Pakistan Reader# 208, 20 September 2021
The recent appointment of Ramiz Raja has not turned the tables in Pakistan’s favorAnkit Singh
Cricket in Pakistan is more than an emotion. It remains as hot as its economy, not in its standalone situation but in its entangled linkages with Pakistan’s happening security and political environment. There are IPL like domestic leagues in Pakistan, some provinces organize intra-province leagues. Only time when Pakistan won the ICC one day international (ODI) world cup was in 1992 under Imran Khan, who has risen to become the leader of current political establishment. Cricket in Pakistan can be considered close to the sensitivities of the population and has acted as a space for stabilizing the popular narrative.
Recently Ramiz Raja was appointed as 36th Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman, a post occupied by a cricketer after 10 years. Other than the chairman of PCB, there are other important ranks as well. There is chief executive officer, chief operating officer, there is even a rank sanctioned for Director- security and anti-corruption. It is hoped that Ramiz, from his position, would bring in innovation, insurity and new zeal with the team just before the upcoming 20-20 world cup. However, with the latest unilateral cancellation of cricket tournament of by New Zealand against Pakistan has doused off all hopes for a ‘fearless cricket’, at least in morale and experience. It is not good news especially when England will be forced to re-consider their upcoming tournament with Pakistan in October 2021.
PCB’s new chairman Ramiz Raja is an excellent orator, he is well acclaimed in international cricket for his analysis and critical understanding of the game and of-course, seamless commentary. Ramiz is now at the helm of affairs in PCB, after almost 10 years a cricketer has been given charge of the board. Within these ten years, the PCB has seen eight chairmen. Najam Sethi has been the chairman three times in periodic terms during the last decade. This hints to the intricate power tussles within the corridors of PCB and subsequent performance of Pakistan cricket team, which has won only one tournament, the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017.
Ramiz has been active in his YouTube vlogs about the performance of the team and has been very vocal about the coaching and management of team affairs. Now being at the top echelon, Pakistani’s are hopeful for a redemption and restoration of international cricket in Pakistan under the efforts of Ramiz Raja. For example, Shan Masood, an all-rounder had not been getting due chances due to multiple reasons up until recently, when he proved his mettle. Another interesting case is of Tabish Khan, he is been given chance to play for Pakistan at the age of thirty-six. He is third oldest test debutant, for Pakistan, again these hints to the struggle which cricketers have to go on their own in Pakistan to find their space, unlike other international cricket boards who vouch for the young talent. Pakistani cricket fans will be hopeful from Ramiz Raja to deal with such issues and bring in the new rejuvenation of cricket in Pakistan.
Another analogy which can be drawn from Ramiz’s appointment is his close connection with Imran Khan, one may be forced to think how real-politik in Pakistan is symbolically (at least) the responsibility of cricketers in Pakistan. So much to the image perception and branding as has always been the added Tehzeeb (Aestheticism, Art, Capacity) of Pakistan. Sourav Ganguly, current BCCI chairman, is considered a close friend of Ramiz Raja, so it is likely that the ice breaking between India and Pakistan may as well start with cricket stalwarts from both the countries.
With the latest injury to the aspirations of Pakistani cricket fans by New Zealand team, the term of Ramiz Raja is not off to a good start especially while considering the security situation in the country and its western neighbor. The New Zealand team had decided to call of the tournament at the last moment due to some security alert. This will cause huge financial and reputational losses to Pakistan and its cricket board. While the Pakistan’s Rawalpindi express, the pacer Shoaib Akhtar has taken the decision with disappointment and angst, one must not forget when Sri Lankan cricketers bus convoy were fired upon by 12 gunmen near Gaddafi stadium in Lahore in 2009. Therefore, the security situation and alerts may very well be there and may turn out to be Achilles’ heel of Pakistan, the forever cricketing nation. Ramiz will also have to deal with autocratic PCB thinking and hone the team with new talent and democratic participation in team’s growth.
“Pakistan cricket set to incur huge financial, reputational losses,” Dawn, 18 September 2021
“Tabish Khan becomes Pakistan's third-oldest Test debutant,” Times of India, 7 May 2021
Khalid H Khan, “Pakistan’s abject surrender against England points to deeper problems,” Dawn, 12 July 2021
Cricket Baaz with Waheed Khan, “Cricket talk with Majid Bhatti...Rameez Raja new PCB Chairman...Mani exit...Pak selection kay dramay,” Youtube, 21 August 2021
Julian Guyer, "Masood 'has proved himself in England' as marathon century puts Pakistan on top", Yahoo Sports, 7 August 2020