Thursday Sep 17, 2020
While the government has yet to deliver on its promise of social and political reforms, one area it has swiftly changed the system of is domestic cricket, where the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), under chairman Ehsan Mani and CEO Wasim Khan's supervision and at Prime Minister Imran Khan's behest, abolished departmental cricket and introduced a revamped circuit featuring just six regional sides.
The change has since become the main bone of contention in the cricket fraternity, with PCB officials on one side in the minority and the rest on the other lobbying the return of departmental cricket.
This fact was once again highlighted during Wednesday’s meeting in Islamabad where some of Pakistan’s top players pleaded the case for restoration of departmental cricket with the prime minister, the chief patron of the PCB and the man whose brainchild this change was.
However, what the trio of Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan’s head coach and chief selector, Azhar Ali, the Test captain and senior all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez didn’t realise was that they were barking up the wrong tree.
The order to abolish departmental cricket from the domestic structure came directly from the prime minister, who remains adamant that Pakistan cricket would be better off if it follows in the footsteps of developed nations like England and Australia.
That’s why it was hardly surprising when the prime minister brushed aside the cricketers’ plea and instead asked them to focus on their respective jobs.
According to sources privy to the meeting, the prime minister told Misbah to focus on his job as Pakistan’s head coach and chief selector. He asked him to work hard on the team and help it climb up the rankings ladder in all formats.
He also had similar message for Azhar Ali, under whose command Pakistan recently lost the three-Test series in England.
The three players, who were hoping to convince the prime minister to reconsider his directives about departmental cricket, have in fact attracted PCB’s ire over their move to meet the Board’s patron.
According to sources in PCB, the top Board officials are unhappy with both Misbah and Azhar, who are under contract with PCB, over their decision to directly meet the patron after bypassing the top management.
Though both PCB chairman Ehsan Mani and CEO Wasim Khan attended the meeting they did so after receiving a last-minute invitation from the PM’s office.
“The top Board officials were irked by the move from both Misbah and Azhar. The two of them will be asked to explain their conduct sometime in the future,” a well-placed source told ‘The News’.
Despite widespread joblessness of sportspersons, the prime minister has backed the current domestic cricket structure with a belief to produce good results in the near future.
Imran showed optimism that the current domestic structure which is often criticised for the lack of departments’ involvement - is good enough to produce the results in the near future.
“I can tell you with my own experience that the kind of talent we have in Pakistan is unparalleled to any other country in the world,” he said.
“Over the years, we kept producing players despite having a very flawed system. Now, finally, we have the kind of system which I believe is good enough to produce the results in the future. Every time there is a new system in place, people will have difficulties managing it but we should stay focused on our ultimate objective.”
The PM also congratulated the current PCB management for bringing changes in the domestic structure, which accordingly will intensify the competition.
“If you look at Australia, they have a competitive domestic structure which is why they are always amongst the best teams in the world,” he said. “For 40 years, I wanted to have a system like the one we have right now and I want to congratulate Ehsan Mani and his management for making this possible. I hope with this system in place, we will win the next ICC World Cup in 2023.”