LAHORE - Former Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Zaka Ashraf said that he was offered chairmanship of the International Cricket Council (ICC) if he supported Big-3 proposal but he refused in the larger interests of the country.

He said he had no political agenda and the country was his top priority. “I never gave any priority to political matters in cricket which is the voice of the entire nation and makes the nation united.”

Speaking at a ceremony held here on Sunday, Zaka said: “I was threatened by India for opposing the plan but I refused to support it as I wanted national interest. Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and South Africa didn’t have the fortitude to stand against the ICC and they would become even weaker after implementation of the Big-3 plan.”

Zaka was removed from his post last week by Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif for ‘mishandling Pakistan's case in the changes brought in the ICC’ and was replaced by Najam Sethi. Pakistan had abstained from the voting in the ICC board meeting in which the Big-3 - India, Australia and England - got a majority of the powers in the sport's governing body.  He added that government interference in the cricket board made vulnerable. “It gave weak point to International Cricket Council (ICC) and India and they can get benefit from it. Now the PCB has to either face ICC ban or the board has to bow down in front of the international cricketing body in many matters.”

He said the PCB's governing board was twice taken into confidence regarding Pakistan's official stance on the issue and their stance was clear that Pakistan should not support the structural changes,” he added.  Zaka said that as cricket board chief, he had always tried to have a cordial working relationship with India and pushed for resumption of bilateral ties. "That is why to show goodwill, we agreed to send our team to India last December for the short series without any financial rewards for us," he asserted.

He also said that it was not the duty of PCB chairman to form constitution of the board but it’s the responsibility of the government. “My decision of not to be a part of Big-3 was appreciated all over the country but when I came back to Pakistan, everybody was criticising my action.” He said that he respected the court whether it gave verdict in his favour or not.

To a query regarding Pakistan’s cricket isolation after his decision over Big-3 proposal, he replied: “Who says Pakistan will be isolated as the Future Tour Programme (FTP) will remain the same till 2020 and will be signed in the next ICC meeting to be held on February 23 and PCB COO Subhan Ahmad will go there in this regard.”

When asked about the plan of restoring cricket at schools and colleges level, Zaka said: “Yes, we had plans to restore cricket at various schools and colleges to groom stars cricketers at grassroots level. We wanted to active those educational institutions which had already better infrastructure so that quick positive results would be gained but all those plans would now remain plans due to my removal or if Najam Sethi-led management works on it, it will be in great benefit of the game.”

To another query regarding future of cricket, Zaka stated: “Future of cricket is just merit. The more we follow merit, the more better results we will get and the merit should also be followed in all fields of the life if we want to make Pakistan, the country of the Quaid. Unfortunately, there are a great number of bogus clubs in almost all the regions due to which we are not getting talent at grassroots level. When any one tries to take action against them, they bring to that one in the courts which shows that corruption has conquered the game of cricket badly. So in this scenario, the future of cricket is looking bleak.”