PCB goes south

March 2, 2014

PCB goes south

PCB has been hanging in the centre for the last few years in more ways than one. Now it seems they are following the state of Pakistan cricket over the last 2-3 years and going south, literally.

Whereas the team management and the eleven were dominated by Lahore since at least 2005, it is now being occupied by Karachi. I can’t understand why the PCB can’t have a balance.

I can understand the absence of Balochistan but that there is no worthy representation from KPK at a senior level even as four Pathans -- Junaid, Gul, Younis and Afridi -- are key members of the team in one or more of the three formats. By saying that one represents all in a fragmented and polarised Pakistan with so much money at stake is simply fooling ourselves. If there had been a strong selector from KPK Yasir Hameed would never have been kept out of the team in his prime and after a batting average in the 40s. By the same token no one would have dared elbow out Younis Khan as captain.

Yes we are all Pakistanis first but there is a reason that the selection committees in other countries represent almost every part of the nation. Just have a look at India. It is ensured that the cricketers come from different parts of the country. For them national unity and balance is more important; if they become a successful team in the process, that’s a bonus.

In England Yorkshire for years cried over discrimination. For so many years Middlesex, Essex, Kent, Surrey and Sussex were called the ‘fashionable counties’, as the large majority of England’s team would be made up from these five counties. Reason was that the English preferred ‘gentlemen’ over ‘players’ and those from rest of the country were considered not of the same stuff.

If I’m not mistaken Ricky Ponting was the first or among the few to play for Australia from the state of Tasmania despite Australia playing since 1877.

Rashid Latif may be one of the most patriotic Pakistanis I know, who has invested his entire post cricket life in this country and his home city especially. His singular vision and endeavor to set up a world class academy came to fruition within three years of starting; the practice pitches were such that VVS Laxman drove an hour to practice on them before the Karachi Test finding them better than the ones at the National Stadium’s nets.

And he deserves to be a selector, game development director, coach, whatever. But with Moin Khan as coach, Salim Jaffer a co-selector, Shoaib Mohammad as fielding coach and the batting coach being the Sialkot-born Zaheer Abbas who has played his entire cricket from Karachi, there is too much of the southern psyche affecting the thinking. And believe me Karachi thinks differently.

More than that we have once again gathered the think tank from one city, as was the problem when team management consisting of eight have almost always been from Lahore since last few years, with an odd tour given to Abdul Raqeeb. It’s about time we went national in our choice of the inner group of decision makers. PCB should seriously consider bringing in someone like Arshad Khan, the former Pakistani off spinner from Peshawar, who clearly displayed intelligence and strategic thinking in his game. He would be an excellent choice as a second selector. There is also the former Pakistani opener Wajahatullah Wasti also from KPK.

Zakir Khan may belong to KPK but it is not the same as being in the team. In fact it is reported that he survived the changes Najam Sethi brought when he was restored this month because Zaheer Abbas refused to accept the manager’s position and wanted a more hands-on role. Otherwise Zakir too would have been pulled back as was Aamir Sohail, Basit Ali and Mohammad Ilyas. He may, by tradition, be part of the four-man selection committee on tour but to be sure Misbah, Moin and Hafeez would be the decision makers.

I again say that Rashid is an excellent choice but should not have been named considering two key members of the think tank are from the port city. You see, no matter how unprejudiced all three may be, but when so many decision makers are from one city, the local association and local players exert a lot of pressure to get in due to their proximity and accessibility. This is because it is difficult for them to answer that they are countered by the other members. With three coaches and chief selector (and probably another selector) from one city, there is no place to hide from the pressures, both actual and perceived.

It is at such times that good men, just to guard their integrity, go into reverse discrimination to show they are not leaning towards their own. This does more harm as a fringe player from his own city may be overlooked in preference of another one from elsewhere to display neutrality. The fact that Karachi has been simmering over selection bias and deliberate discrimination to the extent of bringing racism into it, is another front.

Rashid should have been given something like Game Development in which he has mastered, following his academy success, coach of Port Qasim team and his ideas to improve cricket in Pakistan. And Aamir Sohail should have been retained as chief selector. He is passionate about Pakistan cricket as I have said before, and there would have been a balanced selection committee with him, Saleem Jaffer and one from Arshad Khan or Wasti.

Rashid should realize that even though he has merited a place in a leading role since long but why is it that he was been named as chief selector a few days after PCB announced the teams for both Asia Cup and the World Twenty20? This could be a move to pacify Karachi after Javed Miandad was sidelined again and left in a huff a couple of weeks back. By keeping Rashid away from the selection of the two teams for the immediate big tournaments gives the plot away.

His next assignment will be in September when Australia come calling in the UAE. And the World Cup is 12 months away. In a cricket set up where you are not sure of the next 12 hours, expecting continuity till February 2015 is like predicting the stock price of a tech company six months from now.

Rashid is a no-nonsense man who has walked out of meetings if he feels he is not being listened to or pressurised or manipulated. He can even walk out from the job. He has done that a few times in the Pakistan team, in public view or through disguised reasons.

On another note, Sir Viv Richards once told me some ten years ago that he would have Rashid Latif as wicketkeeper in his World XI; and that great man from West Indies has stood in front of the likes of Wasim Bari, Alan Knott and Rodney Marsh.

So Rashid may keep wickets for the world’s greatest modern day batsman, but can he keep his position for the next few months? That is the question of the year. For Pakistan cricket’s sake I hope he does, but I would still want a balance from at least the three major provinces that provide cricketers for the national team, in every aspect of administration. There is too much of Karachi at the moment.

PCB goes south