A sport managing body taking on a quasi-political nature is unheard of in other countries – the Pakistan Cricketing Board (PCB) is the exception. The rabid popularity of the sport and the long practice of the Chairman being appointed by the head of the state directly in Pakistan ensure that PCB will always be seen through a political lens as well. The election of Imran Khan – a former cricket player and World Cup winning captain – has further blurred the lines between the sport and politics when it comes to the PCB.
As was widely expected following his nomination by Imran Khan, former International Cricket Council (ICC) president Ehsan Mani has been elected unopposed as PCB chairman for a term of three year; he has replaced Najam Sethi, who resigned last month. Najam Sethi’s long running feud with Imran Khan may have precipitated his departure, but he remains a popular figure; having reinvigorated the domestic cricket scene with the advent of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) and working towards restoring international cricket. He was helped by the fact that team Pakistan developed into a cohesive merit-based unit that performed very well in tournaments under his chairmanship.
Ehsan Mani thus has a tough act to follow. However he has identified an intelligent agenda that tackles the issues that require attention while leaving the policies of his predecessor intact where they work.
His main focus will be following up on the legal action against India’s cricketing body for breach of contract – as the former president of the ICC he has the proper skills and experience to pursue this case. His claim that the near totalitarian powers of the PCB Chairman will be broken down into constituent parts is a welcome one; especially since it is being done voluntarily.
The overarching challenge will remain restructuring the domestic game beyond the PSL. That is the first item on his and Imran Khan’s agenda, and the task won’t be easy.