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Sharif to the rescue?

on October 23 | in Sports | by | with No Comments

An avid cricket follower, the prime minister has padded up to bat for Pakistan cricket by becoming PCB’s chief patron
By Khalid Hussain

Pakistan’s seven-wicket triumph against South Africa in Abu Dhabi last Thursday was a much-needed and morale-boosting result — nothing more, nothing less.

After Pakistan’s disastrous showing at last summer’s Champions Trophy and their shocking Test defeat against minnows Zimbabwe in Harare, the national team needed to redeem itself.

A win against the world’s top Test team is the sort of result which can help Pakistan achieve that task. However, their mission is far from accomplished. Pakistan will have to make sure that they don’t waste what is a perfect opportunity to record a rare series win against the Proteas.

Misbah-ul-Haq and his men should go for the kill in Dubai which will host the second and final Test next week. The conditions in Dubai won’t be much different from what the two sides experienced in Abu Dhabi — the venue of the series opener — which means that Pakistan would once again be holding the upper hand. It is going to be hot in Dubai and the track is likely to provide ample assistance to spinners. Pakistan should exploit both these factors just like they did in Abu Dhabi.

The South Africans, meanwhile, will find it tough to bounce back and level the series considering that next week’s Test is their only chance to do so. The ingredients are more or less the same as they were in Abu Dhabi and the only major difference could be Hashim Amla — South Africa’s top performer in Abu Dhabi — who might not be there to rescue his team in Dubai. Amla, who hit a classy ton in the first Test, has returned home for the birth of his second child and could miss the final Test.

Whether Amla plays in Dubai or stays home with his family one thing is for sure: Pakistan have grabbed the momentum and are in a good position to win the series. I believe that they will go on to secure a 2-0 whitewash after recording a 3-0 clean sweep against England in the UAE last year.

But unfortunately, Pakistan cricket won’t be out of the woods even if the national team punches above its weight and wins a series against the world’s best team. The issues and problems confronting Pakistan cricket are just too big.

While the national team is busy playing in the UAE, back home confusion and turmoil remain the key words when one is talking about Pakistan cricket.

The country’s cricket chiefs were supposed to hold free and fair elections for the post of PCB chairman by last Friday (October 18). However, it was quite clear that the deadline set by the courts would expire without elections taking place. So just a couple of days before its expiry, certain amendments were made in the PCB Constitution that allowed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to become the Board’s chief patron and take steps to smoothen its day to day functioning.

Sharif has appointed an interim management committee headed by Najam Sethi to run the Pakistan Cricket Board. The committee includes ex-PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan, former Pakistan Test captain Zaheer Abbas, Haroon Rasheed and seasoned bureaucrat Naveed Akram Cheema. The committee’s mandate is to hold Board elections within 90 days.

With this one move, Sharif has made his intent clear. An avid cricket follower, the prime minister has padded up to bat for Pakistan cricket by becoming PCB’s chief patron. In the past, that position was occupied by the President of Pakistan.

On a short term basis, it’s a positive development for Pakistan cricket. For Sharif, lifting Pakistan cricket out of its current mess might not be on the top of the agenda at a time when the country is facing issues of humungous proportions like terrorism and a faltering economy. But cricket is certainly on the prime minister’s menu, something that was proved by last week’s notification. Boosting Pakistan cricket is going to be an easier task than improving the country’s security situation or reviving its economy. That is why one can expect that the government will throw its weight behind the PCB at a time when an interim set-up will be making efforts to put Pakistan cricket back on track.

The most important goal for the interim committee will be to make sure that elections do take place on time and in the right manner. As PCB’s interim chairman, Sethi failed to hold the elections but he and fellow committee members shouldn’t fail again. Several concrete steps are needed to be taken to lift Pakistan cricket but most of them can only be taken by elected officials. Pakistan need to bring international action back to its shores. It will have to bring massive improvement to its domestic system which is currently in a shambles. And the list goes on.

A comprehensive campaign is needed to provide a much-needed boost to Pakistan cricket. Najam Sethi and Co can give it a kick-start by paving the path for transparent elections both at the regional and national levels.

The men who form the interim committee seem to have the required credentials. Shaharyar has long been associated with Pakistan cricket one way or the other. Zaheer Abbas is one of the country’s legendary cricketers while Haroon Rasheed has played various innings as player, coach and administrator. Naveed Cheema has been part of Pakistan cricket as the national team’s manager and did a pretty decent job. Sethi was a cricketing nobody till a few months back but as acting PCB chairman he must have done his homework by now. The onus is on this group of five to accomplish the responsibility entrusted to them.

Khalid Hussain is Editor Sports of The News, Karachi

[email protected]

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