Who is responsible?

Besides having miserably failed to achieve the desired objectives, the second edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) has embroiled Pakistan cricket in yet another spot-fixing scandal involving five leading cricketers — Sharjeel Khan, Khalid Latif, Mohammad Irfan, Shahzaib Hasan and Nasir Jamshed – mainly because of the slackness of the management of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

Originally, the T20 league was launched with the aim to produce classy batsmen, bowlers and wicket-keepers by providing local youngsters a chance to rub their shoulders with international cricketers along with entertaining crowds all around. But, recent revelations and events have put a question mark on the integrity of the PCB management and their ability to stop approaches by bookmakers and fixing syndicates.

Let alone players, not every individual on the PCB management is of “impeccable character”. For instance, Najam Sethi had as the interim chief minister was accused of rigging polls in at least 35 Punjab constituencies during the 2013 general elections and had been dished out the post of PCB executive committee chairman for this supposed loyalty by the Boards’ patron-in-chief, Nawaz Sharif, who is also to be blamed for throwing Pakistan cricket into shambles instead of rebuilding it. The question then arises: how can we expect players to be fair and upright?

As of now, the PCB is relying on its hand-picked three-member inquiry tribunal of Justice (retired) Asghar Haider, Tauqir Zia and Wasim Bari to adjudicate allegations of spot-fixing and will only get Federal Investigation Agency’s help on the forensics, fearing that negative vibes may take a toll on members of its executive committee. If found guilty, the spot-fixers may face ban for life, fines and sentence. The PCB does say it holds concrete evidence against them.

According to PCB media manager Raza Rashid, these players have violated the PCB’s code of conduct as well as the country’s laws. “They brought the country into disrepute,” he says, suggesting that the management needs to be sterner with them.

Raza also rests speculations about FIA’s jurisdiction, saying being the country’s leading investigation agency it was not overstepping its jurisdiction.

“The PCB is bound to provide it with any details or data it requires for determining the extent of the crime under directives of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan,” adds the PCB official.

With players alleged of spot-fixing, the axe is also likely to fall on bookmakers and fixing syndicates approaching national players, but the question remains if the Board management will also bear the brunt.

“If the players are being probed, why not PCB officials as well as franchise owners,” argues former captain Aamir Sohail, who believes the whole PCB structure is flawed. He says players are not financially secured and facilitated the way other cricket boards secure theirs from approaches of fixing syndicates.

Sohail charges PCB Chairman Shahryar Khan and Executive Committee Chairman Najam Sethi with incompetence and corruption, and questions why audit of the first edition of the PSL has not been carried out yet. He thinks the PCB should have reviewed arrangements ahead of the commencement of the second edition, just like the cricket boards of South Africa, Australia, England and West Indies do.

Sohail also blames Board’s Patron-In-Chief Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s ignorance for the sorry state of affairs in the cricket board.

About chances of return of international cricket to Pakistan, the former skipper, while pointing to unprecedented security for PSL final, says that any international cricket team visiting Pakistan won’t be a one-day event, nor will they be living in cabs their whole tour.

Expressing similar views, former leg-spin bowler Abdul Qadir adds that the PSL could have produced world-class players had things been managed sensibly and reasonably. He regrets that the PSL missed on the desired objectives.

“We have held the final match in Lahore. (But) what have we got out of this whole club match? Betting and fixing. It’s all boastful talk, all bragging,” says Qadir, indirectly referring to Najam Sethi’s announcements about the PSL.

Qadir discloses that Karachi and Islamabad franchises of the first edition were also tainted and if action had been taken, chances of mismanagement could have been minimised and those guilty brought in the dock.

“Fresh spot-fixing allegations have hurt our dignity, pride and integrity as a cricketing nation and the country itself,” asserts Qadir, while casting doubts on the integrity of PCB officials. “Why did they keep other players back for the rest of the series, and sent two players to Pakistan,” he questions.

Qadir is of the view that a ban for life on tainted players will send out a wrong message, opining that they be fined and sent behind the bars to set an example. The leg-spinner credits Chaudhry Nisar for fast-tracking the inquiry, but regrets that non-implementation of the recommendations of every inquiry commission had been a bottleneck. The leg-spinner also voices concerns on Pakistan being on eighth position in the ODI format and seventh in the T20 on ICC Rankings.

Blaming the Board for the instances of spot-fixing, former PCB chief Zaka Ashraf says unfavourable vibes emanating from the FIA investigation could have landed PCB management in troubled waters, so they took a U-turn. He says the management is complaining against undue criticism, rather than taking it constructively to better its management skills.

Ashraf says he had heard suspicious reports about both PSL officials and players during the first edition and later on when these drew ICC security vigilance unit’s concerns. “I was surprised to see PCB officials and players in one hotel with bookmakers during the first edition of the PSL,” he says, adding from that moment he knew how things would turn out in the second edition.

The former PCB chairman states if the PCB has compelling evidence like it says, it must bring it out. “They should not keep it to themselves. It must be made public.”

Zaka Ashraf says PSL was meant to pick new talent, but thanks to the existing management it is an uphill task now since they have already tainted the domestic structure through selection of fortunate favourites into regional teams directly from the PCB headquarters.

Pointing to irregularities in the auction of PCB media rights for five years, Zaka Ashraf says the country incurred $400 million loss according to Adrew Wildblood, the executive vice-president an international sports marketing firm IMG. “Elsewhere bids are invited from all sports channels, but the PCB management took measly offers of Geo and Ten Sports out of three broadcast bidders it had invited,” he adds.

Referring to women cricket, Zaka Ashraf says he had started Benazir Bhutto and Fatima Jinnah tournaments during his tenure as the PCB chairman, but he believes these have also been shut. “I haven’t heard of these in a long time,” he concludes.

Former PCB chief Khalid Mehmood says the holding of PSL final in Lahore gave out the message that Pakistanis were a resilient nation and terrorists cannot deter their resolve and determination.

The Federal Investigation Agency has, in the meantime, decided to stay silent till the Pakistan Cricket Board comes with its findings even though the Agency has sufficient grounds to cast doubt on the management itself, let alone players.