The beginning of change, is it?

February 9, 2014

The beginning of change, is it?

The world today may wake up to a cricket world divided or united; but whatever the result it is unlikely that the members will ever trust each other again, even initial allies.

I have said over the last two weeks whatever could have been said on this issue. The PCB Board of Governors has endorsed a stand against the proposal, while the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been formally endorsed by the government as the patron of the PCB. Can’t say which carries more significance.

Zaka Ashraf is seen as the former President’s man and apparently is not welcome. Who is the PM’s man became clear when Najam Sethi was granted a meeting with the patron and Ashraf’s publicly broadcast request to meet him was cold shouldered.

I feel it could be that the PM doesn’t want to be seen shaking hands with someone who has returned in place of his nominee by whoever’s command.

Further, the PM may be avoiding being dragged into the decision making. As he wants to have a thaw in relations with our eastern neighbour, he fears he will be seen as taking them on if he nods in agreement with the PCB Governing Board. And were he to disagree with the PCB he would be going against popular opinion and giving fodder to his opponents to call him unpatriotic and bowing to India.

Maybe some people feel that it will be easier to get rid of Zaka if he fails to stop the majority vote going against Pakistan’s stand and Pakistan cricket is left out in the cold.

It is equal to running out the man you don’t want in the team. Not quite cricket but then that’s the way the game is played today. The Big Three are playing it that way, aren’t they? I wonder if they’ve considered that he may come out a winner if he keeps South Africa and Sri Lanka with him and deny the Big Three from taking over?

Meanwhile, it is an interesting move on the home front to appoint Aamer Sohail as Chief Selector and Director of Game Development, taking the latter post away from Intikhab Alam. Intikhab has played his part in the musical chairs by sending Zakir Khan back to Director International Cricket and taking his place on the domestic front.

So what’s new? Aamer has been a chief selector before, appointed after the 2003 World Cup disaster when then chairman, Lt Gen Tauqeer Zia, forcibly sent into retirement some five of Pakistan’s cricket icons. He has also been the Director of Game Development in the not too distant past and has helped a couple of players who are in the Pakistan side today.

This time he comes in following a tiff between chairman and chairman instead of chairman and top players.

The atmosphere is already charged and for all we know the return of Najam Sethi might bring back his choice for the post, which is Moin Khan. But till such time that he’s here, he may well do some good. He’s been advocating merit and a couple of heads are likely to be on the block if he lasts a year, at least from the Test matches.

But will he be able to stand firm against his own temperament of walking away whenever he feels there is nonsense in the air? It is a difficult one to call but I believe Aamer will see this one through. He knows leaving his posts in the past has not helped him or Pakistan cricket, only made stronger those who opposed him. He’s a tempestuous person but I have seen in him a patriotic streak every time we have talked Pakistan cricket. He will take on people like Imran Khan with whom he has severe disagreements on structure of the domestic game. On that front he is likely to have the Patron’s acknowledgement and a longer lease of life to do what he feels is right without coming under pressure from outside powers.

Last time he was chief selector he had a disagreement with then coach Javed Miandad over selection. But let me tell you that in his heart he has a lot of respect for the cricketing legend from Karachi. He once mentioned that if Wasim Akram had informed the team earlier than five minutes before the toss in the 1996 World Cup quarter-final against India at Bangalore that he was not playing he could have had time to discuss with the management and asked Javed Miandad to lead the side. But as vice-captain he was given the task with precious little time to think. That is how much he regards Javed and is sure to take his input in doing his job this time.

I may be proven wrong considering how senior managers in the PCB have a history of developing irreconcilable differences within weeks of working together. But for now let’s give him time to live up to what he has been demanding these past couple of years.

For that matter there may not be much else to focus on except restructuring domestic cricket if either South Africa or Sri Lanka or both renege on their commitment to oppose the constitutional change being proposed by BCCI, ECB and CA. But win or lose, right strategy or wrong, Aamer Sohail is among those few suited to fighting the coming cold war in cricket, and leading from the front trenches when the chips are down.

The beginning of change, is it?