Over the top Masood Hasan Sunday, September 19, 2010


 If there is one thing Pakistan’s cricket fans must be praying for—whatever are left, that is—it surely would be for this nightmare tour of England to quickly end. The betrayal of millions by a handful of cheats aided and abetted by a somnolent PCB populated by quacks has crossed all limits. Yet PCB’s Ijaz Butt has another reprieve obtained 24 hours after he creeps in under tight security. Nowhere in the world other than Pakistan does a country’s president appoint cricket czars! Fans know from bitter experience that the top-dogs will always go scot-free, though some sod might be hung as a sacrificial goat. 
The predictable loss to England two Fridays back—a match that any other team would have won—was the start of another round of shame heaped on us. As a million times before, we capitulated, fell on our knees and handed England another win. But it is not just the criminal lack of cricketing sense that is now SOP—consider the shots that Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi (as always) and other morons play and get out to again and again—but the abject failure of the much-trumpeted Team Pakistan management. From Ijaz Butt to that anonymous major of security and other freeloaders in between, this lot deserves to be sacked lock, stock and barrel. Good God! Even that charlatan Dr Fraud, Naseem Ashraf, is beginning to smell of roses. 
Butt’s “hurriedly called press conference” at Gaddafi Stadium (why are all press conferences at Gaddafi hurriedly called?) was a non-starter. He read moronically from sheets of paper, making no sense—to himself, to the puzzled posse of newsmen, and to the other dodgy characters with which PCB is overflowing. True to form, he said nothing tangible.
Why is this team management—it really is a joke to call this bunch management—summering in England (at our expense), in the first place? What is Wasim Bari doing there since, if asked anything, his standard response is that he does not know? At the first sign of trouble Butt, Saeed and Rana disappeared. Yawar Saeed seemed to be reading from his own script. He made no sense. But, then, what’s new? Who is looking after the mess in Lahore? The PCB spokesperson is permanently clueless. The lot in the UK apparently have nothing whatsoever to do with cricket. TV footage shows Mr Saeed and Mr Rana peering at The News of the World, perched on the balcony, hours after the newspaper is published. Don’t they read the papers first thing in the morning? Mr Saeed probably can’t get out of bed without help up, and Mr Rana, if not too busy making peace with his Maker, is contemplating his navel. 
The two top dogs read the paper like casual tourists. Unlike their English counterparts, no one has seen either gent with a pad and pen, leave alone a laptop. Messrs Younis, Ijaz (the one who was in jail last year) and a couple of other “professionals” who are hanging about are similarly not burdened with any paper. Where do they make their notes? The answer, of course, is that they don’t. Readers may recall Zaheer Abbas sipping a glass of white wine while Inzamamul Haq forfeited a Test—the first in cricket history—and crowned Pakistan with yet another shame. Mr Abbas did not know the tour rules, had not bothered to read the document, whereas the two umpires had. He was thus speechless, but was he sacked? Of course not. Pakistan were in the wrong and a buffoon from Multan, given his limited IQ, was able to put our name into the Book of Shame. Pride of Performance? Inzamamul Haq. 
Our disgraced serial druggie, Muhammad Asif, was out every evening cutting shady deals with the underworld, whereas there was an alleged “curfew” on, and all players were supposed to be in bed by 10 p.m. Was Asif charge-sheeted? Was he issued a written warning? Banish the thought. Is there no one in Pakistan, other than the geriatric Mr Yawar Saeed, to (mis)manage tour after tour? Is everyone else dead? This management, particularly those travelling with the players, are guilty of neglecting their duties and should be punished like the errant cricketers. They should never be sent on another tour. 
Before the current ODIs began, there was an open scuffle between the skipper and the tour management over team selection. This is dog-eat-dog. There are hundreds of skeletons rattling in the PCB cupboard, but Islamabad is deaf. The same incompetent lot will survive this, or at best get replaced by another equally shambolic set. In Pakistan, if you are not qualified for the job, you will get it. 
There is the Zulqarnain case. He has been going around telling the world he never had a stress fracture, but was sent back so that Kamran Akmal, the fixer, could continue to play and keep the betting business humming. If he is making this up, why hasn’t the PCB issued a stern warning and punished him? It hasn’t said a word. If he is telling the truth, why isn’t the tour committee which sent him back been asked formally to explain its decision? Oh, it will all be in the Manager’s Report, which will be buried within 24 hours of its arrival in Miani Sahib. 
Consider Mr Ijaz Ahmed’s role. While I bow to his authority in matters of shady land scams, what batting coaching is he doing? Why does Umar Akmal take 15 runs from an over and then play the most atrocious shot in the game? Has the manager ever had a chat with him about his role? Why can’t Ijaz read the riot act to Afridi? Captain Disaster has played about 300 matches yet remains the most irresponsible batsmen ever. A man who cannot control his instincts is poor material to lead a national side, and that too after abandoning the country minutes after losing the first Test in a disgraceful performance. Instead of being thrown out, the absconding captain is rewarded with the captaincy of T20s and ODIs. After he’s caught ball-tampering and scuffing the pitch, what message his appointment can send to all youngsters? Cheat and prosper? Betray and thrive?
And then there is Shoaib Akhtar, whom Pakistan continues to call a “match winner.” Pray, which was the last match this genius won for us last time? He can’t run to save his life, he can’t bat and he can’t bowl. He is a creaking, aging rusting railway steam engine, without any steam. Why is he on this tour? I would rather place my wager on a rookie who at least has a few years ahead of him. Why do we bring him back again and again after he continuously abuses the Board, the cricketing structure, such as it is, behaves insolently, irresponsibly, is involved in scraps, beating up colleagues, receives fines which he doesn’t pay up, and yet manages to get on board another junket. At the camp in Lahore he has the media thrown out, to prevent them from seeing him bowl. And it’s done. What’s PCB hiding? A new drone? This is abject cover-up, yet PCB goes scot-free. But all he has to do is take three wickets or bowl three good overs, and he is in again. Only the Rawalpindi Municipal Corporation can get rid of Shoaib. 
Now Wajid Shamsul Hassan has gone to town on Butt, who has gone on another meaningless trip to India. Cricket Pakistan is sick. What we see is but a fraction of the deep-rooted malaise that’s killed our game. A complete, ruthless surgery is required. But don’t worry, it won’t happen. Cricket Pakistan is dead. The stink is unbearable. Best we should announce a national funeral and be done with it.
The writer is a Lahore-based columnist. Email: masoodhasan66@gmail.com

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