Monday April 22, 2024

Ramiz Raja warns India against 'bossing' Pakistan

Raja says political interference in cricket is "not justified; govt removed a Test cricketer just to accommodate Najam Sethi"

By Sports Desk
December 26, 2022
Former Test cricketer and Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ramiz Raja. — PCB/File
Former Test cricketer and Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ramiz Raja. — PCB/File

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) should not try to boss Pakistan, warned former Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ramiz Raja while talking about next year’s Asia Cup.

India spurred controversy as it decided against touring Pakistan for the Asia Cup 2023.

During a live session on his official YouTube channel on Monday, Raja said: “The way India announced that they won’t play Asia Cup in Pakistan wasn’t right. They issued the statement without consulting Asian Cricket Council members. India should not have tried to boss Pakistan or any other country like this.

"I would have had no problem if BCCI had said India cannot participate in Asia Cup 2023 because they cannot travel to Pakistan but BCCI cannot take a unilateral decision of taking Asia Cup out of Pakistan at a neutral venue.

"BCCI should not bring politics into cricket. Cricket fans in India want to see Shaheen [Afridi] and Babar [Azam] play in India whereas Pakistani cricket fans want [Virat] Kohli and KL Rahul to play in Pakistan. However, the decision by BCCI on Asia Cup has developed hatred between Pakistan and India."

Earlier, Pakistani cricket authorities hinted they may pull out of next year's World Cup in India, a day after officials there said they would not send a team to the 2023 Asia Cup in Pakistan.

Indian cricket board secretary Jay Shah — who is also president of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) — said that India "can't" send a team to Pakistan, adding the tournament would be moved to a neutral venue.

His announcement caught Pakistan by surprise, with officials warning it could "split" the international cricket community.

Despite being considered one of the sport's greatest rivalries, India and Pakistan have not met on home soil in any version of the game since 2012, and only play each other in multinational tournaments on neutral grounds.

The PCB said it has not received any official communication from the ACC, and noted that hosting rights for the 2023 Asia Cup had been given to Pakistan under Shah's leadership.

"Mr Shah's statement of shifting of the ACC Asia Cup has clearly been made unilaterally," the PCB said, and called for an emergency meeting of the Asian Board "as soon as practically possible on this important and sensitive matter".

The PCB said Shah's comments "can impact Pakistan's visit to India for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 and future ICC Events in India in the 2024-2031 cycle".

'Not justified, highly disrespectful'

Raja also opened up about the management committee led by Najam Sethi — who served as the PCB head during the Pakistan Muslim League's (PML-N) last tenure.

While speaking for the first time after being sacked, Raja said political interference in cricket is "not justified".

"There should be no political interference in cricket. The Government of Pakistan removed a Test cricketer from the chairmanship of PCB just to accommodate Sethi. This is a highly disrespectful way of treating your cricketers,” said Raja.

"The Government of Pakistan changed the whole Constitution of PCB just to accommodate Sethi. I have never seen this ever in my life,” he added.

Raja also opened up about the captaincy of Babar Azam and the impact of the new PCB setup on the batter’s leadership.

"I believe in an authoritative captain but Babar has to bring improvement in his captaincy,” he said.

"The new hierarchy in PCB will put pressure on Babar because the captain now has to work with a new management of PCB during the ongoing season,” he added.

Ramiz Raja sacked

It must be noted that Raja was sacked just days after the national team suffered a humiliating first-ever 3-0 home series whitewash at the hands of England, according to a government notice.

But a change had been on the cards since April when Imran Khan — a former national captain — was ousted as prime minister and replaced by Shehbaz Sharif.

Raja, a member of Khan's 1992 World Cup-winning side, was appointed chairman of the PCB in September last year.

A government notice seen Sharif's cabinet had dismissed Raja, and the PCB would now be run by a 14-member committee headed by Najam Sethi, who has twice served as chairman.

The committee also includes legendary all-rounder Shahid Afridi, who is a former captain of the men's team.

The government notice also said the current constitution of the board has been scrapped, and one dating from 2014 revived.

The committee will have 120 days to change the constitution and elect a new chairman.

Khan came under fire for changing the PCB's constitution in 2019 — in particular for abolishing the role of government departments and private entities in first-class cricket, leaving hundreds unemployed.

However, in his tweet, Sethi said "thousands of cricketers will be employed again".

"The famine in cricket will come to an end," he added.