It took some time coming. But at last, the one ambition of Najam Sethi – to become a Chairman of PCB without lacunas in his appointment – has been realised. No matter how warped, how ridiculous and how blatantly biased in his favour was the modus operandi of his selection by the governing board; it is at least through a process that has been in place for three years.
There was, of course, never any doubt of him being appointed, considering the system stipulates that the Patron will appoint two people, out of whom one will be voted in. That the voters (members of the governing board) comprise of representatives from the departmental sides and from the regional associations, who would go against the Patron’s preferred choice from among the two, which is known for weeks if not months before. In the case of Najam Sethi, he was, of course, the only choice left and hence was ‘elected’ to the office.
Having said that, Najam Sethi has shown that he can deliver. The PSL was a no-brainer, yes. Every cricket country had launched theirs, including lower ranked Bangladesh and West Indies. The question had been finding a window. Najam Sethi found that and when the UAE grounds pulled out, he had the determination to take it to Qatar rather than pushing the file into the ‘dormant projects’ drawer. That move was risky with only one ground being available for all the games of the tournament.
Yes, it had been done in Sharjah before but those tournaments lasted 10 days at the most. The PSL would have been double that in the inaugural event demanding the 2-3 pitches would not break up by the end of the tournament. Secondly, Bukhatir had a long term plan and knew that if he invested in pitch and ground curation there would be two tournaments a year which would pay off his investment. Qatar ground managers had no such surety.
That move to Doha kept the tournament alive and the players remained on board. Had he not done that the players would have been booked elsewhere by the time UAE offered an option of hosting both PSL and the veterans’ tournament which had booked the grounds earlier. As it happened, the PSL took place in UAE grounds and grew rapidly in the next season. The PCB is now well secured for the near future at least and it’s clear the PSL has come to stay. And be profitable.
There is no doubt that Najam Sethi is going to be all powerful and not since Tauqir Zia, then a serving general, do I see someone as authoritarian as Sethi is going to be. But more than that Sethi has also the wherewithal of dealing with his detractors as did Arif Abbasi who really perfected that art. While he may not have the same insight as Arif Abbasi, who built relationships with all the ICC members to the effect that he could get them to do things over a phone call, Sethi does have the same guile.
His real test will of course be if he can get India to play Pakistan on our soil or anywhere neutral. I say this because it was Najam Sethi who had waved the MOU he had signed with his Indian counterpart and announced that following this MOU, if India did not play Pakistan they would have to pay compensation. That hasn’t happened over the last three years and Indians have flat batted PCB on every request, reminder and veiled threat.
Previously, he could deflect to the doddering old horse, Shahryar Khan, who wanted to be seen as leading and following up on the commitment. Now he has no one to pass on the failing. He got the commitment from the Indians. He signed the MOU. Now he must get India to either play or pay up.
He must also see through the completion of the coming World XI tour. It is a tough call and a very risky one, considering the by-elections happening in Lahore where the games have to be played out. And the schedule comes in the last ten days leading up to the day of the election itself. It would have been better to postpone it till after the elections, but the players may have been booked for that window in September. We yet don’t know the confirmed names; if they are not committed to play elsewhere then
it should definitely be held after the by-election.
The safety and the smooth logistics of the World XI tour has become even more imperative after the Sri Lankans have said that they would come for a T20 game or two, if the World XI tour is completed without any incident. Any disturbance on way to ground or in the stands, even if it has no relation to terror and say, political in nature, could scare off the Lankans. And that would be the end of any other team coming in the near future.
That is a call Najam Sethi has to take although the tour has been cleared by the Punjab authorities. But we all know how faceless they became after the Sri Lankans were attacked in 2009 and no one from government took responsibility or was held accountable. Maybe a couple of junior staff were culled but certainly not the Home Secretary. So that clearance counts for nothing. Since it will be the PCB that will be adversely affected, it is Sethi & Co. who have to ensure no untoward incident takes place.
Sethi now also has to tackle the spot-fixing saga that has gone on way too long than it should have. The fact that PCB had called it an open and shut case and claimed to have the confessional statements of Sharjeel and Khalid Latif, it seems strange that the case has gone on as long as it has. Now the PCB seems boxed in. And if they really can’t prove anything they could be sued in reverse by the players. Worse, Pakistan may have wasted Sharjeel.
Though they won the Champions Trophy without him but they need him as one of the openers. Now when he returns he will be extremely rusty and batsmen like him need a bit of a run before they get into their groove. Since he would not have played any domestic cricket even if he is let off without any punishment in a few weeks, he may not be in the groove to play New Zealand on their home ground. Our domestic cricket does not prepare our batsmen for these conditions. It is only the confidence of playing international bowlers that gets them going again.
So lots stacked on the table of Najam Sethi. He was already involved deeply from the back in most issues, but now that he has to carry the sole responsibility and accountability of results, it may not be as easy to dodge the hot issues as the last three years.