To say the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is in crisis is like saying there are 12 months in every year.
The latest turmoil revolves around the powers, or lack thereof, that acting/caretaker chairman Najam Sethi can exercise according to the board’s constitution. Sethi was drafted in as temporary head after Zaka Ashraf, appointed chief by the country’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, in 2011, was suspended by the Islamabad High Court following his “illegal election" as PCB chairman.
The PCB has filed an appeal against the limited powers Sethi has, citing the need to finalise media rights, budgetary allocations, formation of committees and appointment of heads, including that of the selection committee—Moin Khan was named chief selector, an appointment later reversed due to the high court’s decision.
Problems at the helm of Pakistan cricket have existed for a long time, but have markedly increased since the 2009 Lahore attacks on the Sri Lankan team. Pakistan has been declared a no-go area for cricket—and most sports—with teams and cash-flow severely hit as a result.
Government interference—where the country’s president appoints the PCB chief—does not go down well with the game's followers. However, even the new constitution, which has been approved by the International Cricket Council (ICC), allows Pakistan's president to name the shortlist from which the chief will be picked by a committee formed by the board of governors.
The domestic cricket structure has been neglected as the board searches desperately for greener pastures and a series against India. The state of the game in Pakistan plumbed new depths when Bangladesh was being convinced to tour, despite a deteriorating law-and-order situation.
The state of the pitches, umpiring standards, domestic players’ salaries and renovation of stadia are all essential issues shoved to one side as the game's rulers lurch from crisis to crisis.
Each time a new chairman takes charge of the PCB, Pakistan's long-suffering cricket fans hope for a new dawn that revives their beloved sport. However, that hope barely lasts long enough for the new incumbent to start the job before historic problems of poor decision-making, vested interests, a bulging collection of airmiles and wilful ignorance of the most important issues come to the fore once more.
Reports have emerged from some circles suggesting that Sethi, in fact, wants his tenure to be longer than 90 days and has ruled out the possibility of holding elections within the stipulated time-frame.
Sethi is a paid employee of a media organisation fighting with the state-run television and a Dubai-based channel for the rights to Pakistan cricket’s local and international events. He’s not a cricket expert but that’s not a pre-requisite to the job. He was handed the chair temporarily so he could attend the ICC meeting in June and sort out the short-term, day-to-day mess, while also ensuring PCB elections were held within 90 days.
He might be a capable administrator—ruling out his skills without them being tested would be wrong—but personal ambition, for personal gain, dilutes the very essence of the role.
But the problem isn’t Sethi—it is the lust for power in anyone who takes up this position.
The fame, the perks and the media attention that a PCB chief gets is second perhaps to the country’s president. Meanwhile, the team reached unprecedented heights and fell to embarrassing lows.
There is no place for democracy in the chairman's office where incumbents traditionally want their signature on every little thing. And when the chairman is absent, the pile of unsigned papers grows higher. There is no delegating of tasks because there is no trust in his subordinates.
Should Najam Sethi be given a free hand to run the PCB?
Meanwhile, somewhere, a game of cricket is waiting to break out. A tour of Zimbabwe will take place in August. Squads need to be selected. MoUs need to be signed. Media rights need to be agreed.
The organisation needs a head who can start making those decisions. Pending the result of the appeal that the PCB has lodged, those unsigned agreements will continue to pile up, waiting for a head with the powers to put pen to paper.
Hopefully, the emphasis now will be on creating a board that works and can address issues such as the failing domestic structure and how spending money on creating new stadiums when there is no international cricket to watch is not a wise decision, especially when the major Test centres in Karachi and Lahore are shabby and in need of urgent repair.
Much like the board itself.
Pakistan Cricket Board chiefs
Iftikhar Hussain Khan: May 1948—March 1950
A. R. Cornelius: 1949—May 1953
Chaudhry Nazir Ahmad Khan: March 1950—Sept 1951
Abdus Sattar Pirzada: September 1951—May 1953
Syed Makdoomzada Hassan Mahmood: May 1953—Oct 1957
Mian Aminuddin: March 1953—Jul 1954
Muhammad Ali Bogra: July 1954—September 1955
Iskander Mirza: September 1955—December 1958
A. T. Naqvi: October 1957—December 1958
S. M. H. Mahmood: December 1958—May 1959
N. M. Khan (Chairman): May 1959—September 1960
Muhammad Ayub Khan: December 1958—October 1959
Muhammad Ayub Khan: October 1959—June 1963
Justice A. R. Cornelius: September 1960—May 1963
Muzafar Hussain: September 1963—Sep 1966
Syed Fida Hussain: 7 September 1963—May 1969
I. A. Khan (President): May 1969—April 1972
Abdul Hafeez Kardar: May 1972—Apr 1977
Chaudhry Muhammad Hussain: Apr 1977—July 1978
K. M. Azhar: August 1978—Feb 1980
Muhammad Nur Khan: February 1980—Feb 1984
Ghulam Safdar Butt: March 1984—February 1988
Zahid Ali Akbar Khan: March 1988—August 1992
Nasim Hasan Shah: Oct 1992—Dec 1993
Javed Burki: 13 January 1994—20 March 1994
Arif Ali Khan Abbasi: Jan 1994—May 1996
Syed Zulfiqar Ali Shah Bukhari: April 1994—Jan 1998
Majid Khan: May 1996—May 1999
Khalid Mahmood: Jan 1998—Jul 1999
Mujeeb ur Rehman: Aug 1999—October 1999
Zafar Altaf: October 1999—December 1999
Tauqir Zia: December 1999—2003
Shaharyar Khan: December 2003—October 2006
Naseem Ashraf: October 2006—August 2008
Ijaz Butt: October 2008—October 2011
Zaka Ashraf: October 2011—June 2013
Najam Sethi: June 2013—Present