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COMMENT: Who will bell the cat?

THE Panama Papers may have come as a bane for certain members of the government, but they have been a boon for many others.

Apart from the usual suspects like the dharna loving Khan, there are also the larger than life personalities of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to be considered.

Searching questions about the Panama Papers are being lobbed at politicians as they run for cover, but why are there none for the House of Usher which is busy getting rid of footmen while the monarch holds sway?

Incidentally, the “chirya” (bird) may chirp away about the nefarious dealings of PTI and others, but is strangely laconic when it comes to cricket affairs.

Instead of soul searching and restructuring after the disaster of a T20 tournament in India, measures are being taken to solidify the control that has led us to this decrepit state of affairs. Seldom has legislation been pushed through with such unseemly haste.

As the Patron of the Board rests in London, the PCB’s Annual General Meeting passes a unanimous resolution against “the government’s interference in PCB’s internal matters, saying it would be a violation of the board’s democratic constitution”.

Who knew the Board would embrace democracy with such gusto?

Let us now cast an eye on the farce of a search for a new coach in place of Coach Waqar Younis who spoke up a tad too late.

A panel comprising Wasim Akram and newly minted cricket expert Rameez Raja has been set up to assist PCB in finding a replacement for the humiliated departing coach Waqar Younis with the fond hope that “since Wasim and Rameez will be acting as commentators in IPL (Indian Premier League), they will have the opportunity to interact with foreign coaches to consider them along with local coaches.”

Now that is a strategy that has been overlooked by New Zealand, Australia, Britain, West Indies, even India. It can only show the wondrous thought process of the PCB.

Elementary, my dear Watson
As news broke of the seasoned and eminently sensible Aqib Javed applying for the post of Head Coach, Wasim and Ramiz spoke of their preference for a foreign coach. Aqib withdrew immediately, saying Wasim Akram has spoken.

To understand the context of this situation, one has to refer to the Qayyum Commission Report of 2000 which investigated allegations of match fixing.

The well known sports writer Fareshteh Gati Aslam deposed before the Commission:

“The 1996 World Cup’s Quarter-Final between India and Pakistan at Bangalore was fixed and Mr. Dan Keisel, the Physiotherapist, had informed me that Wasim Akram was faking his shoulder injury.

“Aaqib Javed had been asked to take Rs. 50 lacs and a Pajero by Saleem Pervez of the National Bank of Pakistan so that he could also be one of the members on the take and be included in the National team.

“When Aaqib refused, he got an indirect message from Wasim Akram that he would never be included in the team while Akram was the captain.”

Elephants have long memories and so it seems does Akram.

Why the stress on finding a foreign coach, that too interim?

Where in the world does an interim coach get appointed when long term planning and strategy is the need of the hour? Quite apart from his great friendship with Wasim Akram during the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in Dubai, why is Dean Jones suddenly the favourite for this hot spot?

Talking of foreign coaches, who can forget poor Bob Woolmer striving with Inzi and the boys who rewarded his endeavours by losing in a major upset to Ireland at the 2007 World Cup in Jamaica?

Incandescent with rage, Woolmer retired to bed and was found dead the next morning after having suffered a heart attack.

Based on forensic analysis, Jamaican police revealed that Woolmer’s death was due to asphyxiation as a result of manual strangulation, which would explain the vomit and blood not only on the floor of the bathroom but also on the walls.

But before dying, Woolmer had the presence of mind to shoot off an email to the PCB in rather Pakistani English which police suspect was sent by his killers after eliminating the coach.

Part of the email to then PCB head Nasim Ashraf is reported to have said: “I would like to praise my association with the Pakistan team but now I would like to announce my retirement after the World Cup, to live the rest of my life in Cape Town.

“I have no lust for the job and I will not like others to make personal remarks at me. Professionally, I am open to criticism, I will be ready to continue the job if the president asks me for it.”

Woolmer’s widow is on record as having said that Bob had been keeping a World Cup diary and was planning to write a book about his time with Pakistan, but she went on to say wisely: “It is best if that book never appears now. If it is going to cause upset, it is not worth publishing.”

According to former Australian captain Ian Chappel: “Woolmer died in Jamaica in very strange circumstances.

“I don’t mean to suggest Woolmer was involved in any scandal, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was about to reveal some misgivings. I do doubt his death was due to natural causes.”

There have been so many cover ups in our recent cricketing history, a case being in point being the Qayyum Report.

The Qayyum Report into the Salim Malik affair and other fixing controversies in Pakistan cricket was judged by Ian Chappel as being “thorough and illuminating,” but, “despite the judge’s hard-hitting summary, that report has largely been ignored by officials.”

The prescient Faresteh Aslam wrote a long time back: “Justice Malik Mohammad Qayyum has given Pakistan cricket a chance to move ahead… it is now up to the PCB to seize that moment and do the best for Pakistan.

“Rashid Latif’s was the resolute voice which alerted us to the dangerous demon that lurked within the team.

“He took several stands, he wanted to play a clean game but the Pakistan Cricket officials did not let him.

“He tried to inform them; they did not want to know and in many instances advised him to keep quiet and join ‘them’ and play the game.

“How misguided and how weak they were and how utterly unfortunate Pakistan is to have to deal with the consequences of men such as them.

“Latif is a giant amongst these cricketing pygmies. And yet he waited outside their doors, listened to their platitudes, gave up a burgeoning cricketing career and the captaincy and in the process lost real money in his efforts to play a straight game.. the players who lied, cheated and deceived are still in the team, still making money (one way or another) while Rashid is the man outside looking in.

“The PCB must compensate him. In addition here is a man who deserves the President’s Pride of Performance award for his resoluteness, his honour, for his integrity.

“The nation owes him a debt. We must cherish him.

“By far the Qayyum Report’s most important impact will start to take effect when future generations of Pakistan cricketers look back and decide to pitch their tents in Rashid Latif’s camp… And perhaps then another Pakistan captain will have the privilege of holding aloft a World Cup.”

Holding aloft a World Cup much less, the cricket team is unable to even reach the semi-finals of major tournaments.

Far from pitching their tents in Latif’s camp, the cricketers of today are mostly an arrogant, brash, materialistic lot who have no passion, no zest to win.

And the unpalatable truth is that far from the PCB cherishing him, Rashid Latif is still on the outside looking in while the fat cats live it up.

Instead of rooting out corruption from it’s roots, there is yet another cover up underway right now, albeit with great stealth, sacrificial lambs being trotted out at regular intervals.

The questions remain unanswered as journalists fall silent knowing which side their bread is buttered.

As Waqar Younis puts it: “All my fellow cricketers know what I’m talking about, but they are all silent.”

Why?

Because they don’t have the gumption or spine of cricketers like Rashid Latif and Aqib Javed.

In this conspiracy of silence, the question is: who will bell the cat?

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2016

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