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Friday, May 13, 2011

Pathetic PCB preventing cricket’s progress

The inherent trait of conflicts and controversies practiced and promoted by present set-up of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has prevented our cricket from making the desired progress to capture a place among top teams of the world. The six weeks of World Cup 2011, during which Pakistan managed to reach the semifinals, apparently looked like a period of relative peace and harmony but it was not so.

It was a phase of blistering differences between coach Waqar Younis and skipper Shahid Afridi mainly on the matters of selection. The issue if leaked out would have caused tremendous shame to the Pakistan team. Afridi very wisely tolerated all the taunts, gimmicks and shouts, at times agreeing and at times not agreeing with the coach. He, however, remained absolutely firm in his conduct as captain preventing the gang of officials from making undue interference into the affairs of the team. He kept the things under control without giving a clue to the media till Pakistan reached Mohali where the team succumbed to the politics of Himalayan level to create history.

The next international engagement of our team was the tour of the West Indies in which the series of five one-day internationals (ODIs) was of paramount importance. Having defeated the Windies all ends up during the World Cup, our team had judged the weakness of the opponents and were fully confident of achieving a clean sweep of the series. The relationship with coach Waqar having become extremely bitter, Afridi initially declined to accompany the team to West Indies ‘for personal reasons’. Some of his well wishers, however, advised him not to leave the team after doing so well in a great event like the World Cup. He changed his decision and accompanied the team. The team performed as successfully as planned. Pakistan won the three ODI’s in a row winning the series while the fourth one became the joint victim of rain and the Lewis-Duckworth rules. The fifth and last ODI was gifted to the hosts consequent to a serious altercation between the two officials, the bone of contention being the dropping of in form player Asad Shafiq by the coach.

The major point of contention between Waqar and Afridi was Waqar’s authoritative attitude in selection matters. During the West Indies tour while Afridi wanted to give ample chance to the new players considering that ‘they were not on tour for a joy ride’ while Waqar kept on resisting and playing the tried and tested old hags. Cricket fans, who were aspiring for a straight 5-0 victory, were not pleased with the 3-2 win caused mainly due to a rift between the two top officials. While coach Waqar has stayed back with the team to complete the series Afridi is back home.

Immediately on arrival, Afridi made a press statement criticising coach Waqar for interfering in the team selection. He also touched upon the differences that existed within the team management. The PCB immediately reacted to the statement as a violation of the code of conduct and issued a show cause notice to Afridi to which he has submitted a reply.

It is quite likely that the matter will be decided on Waqar’s return but there are two schools of thought. Some sources indicate that PCB chief Ijaz Butt is not happy with Afridi’s performance as well as attitude to go public about the team affairs. There may thus be a chance of his losing the ‘limited over matches captaincy’. ‘Boom Boom’ Afridi having turned into a legend, I think it would be too big a punishment for an issue which could be easily sorted out by the team’s management headed by a seasoned manager like Intikhab Alam. The other suggestion that he should be set free with a reprieve appears reasonable.

Another alarming conflict of similar nature occurred within the PCB’s headquarters where agitated by the dictatorial conduct of Ijaz Butt, chief selector Mohsin Khan threatened to resign from his post. Mohsin was irked by the fact that he was not given a free hand in selecting the team. The team selected by his committee was often changed by the chairman arbitrarily. His objection is quite valid because the selection committee forms the team after meticulously watching the performance of each player. In contrast since the chairman does not go through such a process the induction of any player by him is based either on ‘safarish or personal liking.’ To prevent the issue from turning into a national debate Ijaz found it convenient to have a compromise with the chief selector. It is high time that the PCB avoids such conflicts and controversies and concentrates on boosting up the game.

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