POLITICS IN SPORTS
Mar 15 - 21, 2010
Like in other spheres of human activity, our country has immense sporting and gaming talent. It is not the dearth of individual talent but the limited efficacy and infirmity of management systems employed to control sports faculty that places us in the category of modern day sporting mediocre. Individuals like Jehangir Khan, Jansher Khan, Qamar Zaman, Nasir Bundah, Waheed Khan, Samiullah, Islahuddin, Kaleemullah, Hanif Khan, Manzoor Senior, Munawwar Hassan, Rashid Junior, Hasan Sardar and others took us to the world top positions in squash and hockey and kept us there for a number of years. But our inability to organize and manage - as is the case of national politics and state governance - soon forced us to relinquish the top positions and get consigned to the bottom spots, a situation one would have abhorred to dream of during our hey days. As our politics has taught us over the years, we become a bunch of infighting individuals when it comes to organization and implementation of a single point agenda - sustained progress. In almost every walk of life, we failed to show steady progress as we are given to putting our personal gains ahead of national goals and objectives. Besides the accomplishment of personal goals, indulgence in regional and even zonal politics is yet another obstacle in the way to national progress. On economics side, we failed to construct dams despite having huge water resources. We are adept at sacrificing national interest for the sake of narrower objectives of regional, provincial and zonal interests.
It was the systemic failure that culminated in the rueful decline of squash, the sport we dominated for more than a decade. Like Pakistan is now known to many world nations because of its nuclear capability, there were times when a segment of international community knew Pakistan only because of Jehangir Khan and then Jansher Khan. How we got relegated to the "also ran" category from the top position? Just because of our inability to organize and manage on scientific lines. Squash is basically a power game, solely depending on the stamina of an individual. The geographical and living conditions make the inhabitants of NWFP region lead a strenuous and rigorous life. This endows them with a certain kind of stamina that eventually is the basic requirement for the sport of squash. It perhaps, was the single sport that did not require equitable representation from all provinces and its development should have been left to the NWFP province alone ñ exceptional cases of extra ordinary talent from other provinces notwithstanding. Our squash administrators, besides making managerial and financial lapses, tried in vain to expand the canvas to the entire country and in some cases to the preferred regions. This didn't work and we could not produce the true successors of the two legendry Khans of squash.
Hockey was also ruined by the inept administration and poor planning. When the European hockey managers decided to make a paradigm shift in the game technique by replacing natural grass grounds with the synthetic turf, they had clearly envisioned to blunt the sub-continental supremacy of skill and stick-work. The simultaneous changes in the rules of the game changed the decades-old game of skill and artistry to a brutally fought contest typically reminiscent of the gladiators of the ancient Rome. Now it was "the survival of the fittest" affair, demanding highest level of stamina and use of power as well as negative tactics to benefit from the newly formulated laconic hockey rules. Unfortunately, Pakistan and India failed to measure up to the situation and instead decided to retain the pristine status of hockey. Difficult to say if it was their love for the original hockey or they just failed - out of lethargy - to adapt to the fast changing conditions of the world of hockey. It is too late now; we can't catch up with the modern hockey playing nations who, besides retaining stamina at the center place of their strategy design, have also acquired beautiful stick-work techniques to broaden their arsenal base. The difference between the mindset and approach of the two diametrically opposite schools of thought is now well established. Both Pakistan and India are relegated to the bottom positions in the ongoing 12-nation world cup hockey event. The sports of squash and hockey never involved huge money. Moreover, people have resigned to the fact that these sports have no future in Pakistan- no one takes any serious interest in them these days.
With the advent of "one day cricket" and now the T-20 extravaganza, - and the icing on cake IPL- there is lot of money in this sport and hence lot of politics too. The President of the country becomes, by default, the patron-in-chief of PCB. Possibly, this is the point where the germination of cricket politics takes place. Moreover, all Presidents are not supposed to have deep interest in and sufficient knowledge of the game. The sphere of their responsibilities to the nation and the country hardly affords them sufficient time to understand the politics of this high earning sport. There superficial understanding of the game and the intrigues within and without the PCB deter them from effectively overseeing the cricketing affairs. They might just make certain appointments at the behest of a powerful minister or an army bigwig without fully understanding the pros and cons of that appointment.
The majority of yesteryears' cricketing heroes takes to the management side of this big revenue-generating game. Some of them are really sincere while the others are really not. Almost every one of them, on the basis of his national and international fame, expects a cushy and authoritative job in PCB, for example, coach, manager, trainer etc. Most of the times, majority of them gets one, but eventually, they are either thrown away or forced to resign in consequence of their failure to cope with the player power syndrome. The mutant virus of player power has developed into a highly destructive force simply because those at the top never cared to enforce discipline. They kept on making compromises and in the process their authority became a manifestation of the weaker side of their character.
The present PCB Chairman is being persuaded from all corners - including the national standing committee on sports- to tender his resignation after the consistent failure of the national team in its three away-outings - the white wash at the hands of the Aussies having no parallel in our cricketing history. He refuses to do so anyway, simply because this is not the norm. A recent audit has uncovered certain serious financial irregularities in PCB during the eras of last three Chairmen. No wonder! We are quite expert at doing this. The successors take it as their duty to dig out the affairs of their predecessors. Some time later, we may hear of irregularities committed during the tenure of the present Chairman. Audit is a good management practice; it should be undertaken as an ongoing process. The focus should be on financial and managerial transparency rather than on blame fixing and name calling. Besides financial audit, performance audit should also be undertaken to inform the nation what growth standards have been attained during a particular era. To measure these standards, parameters like, national team performance level, extent of the betterment of cricket infrastructure, efficacy of the talent hunt programs, transparency of selection procedures etc. should be set.