The cricket blues

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Gangman to patron-in-chief, the game has been the loser all the way

 

“Now started the most terrible and destructive fire which Rome had ever experienced. It began in the Circus where it adjoins the Palatine and Caelian hills. Breaking out in shops selling inflammable goods, and fanned by the wind, the conflagration instantly grew and swept the whole length of the Circus. There were no walled mansions or temples, or any other obstructions, which could arrest it. First, the fire swept violently over the level spaces. Then it climbed the hills, but returned to ravage the lower ground again. It outstripped every counter-measure. The ancient city’s narrow winding streets and irregular blocks encouraged its progress.”

Tacitus: The Annals

When the objective is destruction, the Sharifs decidedly don’t have a parallel. One only has to worry about what is still left to be dispensed with, if anything at all!

That was more than forty-five years ago. But, the same psyche continues to rule. Nawaz Sharif, who is now the prime minister with virtually nothing to do since abdicating governance and ceding all power to the military, has little to keep himself amused with. So cricket be his fiddle, and play he would. When Nero played it, Rome was up in flames. With Nawaz Sharif playing, the game of cricket has been virtually reduced to ashes

One of the first steps that Nawaz Sharif took after ascending the mantle of power through a grossly rigged election was to assume the charge of patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). Of course, it emanated from his great love for the game, a love that did not shame him in playing his first cricket match as gangman with Pakistan Railways (PR) back in 1968. The meagre cost was two scooters which were duly delivered to the ones who patronised the felony – a quality which did not desert the Sharif psyche and which, in later life, paved their way to the highest offices in the country. The unbelievable story was narrated to me by that scion of the civil service, Dr Zafar Altaf, who has seen Pakistan cricket both at its best and worst. Smilingly, he quipped: ask him how did he get himself inducted as a gangman in the Railways? My response was straight and candid: just like he has managed to do every other thing in his life — employing dishonest and deceitful tactics.

That was more than forty-five years ago. But, the same psyche continues to rule. Nawaz Sharif, who is now the prime minister with virtually nothing to do since abdicating governance and ceding all power to the military, has little to keep himself amused with. So cricket be his fiddle, and play he would. When Nero played it, Rome was up in flames. With Nawaz Sharif playing, the game of cricket has been virtually reduced to ashes.

When skipper, the inimitable A H Kardar, headed what was then called the Board for Control of Cricket in Pakistan (BCCP), it comprised five people: Kardar as (honorary) president, Dr Zafar Altaf as (honorary) secretary and Chaudhry Mohammad Hussain as (honorary) treasurer. There were only two paid employees: an assistant treasurer and an office-attendant. BCCP did not have a car in its pool: Skipper’s or Zafar Altaf’s car was used whenever needed. The refreshments in the office were confined to a meagre cup of tea. There were no tickets given to anyone for travel and no special allowances either. The honorary officer-bearers spent money from their own pockets. That was the making of cricket in Pakistan.

Understandably, a nauseating bunch of 790 people lord over the fate of what is now called the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), each one getting a fat salary and plush allowances with the world at their feet at the tax-payers’ expense. There are chairmen of committees doing pretty little by way of strengthening the game and pretty much by way of filling their personal coffers. Most of them are people who have been rewarded for services rendered and who remain available for undertaking similar tasks in the future. This has been the unmaking of Pakistan cricket

Understandably, a nauseating bunch of 790 people lord over the fate of what is now called the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), each one getting a fat salary and plush allowances with the world at their feet at the tax-payers’ expense. There are chairmen of committees doing pretty little by way of strengthening the game and pretty much by way of filling their personal coffers. Most of them are people who have been rewarded for services rendered and who remain available for undertaking similar tasks in the future. This has been the unmaking of Pakistan cricket.

The worst of them have been assigned key responsibilities. The chief selector is a person who is notorious for his dubious connections with the bookies. The coaching responsibility rests with another player with a grossly tainted past. The bowling coach was mentioned in Justice Qayyum’s report with recommendation not to be assigned any cricketing responsibility. Najam Sethi’s involvement in PCB affairs is allegedly a reward for his controversial role during the last elections. Shahryar is a person one may refrain from commenting on, but one thing that he does not have an inkling of is the game of cricket. So, being the benign chairman of the PCB is the best task that he can perform with real power vested somewhere else. Beginning at the top and going down to the bottom, there is a disgusting array of do-nothing pedestrians who are perennially engaged in conspiring to keep their lucrative jobs, be this at the cost of the state exchequer, the game of cricket, or both as is mostly the case.

The rot never begins at the bottom. It begins at the top and trickles down through all echelons of an organisation or institution. Undeniably, this is the case with the PCB. The pattern followed is the same as in the government: close family members and petty good-for-nothing cronies are the only ones who carry the patron-in-chief’s trust. Consequently, they are the ones who are assigned key tasks that shape the future of the institutions and their related activities like the unfortunate game of cricket.

The rot is at the top. The rot emanates from the dereliction of governance and the way the patron-in-chief wants to manage the national institutions including the PCB: to do only his bidding. That’s why there is such a sickening plethora of multi-layered and multi-diseased sycophants doing the master’s calling. Most of the state institutions are either without permanent heads, or they are being run by those who have degraded themselves to swear allegiance to the personal servitude of the corrupt rulers, be they from the parliament, bureaucracy, or any other field that can throw up cronies and toads. This is what Pakistan has been reduced to: to be at the beck and call of a debased variety that stinks from a million miles away, and in such abundance that the smell wouldn’t go away in a million years. We are doomed to remain in perpetual proximity of crime and disease of the most nauseating kind

But, there is a lot more to the malaise than meets the eye. The World Cup matches were to be played in Australia and New Zealand. Everyone had known this for years, but not the PCB. So, the preparatory matches were organised in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Now, one with even a fledgling knowledge of the game of cricket would know the difference between playing on the flat tracks of the desert, the mud traps of Australia and the seaming and heavy-atmosphere swinging tracks of New Zealand. The results are there for everyone to see. Was there no one in the PCB, or in the related departments of the government, to question the ‘immense wisdom’ behind organising the preparatory matches in the Gulf? Couldn’t one, instead, plan on a few games in similar playing conditions as were to be encountered in Australia and New Zealand? Will those responsible for the mayhem be put on the block?

The captain of the team is a person who is completely divorced of any ability to lead. He appears to be perpetually sulking. His face says it all. Winning or losing, there are no emotions, there is no egging on. There is a sternness that is palpably artificial designed to hide the glaring flaws of leadership. He operates on strong likes and dislikes, and not on ability or lack of it. His insistence on playing Younus as an opener speaks volumes of his antipathy towards a great player, this after having a specialist opener (Nasir Jamshed) flown in as replacement for an allegedly injured Hafeez. The move destroyed the whole rhythm of the innings and there was no recovering after that. His persistent refusal to induct Sarfraz as a regular member of the squad in spite of his numerous noteworthy performances also reflects unprofessional predilections and a lack of understanding the need for having a sound wicketkeeper as a regular member of the team. The treatment meted out to the specialist off-spinner Saeed Ajmal smacks of treachery. First, the board did not put up a befitting fight to counter the ban. Then, even after he was declared eligible to play, there was pregnant unwillingness to allow him the deserved privilege based on his unprecedented performances stretching back to many years. Understandably, the opposition came from the management of the team. Did anyone ask why? Will anyone ask why?

Cricket in Pakistan has been reduced to a joke, thanks to the gangman mentality that it has been riddled with. There is a large bunch of below-par and extremely controversial individuals who are carrying forth the act without a shred of shame. They are the show-pieces of the king and are exclusively wedded to carrying forth the gory spectacle of a game, cricket which is not. Call it the gangman show and beckon the pal-bearers to carry it to its rightful destination. Adieus!

The rot is at the top. The rot emanates from the dereliction of governance and the way the patron-in-chief wants to manage the national institutions including the PCB: to do only his bidding. That’s why there is such a sickening plethora of multi-layered and multi-diseased sycophants doing the master’s calling. Most of the state institutions are either without permanent heads, or they are being run by those who have degraded themselves to swear allegiance to the personal servitude of the corrupt rulers, be they from the parliament, bureaucracy, or any other field that can throw up cronies and toads. This is what Pakistan has been reduced to: to be at the beck and call of a debased variety that stinks from a million miles away, and in such abundance that the smell wouldn’t go away in a million years. We are doomed to remain in perpetual proximity of crime and disease of the most nauseating kind.

Winning or losing is all part of the game. I am one of those who would take a loss in the stride and applaud the good parts of the game no matter who are these credited to. It is the way one plays that is paramount in the end. There is no shame in losing if you battle it right and with the deserving charges and inspiring leadership. If these are missing, there is no fun playing as it would be comparable to a painful farce.

Cricket in Pakistan has been reduced to a joke, thanks to the gangman mentality that it has been riddled with. There is a large bunch of below-par and extremely controversial individuals who are carrying forth the act without a shred of shame. They are the show-pieces of the king and are exclusively wedded to carrying forth the gory spectacle of a game, cricket which is not. Call it the gangman show and beckon the pal-bearers to carry it to its rightful destination. Adieus!

1 COMMENT

  1. It is a well written article without any bias. If the cricket board's members are challenged on the decision of playing preparatory matches I hope it would be better when people on merit will operate it. But the question is, which is also of a fundamental position, if our courts are working on honest and impartial values.

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