For all the controversies surrounding his time as chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), the performance of the national cricket team under Ijaz Butt was not as bad as what many followers of the game would have perceived it to be. Pakistan’s performance on the field during Butt’s tenure included away Test wins against Australia and England; reaching the semi-finals of the 2009 Champions Trophy, the 2010 World Twenty20 championship and the 2011 World Cup; and winning the 2009 World Twenty20 trophy. However, it was the off-the-field antics and Butt’s reaction to events that brought Pakistan cricket to its knees. The 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore; the chairman blasting his hosts and labelling friends-in-need, the English board and its players, match-fixers without an iota of evidence; the bans on some players — and their subsequent overturning — in the aftermath of the disastrous Australian tour; and the infamous spat with Shahid Afridi.
His successor, Zaka Ashraf, is a former president of the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association, and as news came of his appointment, a joke began doing the rounds, that fans hoped that he would, like in the case of the price of sugar, also raise the performance level of the national cricket team. Right now, it would be fair to say that Pakistan cricket is currently in the doldrums. No foreign teams want to visit us, and they can hardly be blamed for that, and the ongoing spot-fixing trial in London is a reminder of just how tainted the sport has become. However, the change does allow for some hope, in that perhaps these issues will be addressed by the new PCB chief. A dearth of international cricket in Pakistan has hit the game hard. While foreign teams may not be coming any time soon, the new chief can — and should — focus on improving the country’s domestic structure, resolving dressing-room issues, and the pending appointment of a new coach. Addressing these is important if the team is to do well on a consistent basis.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 13th, 2011.
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