Najam Sethi pulls out of race to be PCB chairman

Head of interim management committee doesn't wish to be 'bone of contention' for PCB

Umar Farooq
Umar Farooq
PCB management committee chairman Najam Sethi attends a press conference, Rawalpindi, April 20, 2023

Najam Sethi has withdrawn from the running to be full-time PCB chairman  •  AFP/Getty Images

Najam Sethi has effectively stepped down as head of the PCB, after pulling himself out of the race to become the next board chairman. Sethi was heading an interim management committee that had been running the board since last December but whose tenure was due to end on June 21.
Until recently it had seemed that Sethi would carry on after the interim set-up ended and be appointed chairman of the board proper. But speculation had grown over the last couple of weeks on the return of Zaka Ashraf. Ashraf, a former board chairman himself, returning is not yet official but that Sethi will not carry on now is.
"I don't want to be a bone of contention between Asif Zardari and Shehbaz Sharif," Sethi tweeted. "Such instability and uncertainty is not good for PCB. Under the circumstances I am not a candidate for Chairmanship of PCB. Good luck to all stakeholders."
Sethi's tweet was referencing the political horsetrading over the chairman's seat. Shehbaz Sharif is the current Prime Minister of Pakistan and the PCB patron. Asif Ali Zardari, a former Pakistan president with the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), is a prominent coalition partner in the current government and Ashraf is thought to be his party's man for the post.
Traditionally in Pakistan cricket, it is the PM's appointment to the PCB board of governors who usually becomes the board chairman. Ordinarily, the PCB chairman would be a pick of Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) party. But over the last couple of weeks, the PPP has insisted that as they are the ones in charge of Pakistan sports, through the ministry for inter-provincial coordination (IPC) it maintained the right to nominate a candidate of their choosing.
Although the prime minister is yet to nominate two names, ESPNcricinfo understands that Ashraf, along with the renowned Supreme Court lawyer Mustafa Ramday, are the two who will be nominated. Both will be added to PCB's 10-member board of governors (BoG) with one of the PM's direct nominees likely to be elected as PCB chairman for three years. Ashraf is the overwhelming favourite to be elected, with the election process usually a formality.
Ashraf's return after a period of nine years ends - for now at least - a repeat of the tussles that marked the tug of war between him and Sethi between 2013 and 2014. The pair were involved in a protracted legal battle for the position in those years, with chairmanship switching hands several times. That issue was seemingly settled when former prime minister Nawaz Sharif - Shehbaz's elder brother - finally ousted Ashraf and brought in Sethi. But after days of intense mediation between both parties, Sethi was compelled to make way for Ashraf.
Sethi has been running the PCB on an interim basis since Ramiz Raja was removed as chairman and the board's 2019 constitution was scrapped in December last year. Sethi's committee was initially given 120 days to bring back the 2014 constitution under which the PCB was run and reinstate the regional and department structure in domestic cricket. The committee was also given a mandate to form a board of governors and elect a chairman.
That meant the dismissal of the six-team provincial model for domestic cricket which was formed with the backing of former premier Imran Khan. The domestic structure will now be based on 16 regions, marked by a return of departments. Among them, four regions and four departments are set to be given a board seat at the PCB for a term of three years.
The 2014 constitution also requires the PCB to form a board of governors comprising ten members: four out of the 16 regional representatives, four representatives of services organisations, and two members directly nominated by the PCB patron.
Over the last six months, Sethi's management committee has also overseen the hiring of a predominantly overseas coaching staff for Pakistan, with former head coach Mickey Arthur appointed part-time director of cricket.
One of the thornier issues that occupied Sethi during his short stint was Pakistan's hosting of the Asia Cup and its link to Pakistan's potential participation in the World Cup, scheduled to be held in India in October this year. Three days ago Sethi was talking about Pakistan's participation at the event being subject to the approval of the Pakistan government. That will be one of the more pressing issues for Sethi's successor to deal with.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent