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The Light Roller

Hurray, the PCB is back to being the beloved drama we want to binge

A starring role for Ramiz Raja, a special appearance by Shahid Afridi, sackings, accusations - there's nothing else we'd rather watch

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
16-Jan-2023
"They may kill off my character mid-season, but you know that two episodes down I'll be back as a long-lost twin or the villain who undergoes plastic surgery to look like me but it turns out it was me all along"  •  AFP/Getty Images

"They may kill off my character mid-season, but you know that two episodes down I'll be back as a long-lost twin or the villain who undergoes plastic surgery to look like me but it turns out it was me all along"  •  AFP/Getty Images

Sometimes, people just want to turn on the TV/engage their multiplatform streaming service and watch the old stuff. The shows where they know what's coming and can quote all the lines. Just look at the enduring popularity of the Fast & Furious franchise, or Friends being one of the most-watched things on Netflix. Basically, if it ain't woke, don't fix it.
Which brings us to long-running, and hugely popular, subcontinental soap opera The PCB. Once primus inter pares in the dysfunctional board stakes, Pakistan's administration had gradually become more and more vanilla. This was understandable - when you're trying to get international teams to tour again after a decade, the how-to-lose-friends-and-alienate-people approach is better off shelved.
Ehsan Mani and Wasim Khan were emollient, capable types, while Imran Khan lurked in the background, bringing a frankly uncalled-for level of gravitas to the production - even if his high-handed approach did fit the overall vibe.
But there were signs in the return of Ramiz Raja that The PCB could get back to its former heights. Resurrecting a much-loved character can go either way, but Ramiz dived into the role with gusto, taking to his YouTube channel to drop truth bombs when New Zealand and England pulled out of touring in 2021, and getting increasingly "method" in his approach to the Pakistani-Test-pitches storyline. Rumours he had taken to conducting all his business from the groundsman's shed at the Gaddafi Stadium remain as yet unfounded.
And Ramiz was at the heart of things as the show found its sweet spot once again - this time with a comeback for another old-school boardroom big beast in Najam Sethi. Light Roller readers will doubtless remember fondly the early Sethi years, when he formed a comedy two-hander with Zaka Ashraf, in which the two of them swapped in and out of the role of chairman every few months, like rival schoolboy gangs competing to sit on the back seat of the bus.
This time, all the old numbers were rolled out, as Ramiz decried "political interference", the new PCB honchos threatened legal action, and Sethi set about restoring an old version of the constitution. Plus, they raided the special-effects budget, with Sethi tweeting a slickly Photoshopped graphic comparing his record with those of Mani and Ramiz - a gloriously petty document in which he only just stopped short of describing them both as bad lovers and pygmies of masculinity.
Another sure-fire ratings winner was the shock appointment of Shahid Afridi as interim chief selector. A few wild-card picks into the job and Afridi has hinted that he won't be staying around for long - already setting up a delicious cycle in which he comes out of selector "retirement" half a dozen times over the next 18 months.
In fact, given Pakistan's recent run of results, he might be best off selecting himself. Either way, get the popcorn in, folks. This season's going to be binge-worthy!

****

For some, RONSBU (Running Out Non-Striker Backing Up) dismissals are a straightforward business: if the batter's out of their ground, then he or she - come and join the fun, ladies - is fair game. It's not always that simple, however, as Adam Zampa discovered in the Big Bash recently, and now we have a new sub-clause to consider. Over to Rohit Sharma, who withdrew an appeal against Dasun Shanaka after the Sri Lanka captain was caught leaving the crease in the final over of the Guwahati ODI: "He is batting on 98. We cannot get him out like that. We wanted to get him out the way we thought we would get him out." So if the guy's about to get a hundred, in a game you've already won, then he can back up as far as he likes, it seems. Look forward to seeing how they word it in the next edition of the Laws.

****

South Africa have just been battered in their Test series in Australia. South Africa are struggling to qualify directly for the 50-over World Cup. South Africa bombed out of the last T20 World Cup in the most South Africa way imaginable. But don't worry, this is fine; because South Africa now has a T20 league. And not just any T20 league*… A T20 league suckling at the moneyed teat of the IPL, filled with not-so-cheap imitations such as Joburg Super Kings and Pretoria Capitals. That, we're assuming, is the primary reason David Miller was persuaded to wear neon pink nipple pasties in the promotional video for the competition's launch.
*Like the Ram Slam T20 or the Mzansi Super League or even the T20 Global League (which never existed outside of some PowerPoint presentations, to be fair)

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick