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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Governing Board takes PCB chief to task

LAHORE: The Governing Board members forced Chairman, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Ijaz Butt to play on the back foot in a crucial meeting held at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) on Monday.

Well-informed sources told Dawn that the chairman wanted approval for the 2007-08 season’s budget but the members turned it down, asking him (the chairman) to produce all records of income and expenditures before taking the approval.

Ijaz will now produce the record in the next meeting on Nov 7.

Meanwhile, the PCB changed its audit company as the previous one had refused to audit PCB’s accounts for the 2007-08 season due to their incomplete financial records.

The members did not allow acting NCA and Game Development Director Haroon Rasheed to make his presentation over domestic structure when Javed Miandad, who was one of the members, raised an objection against it.

Miandad was of the view that as director general of the PCB, domestic cricket was his not Haroon’s domain. Most of the members supported Miandad’s objection.

According to sources, the members showed their annoyance with the chairman for having his close relative Mohammad Naeem as chief financial adviser.

They were unhappy with Naeem’s way of dealing and his abundant foreign tours. However, they extended his tenure till Nov 30 for the last time.

Sources also said that Ijaz would also try to include Naeem in the next Governing Board, which will be formed after the existing one will be dissolved on Nov 9.

It may be mentioned here that Ijaz had already recommended Naeem’s name as a Governing Board member some eight months ago to PCB’s Patron-in-Chief President Asif Ali Zardari.

Moreover, the members also grilled the PCB on having appointed umpires from local associations just to save money in the ongoing Quaid-i-Azam Trophy.

The PCB has to pay allowance to umpires, referees and scorers when they are called in from other cities. They were of the view that neutral umpires were being placed to supervise matches all over the world but the PCB had decided to appoint local umpires, who may take biased decisions.

The decision will be implemented in the ongoing matches of the Trophy.

Earlier, the PCB had dropped a point in the agenda of the meeting to discuss controversial statements made by some members of the Governing Board over Pakistan’s defeat in the semi-final of the Champions Trophy against New Zealand.

Sources also added that Dr Mohammad Ali Shah severely criticised ICC umpires for giving controversial decisions against Pakistan.

They were of the view that Ijaz, to some extent, had also violated the ICC rules by saying before the National Assembly Standing Committee on Sports that some of the umpires’ decisions were controversial.

The manager and associate manager of the national team had also spoken against the planning of the match with Shahid Afridi saying that Pakistan could not properly utilise the power-play.

Similarly, Shoaib Malik had also issued a statement that he would neither open the innings nor bat at number three.

The chairman finally decided to form a three-member committee comprising Javed Miandad, Shakil Sheikh (Islamabad) and Dr Mohammad Ali Shah (Karachi) to prepare a plan to be presented in the next meeting.

Ijaz hopeful of playing India at neutral venues

LAHORE: Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Ijaz Butt on Wednesday expressed optimism for a series against arch-rivals India at a neutral venue in 2010, asserting the International Cricket Council (ICC) has shown interest in resumption of the high-profile contests in the US.

‘Insha Allah a series between Pakistan and India will be held at a neutral venue next year as my meetings with the Indian cricket officials as well as government officials will bring good results,’ Ijaz said while talking to reporters after reaching Lahore from New Delhi following an eight-day visit to India.

‘The United States is a good place [for the series]. But since there is just one stadium in Florida where only one One-day International or two Twenty20 matches could be held, it is not suitable for a high-profile series,’ he stated.

Ijaz further said that the International Cricket Council (ICC) was also interested in resumption of the competitions between Pakistan and India in the US to promote the game in that region.

The PCB chief asserted that during his visit he also asked the BCCI to invite Pakistani players for the next edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

No Pakistani player featured in this year’s IPL event due to strained political ties between the two countries after the Mumbai attack last November.

Though the BCCI had invited many Pakistani cricketers for IPL’s first edition held in 2008, for the second they refused to include any player from across the border after the government of Pakistan decided not to allow any player to visit India due to the tense situation arising out of the Mumbai incident.

It may be mentioned here that the BCCI has linked the revival of cricket ties between the two countries with the permission of their government.

An Indian board official had said soon after Ijaz met his Indian counterpart, Shashank Manohar, in Mohali this week that resumption of bilateral matches with Pakistan was not possible in the near future, adding it (BCCI) would consider this matter late next year.

Manohar had told Ijaz that even after the government’s clearance, the schedule for the series (with Pakistan) could not be finalised before the next seven months or so as the Indian team would be too busy in other international assignments during that period.

Shashi Tharoor, India’s Minister of State for External Affairs, had reportedly floated the idea for a bilateral series with Pakistan in the US, a notion the BCCI termed as premature.

The PCB impatiently wants its national team to play against India to improve its financial state, since it could earn 65 per cent of the media rights through a series against India.

By holding the home series at neutral venues against Australia and New Zealand due to security issues in Pakistan, the PCB could not earn enough profits to meet its expenditure.

Meanwhile, asked why the PCB had permitted Misbah-ul-Haq to play in the Bangladesh domestic league while Quaid-i-Azam Trophy, Pakistan’s premier domestic first-class tournament, is in progress, Ijaz said the board has a clear policy to allow all players to earn money by playing abroad, and they are only bound to be available for the national team.

‘If they [players] have no national duty, all of them are allowed to play abroad to earn money,’ Ijaz said.

The PCB chief said the next Asia Cup could be held either in China, Malaysia or Sri Lanka as all three countries were quite interested in hosting the event.

Hendon: The week that was

Eurosport commentator David Hendon looks back on the week that was, including Rory McLeod's win at the Masters qualifying event.

So well done to Rory McLeod for winning the Masters qualifying event.

His career seems to have blossomed much later than you would expect. Rory's 38 now but in the last year made three successive centuries against Ronnie O'Sullivan at the UK Championship, qualified for the Crucible for the first time and is now Wembley bound.

A Wellingborough boy of Jamaican parents, McLeod now lives in Qatar.

During the Masters qualifiers he spent time between matches listening to verses from the Koran in an attempt to relax himself. It obviously worked and he now waits to see whether he will play Mark Williams or Mark King.

This will depend on who the other wildcard is. Liang Wenbo is hot favourite and will surely only miss out if there is a shock winner of the UK Championship.

You will recall McLeod and King played out a long, often tedious match at the World Championship last season that went into an extra session, so if they are paired together again I fear for the sanity of whoever is making the decision.

Better to pair McLeod with Williams and King with Liang.

Not that Rory will care who he plays. Snooker professionals at all levels are well used to the setbacks and disappointments that inevitably come as part and parcel of a sporting career.

This, though, is a moment to relish.

The Masters is the game's most prestigious invitation tournament and to many players second only to the World Championship in terms of prestige.

Stephen Hendry won it a record six times and has appeared in a record nine finals.

He likes a record, does Stephen, just as he likes a trophy.

On Sunday he won his 74th in defeating Ken Doherty 5-3 to win the first 110sport Legends event in Glenrothes.

I can report it was a fun weekend, although the action was serious as the old warhorses locked horns once again.

I was alarmed by the sight of a frail Alex Higgins unable to produce any sort of form but cheered by Cliff Thorburn's warmth towards him and the Canadian's general charisma.

Hendry was a fitting winner, given that his legendary status cannot be questioned.

He remains snooker's greatest ever player. Tony Drago, with whom I did some commentary, also pointed out that he has profoundly changed snooker.

"Stephen is the most attacking player I have ever played. All the players who have come since have copied him," he said.

While we were enjoying ourselves in Scotland, Ricky Walden was out pounding the streets as he completed the New York marathon in a time of four hours, 17 minutes.

That sounds pretty good to me and Ricky raised around £1,500 for the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Meanwhile, the WPBSA board member, Jim McMahon, made an attempt to broker peace in the civil war afflicting Scottish amateur snooker and came very close, but the old order - having agreed on a way forward with the rival group - reneged on it at the last minute.

The WPBSA understandably withdrew from the mediation process and have now taken away the main tour place for Scotland.

While I was in Scotland I heard nothing but bad things about those who have been running Scottish Snooker for the last few years.

Their actions have now resulted in the young Scottish players they are supposed to be representing suffering the ignominy of not having a place on the circuit to play for.

If this doesn't galvanise action north of the border, surely nothing will.

Next up in November is Pro Challenge Series event three in Leicester, followed by the UK Championship qualifiers.

Also, the IBSF world amateur championship takes place in India, starting on the 15th.