Gaddafi Stadium: A retirement home?

August 24, 2014

Shaharyar Khan just sat and watched and only found out what he had created when his pleading was summarily dismissed in the Pakistan dressing room at The Oval as Inzi refused to lead out his men for what he believed was an unfair ruling.

Gaddafi Stadium:  A retirement home?

You normally hear of retiring age in organisations but PCB seems to have it the other way around. They start hiring for senior executive positions if the candidates are past retirement age. And the older you are the better your chances of making it to the corner room.

It’s a concept that the corporate world has discarded many years back; concluding that once a person touches 60 he may perhaps retain his prowess as an individual but he cannot manage a team of younger people, take risky decisions or think beyond safeguarding his own legacy. That’s why even geniuses like Warren Buffet or Bill Gates delegate to CEOs, and these are the two richest people in the world.

To put it succinctly, a term Shaharyar Khan is fond of using, other factors prevail over the incumbent when appointed at this age. These are that he is mentally and physically tired, even exhausted in most cases; cannot understand the thought process of a young generation and is inadaptable to a radically changing world. The same applies for the new PCB Chairman.

I say all this because I spent two hours interviewing him for this very newspaper a few days after his appointment as PCB Chairman back in late 2003. If you can locate the piece you will see that I gave him the benefit of doubt despite his irrelevant credentials, and hoped that he would do the job that cricket followers expect from a PCB head. I also had the pleasure of his company -- believe me he is a thorough gentleman and a fine conversationalist -- a few months later for an international channel and could see that he was still unaware of the intricacies of management let alone sports management.

His unchallenged election/reappointment -- which was expected as despite the call of democracy the new chairman would most likely be from one of the two nominated/appointed by the PM to the Governing Body -- has shown why PCB is still very much a government office with pretensions to be independent of government influence. No private body would elect an 80-year old man as virtually CEO (In PCB they call the title ‘chairman’) and that too for an organisation that is in the field of sports development and its marketing.

On top of that the man has no corporate management experience having spent some 40 years as a bureaucrat. And the next 10 years in retirement with hardly an active involvement other than diplomacy with India through back channels or advising the political government on what I would term South Asian affairs recently. He has obviously been placed because of his amicability to the powers that be, to coin a term from his generation.

He has his advantages of course. For one, he has spent two years as PCB Chairman and would certainly know a little about the ins and outs of ICC despite the fact that it has transformed from a pack of Mynas to an all devouring Godzilla since he has been away. He is well groomed in the art of conversation though ICC members today do not have the patience to absorb diplomatically worded oblique as is common in Secretary-level talks. From what I gathered he is not at all financially corrupt and comes from a regal family background. He has authored books, a couple of which are on the game itself though intertwined with democracy and diplomacy, and does not interfere in team affairs, either on tour or in the selection of the final eleven.

However his laissez faire style of management can spell doom if the subordinates or appointees have their own agenda that does not exactly match with the stated mission and values of the organisation. I also found him to be less reliant on professionals perhaps borne out of his past where due to his princely upbringing and head of a diplomatic cadre he believes in relying on the tried and trusted and values loyalty over competence. Let me tell you why I reach that conclusion.

It was under him that player power emerged ten years ago for which we are still paying the price though it has been harnessed to some degree by Najam Sethi after the sacking of Hafeez for being too imposing on selection and strategy. He left the entire team selection and management to captain Inzamam-ul-Haq who culled talent due to his own preferences and insecurity after returning from a near end to his career, being one of eight senior players sacked by Tauqir Zia after the 2003 World Cup fiasco. To the extent that under Inzamam Pakistan lost Asim Kamal who was performing better than even Mohammad Yousuf when he was pulled from the side in preference to Abdul Razzaq at No.6! And talent like Yasir Hameed who scored a century in each innings on Test debut, not to mention the mishandling of Shoaib Akhtar. Cricketers like Shahid Nazir were dumped despite excellent performances and the team was effectively turned into a religious forum.

Shaharyar Khan just sat and watched and only found out what he had created when his pleading was summarily dismissed in the Pakistan dressing room at The Oval as Inzi refused to lead out his men for what he believed was an unfair ruling. Never have I seen a more helpless and visibly shaken PCB chairman in full sight of millions giving an interview to Sky accepting that he can’t get the players to come out, at least in time. Even a chairman of ordinary mettle would have ordered the vice captain to lead out the side to the middle or fired both there and then. It was not about what was right or wrong but the fact that it was a chairman’s call and discipline is foremost. You only give respect to the captain if that respect is reciprocated. Off the field he has no power over the chairman.

The other idiocy I saw was the appointment of his former subordinate from the bureaucracy into a position of immense authority, virtually the second in command or executive officer you can say. That gentleman was given charge of media management initially when he simply had administrative experience in the foreign ministry. He was then made head of marketing as well with responsibility for negotiating contracts with sponsors!! It was not just nepotism but also something like giving charge of active infantry on the Sialkot front to a retired naval officer in the supply corps. Again loyalty prevailed over capability.

To top it all, the huge workforce we see today that Najam Sethi tried to cull apparently in PCB is of his making. Yes, Shaharyar Khan was the man who appointed LUMS --- where his son taught and where he himself eventually lectured after he left PCB when Younis Khan gave him hell --- to review the PCB’s organisation structure at a cost of a sweet couple of million rupees if I remember clearly. The result was that the structure instead of become leaner and sleek bloated even more.

There are other tales that make you both laugh and cry but suffice it to say that I don’t see much that he will do other than sit on the side and carry out orders and other peoples agendas. He is a decent man as I have said, a courteous, soft spoken gentleman. But for someone who is 80 and has served more time in Rwanda’s diplomatic mission than visited a cricket ground to watch a match, the Gaddafi Stadium is simply a retirement home for him with fringe benefits.

Gaddafi Stadium: A retirement home?