "We respectfully disagree with this recommendation. In Pakistan the system of selecting a captain is different. No reason has been given by PTT in support of its recommendation that selection committee is the best judge of who the captain of Pakistan should be. If this recommendation is based on what other countries follow, it may not work for Pakistan. Again the authority to nominate the captain has been delegated by the governing board to the chairman."

The report had also advised the PCB to appoint team managers on a full-time basis, for longer periods instead of the current system where they appoint one on a series-by-series basis. The board dismissed this as well, asking why, if other countries also appoint in this way, should they change. "These recommendations are probably given by PTT as 'best business practice' rather than Pakistan specific. To our knowledge, there are other countries that nominate managers on a tour-by-tour basis and the system works well for them. Same in the case with other support staff who are appointed by the boards. In the absence of any plausible argument in favour of change, such recommendations cannot be accepted nor implemented."

The board concludes by hoping that amendments will now be made "for the report to reflect the true facts and reality." Ijaz Butt, chairman of the PCB, expressed his appreciation for the work of the PTT and reiterated that the recommendations are not binding on the board. "I am grateful to the PTT for their work. While the intent cannot be questioned, few discrepancies can be identified in the report, which the PCB consider duty-bound to rectify. I wish to reiterate the assurance of the ICC to us that recommendations in the report are not directives to the PCB and that it is entirely up to the PCB to accept and implement these. Having consulted members of our board of governors, we decided to send a detailed response to ICC. I hope that it will be taken in a positive spirit."

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo