x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

ICC runs the risk of marginalising PCB

The global community will have to be mindful of maintaining a balance of coercing the board to improve its internal structure, while also preserving their future in these difficult times.

Over the last few weeks, the litigation merry-go-round that has become the hallmark of the relationship between the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and any stakeholder that happens to cross its somewhat flaky line in the sand has now turned into a fight for the very survival of its chairman, Ijaz Butt.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has recently indicated an intention to amend its constitution, allowing the suspension of its members subject to governmental interference.

It is a move that will threaten the existence of the PCB and Pakistan's involvement in international cricket.

Rather than undertaking a period of self-analysis, this issue has left the PCB yet again threatening legal action against the ICC in an effort to maintain its unelected and unaccountable stranglehold over a national sport.

From a self-preservation perspective, Butt's posturing is understandable - the PCB's chairman is directly appointed by the country's president, who in turn is also the patron. This is the key reason for the continuation of Butt's disaster filled reign.

In a recent twist, and one in which the irony was seemingly lost on the chairman, Butt, complained that outside political interference was impeding his ability to maintain player discipline after Shahid Afridi's recent battle against the PCB was supported by prominent politicians.

Removing politics from the PCB would no doubt serve to help the administrators in the long term. However, the key barrier remains the change in personnel required to achieve such an aim and turkeys do not vote for Christmas.

Political interference severely hampers the spirit of meritocracy that is vital for any sport to flourish, for that is what drives athletes to aim for self-improvement.

It is this spirit, which the likes of Butt have destroyed by alienating players through nepotistic selection policies.

The timing of another announcement, the ICC's reported decision to alter the rotational policy in the appointment of its president after 2015, the year Pakistan and Bangladesh were to put forward their candidate, has led many to believe that the recent changes are specifically designed to continue the marginalisation of Pakistan cricket.

Pakistan's Ehsan Mani, a former president of the ICC, has suggested it is an attempt by India to try to jump the queue.

For an institution proclaiming the virtues of depoliticisation, autonomy and transparency, such polarisation of power undermines credibility.

Inconsistency in the application of rules is always an accusation that has been levelled at the ICC, and the application of any new rules to all members will be important. How will such political interference be measured?

Grey area always fall in favour of the rich and powerful and it will no doubt be a worry to fans who support Pakistan. The vacuum left by the extraction of governmental-level politics is often superseded by the other old enemy of sport - money, with financial clout overcoming valid arguments.

The ICC will also have to be mindful of maintaining a balance of coercing the PCB to improve its internal structure, while also preserving the future of cricket at a grass roots level within Pakistan at a time when cricket is not played at home due to security reasons.

Cricket is a richer place with Pakistani cricketers' unique skills and the game would be a less vibrant product without them - a point which anyone who has seen the recent performances of Pakistani cricketers representing their English county teams cannot disagree.

The ICC meet in Hong Kong tomorrow and the outcome will no doubt be closely monitored by the PCB and its seemingly untouchable chairman, who could be on his last legs.