It can only happen in Pakistan. The most high-profile sportsmen of the country flop miserably in the most high-profile event -ñ the Cricket World Cup. The chief of the board running the sport resigns, accepting responsibility for the disaster but is asked to continue by the ‘chief patron’ some days later.
The farce continues. The board’s chief – Dr Nasim Ashraf – willingly reaccepts the responsibility of putting his team back on track, expecting everything would somehow fall in to place. He promises to come out with ‘short and long-term rebuilding plans for Pakistan cricket shortly’.
With the decision to retain the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) set-up, in the wake of the Pakistan cricket’s darkest episode, the future of the sport in this sports-mad country seems doomed.
It is crystal clear that the current PCB set-up is ill-equipped to pull Pakistan cricket out of its latest crisis. An organisation, they say, is only as strong as its weakest link. It is unfortunate, but in the case of PCB the weakest link is its top boss.
By opting to continue as PCB chairman, Ashraf has proved that he would stick to the position at any cost event if his own integrity was at stake. Can such a man lead Pakistan cricket out of its worst nightmare?
The worst part is that almost everybody knew where things were going when Ashraf announced his resignation when Pakistan were sent packing out of the World Cup by minnows Ireland. Initially, he tried to brave the storm by promising drastic measures to resurrect Pakistan cricket.
But in the face of some stingy attacks, Ashraf resigned. A few people may have believed he meant it. Most, however, did not. After all, they had seen it happening in the past. In 2003, former PCB chairman General Tauqir Zia staged a similar drama after the Pakistan team’s performance graph nosedived to abysmal depths but his resignation, too, was aimed at assuaging public outrage and was subsequently turned down by President Musharraf.
Everything was theatrical about Ashraf’s resignation too. Even after stepping down as PCB chairman, Ashraf, who it seems was aware that he would be asked to continue, remained busy in giving media interviews and never gave any indication that he really wanted to quit.
Ashraf, a man hand-picked to lead Pakistan cricket in the aftermath of The Oval fiasco, now says that he would rebuild Pakistan cricket. The question is not whether he is capable to do it but why should this gentleman be allowed to take up such an important job in the first place. He has no credentials and in his first six months as PCB chairman has done Pakistan cricket more harm than good.
He has been unable to form a solid team of officials around him, allowed player power to take destructive shape and committed a series of blunders that led to Pakistan’s shocking World Cup exit.
Under Ashraf, the best example of the worst sort of handling of an important issue was the doping scandal of Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif.
In October, the Board initially tried to cover up the fact that Shoaib and Asif tested positive for banned anabolic steroid nandrolone. But it took a u-turn when the story was leaked to the media by an inside source.
The Board formed an inquiry committee that later banned the pace duo after finding them guilty of doping offences. The verdict came almost five months before the World Cup and Pakistan should have started looking beyond the two strike bowlers.
But instead, the PCB worked behind the scenes to get the players off the hook. A PCB appeals committee cleared the players and a race began to make Shoaib and Asif available for the World Cup. They were even included in the 15-man World Cup squad even though it was quite clear that the players were unlikely to pass dope tests as they were still carrying traces of nandrolone in their bloodstream.
Just before the departure of the Pakistan team to the Caribbean, Shoaib and Asif were pulled out of the squad but once again the Board did not come out with the truth. Instead, it was announced that the players have been withdrawn because of injuries.
Pakistan never managed to overcome the setback and lost successive World Cup games against the West Indies and Ireland to slip out of the race for Super Eight qualification.
It is highly unlikely that the Board, under Ashraf, would not commit more blunders in the future.
Pakistan failed to learn when their team was sent packing out of the 2003 World Cup and they have failed to learn from this fresher setback. Cricket, it is apparent, would remain in trouble in a place where it is followed as a religion, in the days to come.
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Post InfoThis entry was posted on Saturday, March 31st, 2007 and is filed under General, Cricket.
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