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Imran's exit casts shadow over Ramiz's future as PCB chairman

New premier Shahbaz Sharif is thought to be weighing up options; Najam Sethi could be in the fray

Umar Farooq
Umar Farooq
Ramiz Raja may not remain in his seat as PCB chairman for much longer  •  PCB

Ramiz Raja may not remain in his seat as PCB chairman for much longer  •  PCB

Over a week after the ouster of Imran Khan and his government, the fate of PCB chairmanship remains uncertain. Ramiz Raja, the current board chairman, was hand-picked by Imran when he was prime minister last year, having played nearly half of his 255 international matches under Imran's captaincy.
But with Imran gone, speculation has grown around Ramiz's future; traditionally, any changes of government have led to a change of PCB chairman. And the new premier Shahbaz Sharif, who automatically assumes the position of patron of the PCB, is thought to be weighing up options to replace Ramiz.
Imran was removed from power on April 10, in divisive circumstances, after a vote of no-confidence in parliament that he had initially tried to dismiss. Parliamentarians from his PTI party (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf) have since resigned en masse from parliament and party appointments in various state institutions are being gradually removed or replaced.
The new government, a coalition of parties that came together to remove Imran, are jostling over the formulation of a new cabinet and though cricket is not the highest priority, it is thought they will eventually get to changes in the board.
As is often the case, a number of different names as replacements are doing the rounds. Najam Sethi, the former board chairman and a Sharif family ally is among the more prominent ones (though Sethi is thought to be closer to the former PM and elder Sharif brother, Nawaz, rather than Shahbaz).
The change at the top might not be the only one. With Imran's exit, a group led by former board members has begun urging the government to go back to the previous domestic structure in which departmental teams such as SNGPL and PIA were part of the first-class circuit.
This group is also talking about restructuring domestic cricket back along regional lines, as they were before the 2019-20 revamp. That season, domestic cricket was changed to a provincial model, with six teams made up of Pakistan's provinces playing in all tournaments. That change was insisted upon by Imran himself, who has long wanted Pakistan's domestic scene to replicate that of Australia's.
The change of chairmanship is thought to be all but inevitable, a matter of when not if. While the new government works its way through the most pressing priorities and formulates a new cabinet, Ramiz has continued in the position as normal. He was in Dubai for ICC meetings - where he saw his plans for a quadrangular tournament turned down - as Imran was being removed from government.
He has since announced plans for a junior T20 league. And in an informal talk with journalists recently, Imran is believed to have confirmed that he had spoken to Ramiz and asked him to continue and fight till the very end.
Constitutionally, the Prime Minister of the country, as the PCB's Patron-in-chief, nominates two members to the PCB's governing board. The two then come through an election to become chairman, but in practice, this is a mere formality: the PM essentially appoints the chairman.
The position isn't based on any set criteria though the PCB constitution requires the PM to name someone who is at least a graduate and isn't convicted for any offences including fraud or corrupt practices.
No provision in the constitution allows the patron to withdraw the sitting chairman. The only way a chairman can be removed is through a vote of no confidence in the governing board, requiring a 3/4th majority. But generally, if the Patron wants the chairman changed, it is unusual for the incumbent to stay on. When Imran was elected PM in 2018, Sethi himself resigned and allowed Imran to bring in Ehsan Mani.
But in 2014, Zaka Ashraf refused to resign after a change in government, resulting in then-PM Nawaz Sharif revoking the board, forming a management committee that later elected Sethi as its chairman. That led to a period marred by a power struggle between Sethi and Ashraf; the pair fought legal battles in courts, swapped positions several times before Sethi finally consolidated his power with the backing of Sharif.
In the last three terms, every new chairman has amended the constitution after taking power; the present constitution was implemented in 2019 and was the fifth since 1995 and the fourth in the last 15 years.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent