Throw out the system, not the people handling Pakistan cricket
After plunging to a predictable nine-wicket loss in the second Test match against England in Birmingham earlier this week, there is one question on the lips of the despairing Pakistan fans: when will Ijaz Butt, the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), resign?
However, some will wonder if he is really the problem or are the troubles much more deeply rooted. Butt, the 72-year-old chairman, has become the subject of many hard-hitting jokes around Pakistan. Farcical policies and infamous U-turns have characterised his reign and he holds absolutely zero credibility. He stand accused of destabilising Pakistan cricket. When Butt was hired, he was claimed to be a wise man with the indispensable knowledge to steer the board in the right direction. In fact, the man himself stated he would do so.
During his first press conference, Butt said: "Discipline is paramount and I will push everyone hard to overcome this problem and will not allow anyone to tarnish Pakistan's cricket image." Butt has most certainly not lived up to his own lofty expectations and has, in fact, added to the woes of the nation's favourite pastime. The problems started creeping in slowly but surely, beginning with nepotistic hirings and poorly thought-out bans. The reactive era of administrative decisions had begun.
The banning and then the recall of Mohammad Yousuf has summed up Butt's knee-jerk and irresponsible time as chairman. Decisions made in his tenure illustrate a man's desire to prolong his career rather than restore the nation's pride. However, there are always two sides to every argument. PCB chairmen have one of the toughest jobs in cricket. They are subject to intense scrutiny from the public and the media. Yet, it is the political twist to governing the PCB that provides the mightiest of hurdles.
The PCB is run by the government and the chairman is chosen by the president of the country. Government officials observe his each and every move attentively. Opposition parties condemn his every decision. In Butt's case, the criticism has become so vicious that he was accused of promoting match-fixing. Working through this complex juggling act is a headache on its own, but not everything has been doom and gloom in his era.
Under Butt's watch, the cricketing world has seen the rise of two youngsters in Mohammad Aamer and Umar Akmal. Perhaps, he can even claim the emergence of Zulqarnain Haider as well. He was also the man at the helm when the nation won the Twenty20 World Cup in England last year. Butt has been a big advocate of promoting youth. Yet, herein lies the problem. Every positive decision he has made has been followed with an equally negative one. It has been a case of one step forward and two back. There as been no tangible progress.
Pakistan has always had one solution for all trials and tribulations: Imran Khan. The greatest Pakistan captain and player is considered the solution for the problems which are besetting the country's cricket. The Oxford University-educated Imran has constantly been implored by fans, former players and cricketing analysts to take the role of chairman. However, the politician has always rejected those pleas, citing bigger goals (social work, political reform, etc) as his justification.
Imran has always offered guidance to the PCB and has consistently criticised the current system, but everything falls on deaf ears. You cannot blame Imran for not accepting the poisoned chalice as there are constant murmurs of nepotism, corruption and incompetence. There has been a constitution penned for the PCB to follow, yet it has become just another tool for officials to justify their erroneous decisions.
The constitution was written with the intention of providing less control to the chairman. However, every few months the constitution is amended to suit the needs of the chairman. Loopholes have been found and exploited. The solution is therefore not as straightforward as removing Butt. At best, replacing Butt will herald the arrival of a new chairman who is simply a little better than his predecessor. This line of thinking is gloomy because sticking-plaster solutions have never worked and never will.
Pakistan cricket has always been blessed with exceptional cricketing talent but this talent has always been overshadowed by rumblings of discontent on the board. The short-term solution would be to remove Butt. But the long-term solution will have to be more comprehensive and will require grit, determination and willingness that has been lacking at the top of the Pakistan batting order. The system has to be disbanded and they must start from scratch.
It will take a visionary to grasp the situation and rebuild the PCB. The PCB will have to become a separate organisation, a board with only one goal in mind and that would be to advance the nation's cricket. Political interference needs to be removed and the PCB chairmen needs to be appointed through an open and transparent process. This system would let the chairman do his job without interference from government officials. Butt would not flourish in any system. He has shown high levels of incompetence in trouble-free situations and that is not acceptable from any administrator.
There have been PCB chairmen in the past that were victims of the system and its pressure. Butt is not a victim of the system; he is there because of the system. It is time for that system to be overhauled. Usama Ahmed is a cricket writer at PakPassion.net @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated: August 12, 2010 04:00 AM