PRESSURES SIMMERING TO KEEP PAKISTAN AWAY FROM INTERNATIONAL CRICKET

ANISUDDIN KHAN
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

July 11 - 17, 2011

There was time when the Imperial Cricket Council would encourage British Commonwealth countries to play cricket and raise national teams. They even would request the MCC to send teams to areas where cricket was taking roots. It was all aimed to promote the game and have more number of countries. Previously only Australia, England and later South Africa, New Zealand, the West Indies and India became test-playing countries. But, the last four named countries were no where near the two stronger founding members of test cricket. Imperial Cricket Council was described as an arrogant and an imperious body which would not treat other weaker test playing nations equally and every time make their opinion prevail. It was about a half century ago.

After the word imperial was dropped and the international body was renamed as International Cricket Conference, it was believed that all the board would have equal voice and all the decisions would be taken avoiding creed color and strained diplomatic relations between the test cricket fraternity.

The new body for a number of years worked smoothly and there was bonhomie between the stronger and the weaker boards. All the decisions were taken keeping in mind greater interest of the game though at times England and Australia did show arrogance. But, despite all the differences mostly deep inside the ICC, on the surface the members worked with friendly approach and the cricket prospered.

Pakistan's contribution to international cricket through the ICC forum is enviable. It was Pakistan that took the lead to bring the world cup outside England which looked impossible until Pakistan mustered millions of dollars to outbid England and the world cup suddenly become the property of all the test playing countries who held it on rota basis. This is the reason that the sub continent held the prestigious event twice, so did Australiasia. South Africa and the West Indies also have their chances to host the event.

Things were going smoothly in the serene waters of international cricket when suddenly India a new emerging booming economy became the financial engine of cricket. There was so much money in Indian cricket that countries like England, South Africa, and England looked poorer.

The Indian hold on ICC which previously was not significant suddenly became strong and suffocating. The launch of IPL offering millions of dollars to the players from all the Test playing countries except Pakistan made India cricketing giant which could have its say and others would have to bow in slavish yes.

The ICC became subservient to the wills of India and slowly the international body became a yes-man of India which had the cheeks to organize its domestic IPL in South Africa. Pakistan had been criticized for playing its home matches on off shore venue for security reasons but no one raised a finger when India organized its IPL for security reasons in South Africa. Cricket in Pakistan began with a scratch when the country got independence in 1947.

There were only two centers Lahore and Karachi where cricket had some base. The game rose to great heights from the dusty playgrounds. It was due to the hard struggle of those who kept the flame of game burning though they had only scratchy facilities.

The growth of cricket in Pakistan was phenomenal only because of the government of that time encouraged and invested in it. Without government support, the game would not have risen so high so quickly.

Pakistan is the only country, which after getting Test status won against India, England, and the West Indies in quick time. Sports in Pakistan grew in peculiar circumstances where the government supported the sportsmen and aided the national federations.

Pakistani government had never interfered in the day-to-day running of hockey, football, squash, and cricket which were major sports in which Pakistan created a place for it at international level. For example, government helped in the appointment of the president of Pakistan Hockey Federation. The person nominated as the head of the PHF was elected through democratic process. No one could forget the history of Pakistan hockey. Pakistan won its first Olympic gold defeating India at Rome Olympics in 1960. The president of hockey at that time was a general of Pakistan Army himself a reputed club hockey player.

Similar was the case of cricket when in the sixties the president of the country was made the patron of the then BCCP. Once the patron appointed a head of the cricket board there was no government interference and cricket prospered.

Only once in the long sixty years of Pakistan cricket, government interfered in mid seventies when it suspended the BCCP and cancelled its selection. But, after that the cricket board worked smoothly creating a host of world renowned cricketers like Muhammad Brothers, Fazal Mahmood, Abdul Hafeez Kardar and later Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Zaheer Abbas all were product of the system that had been put in place.

When a former president of Pakistan appointed Air Marshal Nur Khan as head of the BCCP, he picked Arif Ali Khan Abbasi to be his secretary and this duo worked miracles for national as well as international cricket. They worked independently without government interference.

Yes, they had full support of the government when they bid for the world cup. Ejaz Butt was also made the chairman of the current PCB and just because of a long ad hoc system the entire structure of the PCB was destroyed .Though the general body had all the powers to endorse the decisions of the chairman, this went missing when Ejaz Butt came. This gave rise to the misconception that the government was interfering in cricket. The truth lied in between the misconception and reality.

The competence and imagination of the person holding the top job was crucial. Ejaz Butt may have failed in his duties but that did not mean that it was due to interference of government. Yes, the government did give him support.

In the subcontinent every sports body both Olympic or otherwise would not succeed if the government support was missing. Take the case of world cup 2011. Sri Lankan created two grand stadiums to host world cup matches. They borrowed money from the government to construct stadia at Hambantola and Pallekelle. It could not be called government interference. It was government support. ICC criticism of Pakistan and its emphatic demand that the PCB should cut its link with government is misplaced. The ICC is working under pressure from hidden forces to bring pressure on three cricket boards.

If one closely looks at the working of Indian cricket board one could easily see blatant government interference. Indian team could not visit Pakistan unless the foreign ministry of that country gave its permission. If that is not government interference then what it is?

By hanging sword of Damocles on Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, the ICC was playing a game of a country which now holds total control over the ICC.

What Pakistan needs to meet the ICC demands is to announce making the current patron as Patron in Chief without the power to appoint a head of the cricket body. This would easily get the ICC off his back. The current PCB constitution is as democratic and independent as of any other country.

The ICC should take an independent decision without being dictated by a certain board, which has unfortunately launched a diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to keep this country away from international cricket.