Booting out the Butt

Rising tempers, idiotic mess, chaos, madness, directionless people zigzagging around with no end in sight. No, we are not talking about the state of Pakistan – even though it is much the same. Welcome to Pakistan cricket and all that it entails. Former skipper Shahid Afridi led a debilitated team in the World Cup 2011 and managed to reach the semi-finals despite the odds against us. In spite of this achievement, and a 3-2 ODI win against the West Indies, Chairman Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Ijaz Butt unceremoniously removed Afridi from the captaincy. This was probably the last nail in the coffin as far as Afridi was concerned, who suddenly announced his retirement from international cricket. “There is nothing bigger than a man’s respect. I cannot play under a board that does not respect its players. Because of this, under protest, this is a conditional retirement,” said Afridi. This was one of the biggest blows to Pakistani cricket fans who are no strangers to controversy. What ensued was a cat and mouse drama between Afridi and Butt. The PCB revoked Afridi’s No Objection Certificate (NOC) so he was unable to play for Hampshire in the English Twenty20 season. Afridi filed a petition against the PCB, which he later withdrew and appeared before a PCB disciplinary committee. Afridi was fined Rs 4.5 million and got his NOC but is still adamant that he will not take a U-turn and will stick to his decision on international cricket. On the other hand, an irresponsible player like Zulqarnain Haider was only fined a token Rs 500,000 for his shenanigans.

Last year’s spot-fixing scandal left cricket fans all across Pakistan in a state of shock, anger and embarrassment. Pakistan’s stellar performance in the World Cup revived their faith in our cricket team. A demoralised and depressed team blossomed under Afridi’s inspirational leadership. Not seeing Afridi in the Pakistani squad in the future will be painful and a gross injustice. The PCB and particularly Ijaz Butt have ruined our cricket team. It is amazing that in this day and age, the patron of PCB is still the president when all other countries choose their chairmen in a democratic manner. This has to change. Ijaz Butt has to go if we want our cricket team to get back on track. Had Mr Butt had a quiet word with Afridi about his anti-Waqar statement and allowed him to continue as captain, some younger player could in the meantime have been groomed to take over in the future. Now, we are left with a lacklustre 37-year old Misbah-ul-Haq as the team captain and no successor in sight.

Planning is the most significant ingredient missing from Pakistan cricket and the responsibility lies with the PCB chairman. It seems as if Ijaz Butt is suffering from some trauma. In the third Test between West Indies and Pakistan back in 1959, West Indian fast bowler Wesley Hall struck Ijaz Butt’s nose with a rising scorcher. Butt never seemed the same man since. Let’s just blame our present PCB woes on Hall.

(my editorial in Daily Times)


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