The sum total of accomplishments under him in national and international spheres is indeed awesome
With Justice (Retd) Sair Ali’s installation as the Acting Chairman/chief election commissioner of PCB, the process of the election of a chairman for three-year tenure is now well under way. After a whole year and a quarter of rigmarole that brought in its wake instability, opprobrium and ridicule to Pakistan cricket, this is welcome news. Pakistan cricket can only flourish and prosper if there is stability and good governance.
One person remained in the eye of the storm throughout these last 15 months, absorbing hits from many a quarter, arguably most of it from people with mala fide intent and representatives of well-entrenched vested interests. Despite many a spanner thrown in his works during a checkered stay, Sethi remained unfazed. Now that he has gone, of his own volition and with a lot of grace, he has left the PCB in state much healthier than he had found it - in every which way. This makes one wonder as to what he may have achieved had his run not been impeded time and again or, better still, had he been elected for the forthcoming three-years.
Yet his legacy is something to be proud of, and given the circumstances, the sheer sum total of accomplishments under him in national and international spheres is indeed awesome.
Prior to second week of February 2014, Sethi’s wings had been clipped by the courts, owing to artful petitioners manipulating the legal system. Then the prime minister intervened, installing him with full powers. The litigation continued, until the Supreme Court settled it once for all, but in four-month and a bit’s interregnum Sethi went on his reform and recovery agenda with such zest and energy that was amazing to witness. By the time he stepped down, Sethi had achieved more or less everything that he had espoused for!
Hoisted by its own ‘principles’ petard, owing to its previous chairman, Zaka Ashraf, Pakistan in mid-February stood alone at the ICC, a virtual pariah left out of decision-making, nine members arrayed against it when the critical Future Tours Programme for the next eight years was being stitched together. That stand was tantamount to cricketing suicide, as it reduced Pakistan from a front-row cricketing nation to a non-entity. With Zaka Ashraf in the saddle Pakistan was going down the precipice so fast, annihilation seemed nigh.
By the time June ended, Pakistan cricket had been almost rehabilitated, its position at the global high table stood restored. The PCB, it could be said, had been accepted as the de facto ‘Big Four’ in the new cricketing world order. The PCB chairman had also been elected to the new all-powerful ICC Executive Committee (ExCo), and the passed-over presidency of ICC for 2015-16 too stood restored. With 77 Test matches (42 of these against high-revenue-yield, high prestige opponents like India, Australia and England, with a far greater of home series than away, PCB could anticipate an income of around $400-500 million in the next eight years from these series alone, making it by far the greatest windfall in our history.
This was a diplomatic triumph like no other, particularly as Pakistan walked away with everything on its wish list, including the promised reprieve for Mohammad Amir.
A ‘white’ cricketing nation, Ireland would have visited us in late August ’14 had terrorist attack on Karachi Airport not taken place to put it ‘on hold’.
At the national level, first-class cricket has been revamped, its new format simpler and more competitive, also bringing in investment and corporate culture of accountability and merit by opening it up to sponsors to own the regions. The corporatisation of regions is a superb innovation that should make Pakistan’s domestic structure truly first-class. The launch of Pakistan Super League in coming Dec-Jan creates a fresh product that is good news in terms of creating new revenue streams as well as putting Pakistan on the world map with its own league. The cricketers’, both present and past, welfare too was ensured through greater incentives in central contracts and enhanced pensions.
All these achievements reflect that by the sheer power of his personality and dint of hard work, Sethi had indeed scripted an incredible turnaround.