Ijaz Butt has finally left after three years– three years too many. In this period, Pakistan cricket lurched from one disaster to another. If rarely there was anything cheerful to write about, it was because of some sparkling cricketing talent and in spite of the Board. An inventory of disasters under Butt’s watch would be too long to recount in this limited space. Suffice it is to say that his autocratic, abrupt and ham-fisted style has left Pakistan cricket in shambles, and cleaning up the mess is going to be an Herculean task.
Friendless in the cricketing world, its plight not drawing any sympathy from any quarter, its organisation deemed to be at par or even worse than lowly Zimbabwe, and with the ignominy of our match- and spot-fixing raging in high-profile publicity, Pakistan cricket needed someone at the helm who could command domestic and international respect for probity and competence. Despite the inexorable decline in the quality of available human resource in all spheres of life, Pakistan is not entirely bereft of quality talent for such a position. Yet here we have Zaka Ashraf, another person close to the PCB patron, monsieur el presidente, with a reputation that is less than flattering at best, his resume embellished only by the no doubt formidable fact of being a Zardari pal since the duo’s public school days in Petaro. That is perhaps why patronising him once (with the honcho’s position in an organisation of the reach and financial muscle of Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited), was not considered reward enough. And so he gets to double up as the PCB’s chairman.
This favouritism is bound to have an extremely negative impact and consequences for the passionately followed national sport. Pakistan will continue to remain a pariah of the cricketing world, its cricketers will continue to be nomads and compelled embarrassingly to play their ‘home’ series away from home, and the Board as an organisation will be flooded with more friends and hangers-on, watching over their own interests with an eagle eye.
Even if Zaka turns out to be a winner in the end, the past pattern of nomination and favouritism should have been broken in the present appointment and a mechanism for electing the new PCB chief should have been in place before Butt’s tenure ended. Had that come to pass, President Zardari would have won some brownie points with his critics, Pakistan cricket would have much better prospects of success, and the ICC too would have been content.