Ashraf to take charge on Monday
Mohammad Zaka Ashraf, the new PCB chairman, is due to take charge on Monday, ten days after his appointment was confirmed. Ashraf has been winding up affairs in his former job as chairman of the Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) but his relative silence on cricketing matters since his appointment has increased the sense of enigma, especially in contrast to the colourful and controversial regime of Ijaz Butt.
When he does take charge, Ashraf will find a pretty full in-tray left by his predecessor. At the international level, Ashraf's job will be to win some credibility back for the PCB, handle the results of the spot-fixing case currently on in London and also balance out the various lobbies in the ICC in Pakistan's best interests. His immediate task will be to negotiate with the Bangladesh Cricket Board over the choice of the vice-president's candidate for the ICC. ESPNcricinfo understands that while the PCB is currently involved in internal turmoil, the BCB has already begun working on firming up its choice.
Butt's tenure exposed the loopholes in the PCB's administration, with the power of the chairman being exercised and exposed with dramatic consequences. There is an anxiety in the PCB offices because the new broom may want to sweep clean, starting with key personnel within the selection committee, the post of director of international cricket - currently held by Intikhab Alam - and the Chief Operating Office Subhan Ahmed. Zaheer Abbas, who was keen on Ashraf's job, is said to be a leading contender for the COO's job with Basit Ali finding his way on to the selection committee. The important job of head coach of the national team will perhaps be the single most discussed decision early on in his tenure.
Ashraf's ascent to the highest position in Pakistan cricket is, as always, a political appointment - he is famous for his proximity to President Asif Zardari - but given a fresh twist by the fact that, unlike his predecessors, he has had no links with cricket other than as a normal viewer. It is perhaps why there is some anxiety in the PCB and across Pakistan cricket that Ashraf will apply a more corporate stamp on the game; while possibly free of the upheaval of the Butt years, it may mean no more than a cosmetic administrative reshuffle at a time when foresight and clear decision-making are required.
However, there are signs of hope, most significantly from Ashraf's role as head of ZTBL, whose cricket team signed on several key players - including internationals Imran Nazir, Sohail Tanvir, Yasir Hameed, Rao Iftikhar and Mohamamd Khalil - to establish its name in first-class cricket. Among his peers in the banking and agricultural sectors he is respected and considered to have maintained some degree of integrity; given his political connections, though, genuinely neutral appraisals of the man are hard to find.
Instead, comparisons are drawn between his and his predecessor's cricket experience. Butt played Test cricket and had been part of the national administration since the 1980s, and a figure in Lahore cricket even before that. Ashraf's slate is comparatively blank but one of his predecessors, Gen Tauqir Zia, says being a 'cricket insider' is not a mandatory qualification for the job.
"From the administration point of view I don't think a cricketing background is a must for the chairman," Zia told ESPNcricinfo. "In our cricketing history and even around the world most of the chairmen or presidents aren't cricketers; it's a plus point if you have two qualifications in one person but passion towards the game is must."
Zia then spoke of Ijaz Butt. "He is a former cricketer but the PCB had a poor experience with him. So it's not really a matter of concern whether you are a cricketer or executive, what's important is you must be good enough to carry on the administration with the correct strategy and the right frame of mind. You have to be professional enough to deal with any variety of cricketing matters. And, given that you're working with a large bunch of top sportsmen, you must have extensive man-management skills. "
Ashraf will need all those skills over the coming weeks and months to try and tackle everything that is on his plate.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent