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September 19, 2020

PCB unlikely to take action against Misbah, Azhar

Sports

September 19, 2020

KARACHI: Pakistan’s cricket authorities are expected to summon the country’s head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and Test captain Azhar Ali after the duo bypassed top Board management and met with Prime Minister Imran Khan in a bid to help revive departmental cricket.

A top Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) official told ‘The News’ on Friday that “nothing is decided yet” as the top Board officials are currently holding a two-day meeting in Nathiagali to discuss PCB’s five-year development plan.

However, he did hint that both Misbah and Azhar will be asked to appear before Ehsan Mani, the PCB chairman, and explain as to why they bypassed the Board officials and directly sought a meeting with the premier, who is also PCB’s patron.

The duo are expected to be summoned after the top PCB officials return to office in Lahore next Tuesday.

Misbah and Azhar, together with senior allrounder Mohammad Hafeez, met with Khan at his Islamabad residence last week to plead the case of departmental cricket. Mani and PCB CEO Wasim Khan also attended the meeting but they were included only at the last moment.

The move by Misbah and Azhar, who are both among the highest paid employees of PCB, irked the Board chiefs.

While Hafeez, who is not a centrally-contracted player, will get away without any consequences, Misbah and Azhar are expected to get a dressing down. However, there is little likelihood that they will be penalised for breaking the chain of command.

The new domestic structure, in which there are six regional teams and no departmental sides, was implemented last season, effectively under direct orders from Imran.

Misbah, Ali and Hafeez are not alone in their concerns, which, broadly, centre around the financial hit a lot of players have taken, as well as a drastic shrinking of the overall pool of domestic first-class players. Departments historically provided financial security to players not only during their playing days, but beyond, though it is also true that the number of active departments on the circuit has shrunk over the years.

The new structure, of six regional teams, has seen the number of active first-class players reduce from over 300 to 192. At the higher levels, players have seen their earnings drop too (as well as miss out on other employee perks departments offered) - although this season the PCB has enhanced pay scales across the board. The new structure has also added a weighty new cost burden on the PCB, which now pays the monthly salaries of all first-class cricketers. In the past, by dint of paying players’ salaries, departments picked up a considerable portion of that bill.

The new structure did have one high-profile endorsement, however. On the same day as the meeting, Shahid Afridi called for more patience with the set-up. “I don’t think there is unemployment at large with the end of departmental cricket, most of the sidelined players didn’t have a future in the game or were past their prime as players and nearing retirement,” Afridi said.

“Every system needs to be given at least two to three years. The results will start coming in a year or so from now. If the prime minister thinks that this system will develop world-class players then we must back it for a year or the next 18 months at least. We shouldn’t rush for results, Pakistan is seven decades old, everything needs time and this system also needs time and our backing.”

It is unlikely that any formal action will be taken against Misbah and Ali (Hafeez is not a centrally contracted player) beyond the meeting, but they are expected to be told in no uncertain terms that there cannot be such a situation again in the future. —with inputs from agencies