LAHORE: Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Ehsan Mani has he is running the Board affairs independently and Prime Minister Imran Khan never interferes in the cricketing issues.
Speaking in ‘Breakfast with Jang’ programmes, he announced that Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi cricket teams would visit Pakistan this year, which was good omen for cricket in the country. The Jang Group had invited the PCB chairman to express his views on revival of cricket – PSL-4 and the way forward to World Cup 2019, here on Sunday.
The session was opened by Sarmad Ali of Jang Group, while it was moderated by Sikandar Lodhi. Mani said bilateral cricket between Pakistan and India could not be resumed till completion of political change process in the neighbouring country. General elections in India are around the corner besides the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) elections, which are due in three to four months. He said the ball was in India’s court right now and the Indian government would decide if they wanted to resume cricket ties with Pakistan or not.
The BCCI has to initiate the process of bilateral cricket series now, while Pakistan has already responded positively to India on the cricket issue.
Mani said the relations between the PCB and BCCI were pleasant and once the political issues in India were settled, the bilateral cricket could resume. Talks with Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan cricket boards are going on to bring their teams to Pakistan for cricket matches, he said. Security situation of Pakistan has improved and now it’s a matter of time when full series would be played by international cricket teams in Pakistan, Mani believed.
The PCB chief said that Prime Minister Imran Khan wanted quality cricket in Pakistan, for which, change in domestic cricket structure was unavoidable. He said world standard experts were being engaged to improve the PCB performance “Imran Khan has never interfered in the PCB matters since I assumed the charge of post of its chairman. The Board is free from any political interference,” he said, adding, “We have not talked on cricket matters a single time since August.” Mani said that he had made it clear that he would not accept any political interference if the prime minister wants him to delivers. “Imran Khan knows about me and my working, so he has given me a free hand with a target to improve the Pakistani cricket to world standards,” he stated. He said it took over eight years to restore cricket in Pakistan.
To a question about Capitan Sarfraz Ahmed’s comments about South African player, which resulted in ban on matches by the International Cricket Council, Mani called it unpleasant and said the comments were presented out of the context. Mani believed that Sarfraz Ahmed should not speak in such manner. “We are grooming our future talent of Under-13, 16 and 19 to avoid any such situation besides making them good international players and great humans,” he added.
Mani said the PCB was the only cricket board in the world which was running a school, club and national cricket too. He said that under the new structure, regions would be responsible and run the affairs to make the infrastructure stronger at the grassroots. He said reforms were being introduced for improvement in domestic cricket.
Mani said that local coaches were also being engaged with foreign coaches to improve the quality and skills. Personality building of the players is primary focus in the reforms, he added.
The PCB chairman again made it clear that Sarfraz Ahmed will captain the Pakistani team in the World Cup and remain captain for all three formats of cricket. However, after the World Cup, PCB will sit with Sarfraz Ahmed and discuss his plan about captaining all three formats. He said that there was no politics in the cricket board or in the cricket team. He dispelled the impression of grouping in the team and said it was wrong perception. “I talk to the captain, chief selector and coach for team selection and Sarfraz never complained that his opinion was ignored in team selection,” Mani asserted.
To a question, the PCB chairman said the attack on Sri Lankan cricket team adversely affected cricket in Pakistan and it took eight years to bring back international cricket to Pakistan. He said Pakistan Super League (PSL) also played a vital role in resumption of international cricket in Pakistan as so far 126 foreign players had played in the PSL. These players become brand ambassadors for Pakistan in their respective countries and cricket boards. They played an important role in ending the false impression about law and order situation in Pakistan. They informed their boards about the ground realties about the law and order in Pakistan which are altogether different from the perception,” he said.
Mani said that this season eight matches of PSL would be held in Pakistan – five in Karachi and three in Lahore. “We want complete PSL in Pakistan and matches should be played at all venues.” However, he said, the condition of cricket stadiums has deteriorated due to absence of international cricket in Pakistan while now the PCB was working on the improvement of all stadiums again. PCB is spending Rs1 billion on Karachi stadium while it has already spent Rs 200 million on Rawalpindi Stadium. The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government is working on Peshawar Stadium,” he said.
Mani said that PSL was getting popular and its title sponsorship rights fetched 200 per cent more revenue and the broadcasting rights revenue increased by 360 percent. The trend of the opening ceremony introduced by the PCB in PSL is now followed by IPL and other leagues, said the PCB chairman.
He said the PSL had also given a number of good players to Pakistan’s cricket. Hasan Ali and Shadab Khan, now part of the national team, are the finds of the PSL, he added. Responding to a question, he said that Sharjeel Khan was suspended from cricket till September 2019. After that he has to go through the rehabilitation process, he said.
To another question, Mani said that he believed in professionalism and the prime minister wants to make the PCB a professional cricket board so it was better to hire a competent professional at high perks, instead of hiring four to five persons at the perks more than the perks of one competent professional.
Earlier, in the open remarks, Sarmad Ali said that cricket was the most liked sport in Pakistan and probably out of 200 million population 199 million followed it passionately. He said that cricket got them free from time and space which was reflected by the huge attendance of cricket lovers in the session in the morning.
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