Cricket for sale? Anjum Niaz

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Privatise, commercialise, auction Pakistan Cricket Board. Sell it to the highest bidder. To make bucks and to save the game. the PCB is begging for a government bailout, a stimulus plan. Find this idea audacious? How else to pull out cricket from the burning coals of infamy? Populist once, the mighty cricket board now on life support needs its plug to be pulled out and its employees given the golden handshake.

Perpetually weary, portly Ejaz Butt, the head of cricket control, leaves one wondering whether President Zardari chose the wrong man for the job. Still, presidents and prime ministers in the past have, without a twinge of conscience, appointed valueless head boys to run cricket affairs. The doctor from Maryland who examined kidneys wormed his way into Musharraf. Perhaps he got the general some of the millions from America that Pakistan hungered after. Ashraf boasted knowing all the congressmen worth knowing on Capitol Hill. His price tag? Make me the cricket czar. He got what he wanted and globe-cavorted on the pretext of his dressing-room diplomacy. Did he take a comradely shower with the boys to ante their morale before they hit the field? Well, I’ll have to sit this one out.

Ashraf’s imperialism invited abuse from players. Remember Shoaib Akhtar being slapped for $3 million for defaming the chairman? Remember Saleem Altaf challenging his sacking and of course winning the case, thereby returning to PCB like a bad penny. Nasim Ashraf had phone-tapped his conversations with the press where Altaf had leaked like a sieve. Said a source: “He (Altaf) has strong links and he is already in touch with his brother, lawyer Naeem Bokhari (the man who burned a small hole in the Chief Justice’s supreme chair conflagrating into a national inferno), to file a case against the Board.” The brothers Bokhari were cheek by jowl with Musharraf, patron of PCB. Get the drift?

The prince of Bhopali suavity Shaharyar Khan, our erstwhile foreign secretary, also took a shine to cricket and was heading PCB until Darrell Hair got into his crosshairs at Oval and threw ball-tampering charges at the Pakistani team. Khan and the boys abandoned the match as a protest. Two months later Khan was upstaged by Nasim Ashraf. Get the drift?

And of course, how can we forget the man with the shortest stint — the crooked toff Mujibur Rehman. His brother Saifur Rehman sucked Sharif into selecting him to head PCB. A few months later the government fell and the brothers trotted to jail.

Selecting the best man for the job is the moral duty of the chief executive of Pakistan. Ejaz Butt did fit the bill but appears out of depth today. Years ago his famous nosebleed during a Test match at Lahore drove his female fans (yours truly included) to tears. His lady-killer looks (trust me, I know) were the toast of Lahori damsels. Alas…

President Zardari boasts of being a businessman first, a politician later. He has enough experience in cricket and how much money the game can fetch. Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto put him in charge of the 1996 World Cup and the First Gentleman converted his secretariat into a sporty PR agency pulling off a thunderous show. In those halcyon days one was proud to be Pakistani.

Change has come to the world of sports in the last five years. From Russia to Thailand; from the UAE to the US, the filthy rich are snapping up soccer clubs, American franchises in basketball, hockey, baseball and football. The Aussie gaming tycoon Kerry Packer kick-started World Series Cricket thirty years ago as an antithesis to established international cricket. Improving upon the idea, the Indian cricket control invented Indian Premier League (IPL) last year. It created eight franchises of the best international talent available and auctioned them at a whopping price of $723.59 million!

We have fine players; why not hold our private auction? Forget the ICC!

The writer is a freelance journalist with over twenty years of experience in national and international reporting. Email:

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