Saturday, January 18, 2014

Two chairmen of Lahore; A British writer on the dubious role of Govt and dilemma in Pakistan Cricket Board

JANUARY 18, 2014

Two chairmen of Lahore

Andrew Hughes

"The king is dead. Long live... hang on, he's alive and just temporarily suspended"  © AFP

I think we'd all agree that watching a cricket match is the most fulfilling and worthwhile thing that any human being can do with their time. But right now, there is more cricket going on than you can possibly cram into your retinas and this can lead to highlights fatigue.
After a few days of continuous gawping at steepling sixes, crashing boundaries, elaborate celebrations, and miserable Englishmen, your cricket palate can become jaded. You begin to crave something more pungent, something with a bit of a kick, something that will tie your brain up in knots, something that will get you good and angry without exactly knowing why or towards whom.

I think I have just the thing for you. When mere cricket no longer hits the spot, then it is time to sample the rich and fruity delights of cricket governance, Pakistan-style.
Now I don't claim that Pakistan is the only cricket country capable of turning the administration of a sport into a casserole of curdled calamity cooked in a spicy stock of simmering silliness replete with disaster dumplings. But they are the best. The ECB tries hard, but their minor dramas simply can't compare to the epic action on the Pakistan stage.
The collision of cricket, politics and administration seems in that country to produce an intellectual Bermuda Triangle wherein common sense, right and wrong, yes and no, sane and insane are all as one, and good ideas are certain to disappear without a trace.
It is a turbulent, treacherous realm of human endeavour in which no one is to be trusted, no one has your back, unless they mean to stab you in it, and the ruthless struggle for the power to pick the captain of the Twenty20 team continues day and night, consuming everyone involved in an endless cycle of revenge, retribution, and angry press releases. It's like Renaissance Florence without the art.
The Michelangelo of misadventure was former PCB big cheese, Ijaz Butt, a man straight out of a Jacobean comedy. But as much as Shakespeare would have enjoyed writing King Ijaz he would have had just as much fun with Two Chairmen Of Lahore:
In Act I, Zaka Ashraf, tall, handsome, moustachioed ruler of the PCB wins an election to be king of the PCB (again). But in the middle of his celebration breakfast, a breathless messenger arrives from the Islamabad High Court bearing terrible news. The judges have banned him and he must leave forever. Our hero exits stage left to general lamentation.
Act II opens with the new interim king, Najam Sethi, sitting on his throne, surrounded by adoring PCB officials, who have quickly forgotten their deposed leader. Sethi orders new curtains for the PCB palace and starts looking at carpet samples, but in the middle of his plotting, a letter arrives from the High Court, announcing that all Sethi's interior design choices have been overruled and there must be new elections to choose a king.
At the beginning of Act III we see Sethi, wandering the windswept ramparts of his castle, soliloquising: "To be chairman of the PCB or not to be… " Mercifully he is cut short by a herald who trumpets the arrival, on a white horse, of Nawaz Sharif. The prime minister hails Sethi as the King of Pakistani cricket: "Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this new Head of the Interim Management Committee."
In Act IV a chorus of comedy judges take the stage. They announce that there will be elections. They rule that there won't be elections. They declare that there might be elections. At the height of the fun, there is a flash of lightning, a roll of thunder and the new king of the PCB is unveiled. It is Zaka Ashraf, returned from the wilderness disguised as a middle-aged man with a moustache. The curtain falls on a wildly rejoicing populace.
So let there be no doubt which nation leads the way in administrative entertainment. It has taken eight months, two chairmen, three committees, and half a dozen legal actions for Pakistan cricket to arrive exactly where it started. Beat that, BCCI.
Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here
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