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Pakistan Cricket Board In Turmoil After Imran Khan's Ouster As Prime Minister; Will Ramiz Raja Get The Boot?

Ramiz Raja's tenure as Pakistan Cricket Board chairman is on a sticky wicket as new PM Shehbaz Sharif may appoint a man of his choice.

Imran Khan's exit as Pakistan PM may see a change in the Board of Governors of PCB.
Imran Khan's exit as Pakistan PM may see a change in the Board of Governors of PCB. ICC

These are morale-lifting times for Pakistan cricket on the field. Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, Inam-ul-Haq and Shaheen Shah Afridi have consistently made international headlines in recent times. Off-field, the Pakistan Cricket Board is in turmoil as Imran Khan's departure as Pakistan's Prime Minister has left the PCB leadership guessing. (More Cricket News)

In its 75 years, no Pakistan Prime Minister has completed a full five-year term in office. From Liaquat Ali Khan (1947) to just-ousted Imran Khan, 22 Prime Ministers have faced the ignominy of losing their hotseat as Pakistan have never been stable for various political reasons. Effectively, It has impacted Pakistan's cricket administration too.

These are good times for Pakistan cricket. In the T20 World Cup in UAE last year, Pakistan thrashed India for the first time in a world championship. Babar Azam's team lost in the semifinals but at least three players made the ICC World T20 XI by virtue of their performance.

After winning the ODI series 2-1, Pakistan may have lost the Test series against Australia, but the way Babar Azam's team displayed courage and skills to play the long-form game, is great news for world cricket which is rapidly embracing the commercially lucrative short-format option. 

Imran Khan's exit has come at the wrong time for PCB chairman and former Pakistan captain Ramiz Raja. The 1992 World Cup-winning Imran and Ramiz have been teammates for long and the latter has been a great ambassador for Pakistan as a cricketer, commentator and administrator. But Imran's departure is likely to impact 59-year-old Ramiz's innings at Pakistan Cricket Board.

The PCB is a political body. It's constitution (clause 12 b) clearly mentions how the Prime Minister of Pakistan can control the administration. The PM, who is the Patron of the PCB, can nominate two members to the Board of Governors at his discretion. The Board appoints the chairman for a period of three years which can be extended by another three years. 

Most members on the Board of Governors are 'political' appointees and the PM has powers to give general policy directions from time to time. Imran Khan used this power to make Ramiz Raja PCB chairman in September 2021.

After Hafeez Kardar, Javed Burki and Ijaz Butt, Ramiz became the fourth cricketer to head PCB. He replaced former PCB boss Ehsan Mani, who had declined a short-term contract after his term expired in August 2021. Ramiz Raja had previously served as the PCB CEO for a brief period in 2003-04, with Shahryar Khan as chairman.

Current PCB chairman Ramiz Raja has been a global personality. He was popular in IPL too.
Current PCB chairman Ramiz Raja has been a global personality. He was popular in IPL too. BCCI

After being appointed chairman of PCB, Ramiz had said: “One of my key focuses will be to help introduce in the Pakistan men’s cricket team the same culture, mindset, attitude and approach that once made Pakistan one of the most feared cricket playing nations.

"As an organisation, we all need to get behind the national team and provide them the desired assistance and support so that they can produce that brand of cricket, which the fans also expect from them each time they step on to the field of play."

Ramiz,  who represented Pakistan from 1984 to 1997, featuring in 57 Tests and 198 ODIs and scoring 8674 runs, stayed true to his words and was successful as a PCB administrator.

Imran Khan and Ramiz Raja have been Pakistan teammates for many years.
Imran Khan and Ramiz Raja have been Pakistan teammates for many years. Twitter

Being a cricket administrator in the sub-continent is never easy. Historian and author Ramachandra Guha, who was in the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators to oversee the Indian cricket Board, had once described BCCI "as a den of vipers". PCB has always been a difficult pitch but Ramiz did well.

Veteran Pakistan journalist Shahid Hashmi, who works for the international agency AFP and has been covering cricket for decades, laments how cricket and politics are partners in Pakistan.

"It’s very unfortunate that the top cricket post in Pakistan is still political. Whoever comes to power nominates two persons on the board of governors and people instantly know who will get the post. 

"If senses prevail, Ramiz Raja should continue because he has done well in the little time he has been PCB chairman but it looks unlikely. It will be unfortunate but it’s what it is," said Hashmi.

Before Ehsan Mani, Najam Sethi was the PCB chairman. Sethi, a seasoned journalist and politician, had two stints as PCB boss. In 2014, Sethi was appointed by former PM Nawaz Sharif for a three-year term. In 2017, his term was extended by ex-PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. On August 20, 2018, Sethi resigned after Imran Khan's party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf came to power.

Najam Sethi is widely tipped to return as PCB chairman. He is expected to receive political backing from the Shehbaz Sharif government after Sethi's wife Jugnu Mohsin, who was elected as an independent MP from the Punjab province of Okara, joined the  Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party on April 1.

"He is the blue-eye boy of the Sharifs and Sethi has been quite successful as an administrator. The Pakistan Super League started during his time and that helped PCB gain financial stability," says veteran journalist Ijaz Chaudhry. 

However, observers say Sethi's return to the PCB hotseat may not be smooth. The opposition may come from the Pakistan People's Party, an ally of the new PM Shehbaz Sharif's government.

PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, who could become Pakistan's new Foreign Minister, may recommend former PCB chairman Zaka Ashraf as a candidate.

Hashmi says political instability has hurt Pakistan cricket. It could even destabilise a team that has looked united under Babar Azam, who has been given a lot of power by the management. 

Babar Azam has led Pakistan with confidence and authority.
Babar Azam has led Pakistan with confidence and authority. AP-PTI

"Professionals abstain from joining PCB for the fear that once government goes, they will lose job. Recently PCB wanted a commercial manager but no professional wanted to apply, for the fear of losing the job," says Hashmi.

Ramiz's plan for a quadrangular limited-over event featuring India and Australia may have been shot down by the ICC recently, but a lot of credit for foreign teams visiting Pakistan goes to the former skipper.

Although the process of international teams visiting Pakistan started during Sethi's time, Australia visited Pakistan after 24 years during Ramiz's time. England and New Zealand are due in the 2022-23 home season.

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