That Pakistani cricket is in turmoil is obvious enough, but it becomes sinister when seen in the context of what is happening in world cricket. That Najam Sethi has returned to the PCB is as much the result of a court order as was his removal. This is his third tenure, which comes after Zaka Ashraf’s ouster by the Supreme Court, after what must have been the shortest tenure of a PCB chief on record. The question, “Who is head of the cricket board?” is supposed to be boring, because easily answered. However, in Pakistan it should be met by an “Er…umm… Let me check.” This should be followed by a hurried scramble for a quick check with the Supreme Court Registry. Or perhaps the Islamabad High Court registry. Sooner rather than later, the answer will be ‘blueberry’ or some other fruit flavor.
The only bright side about this case has been that it hasn’t been subjected to any of the Kala Gujjar analogies that Pervez Musharraf was subjected to, and that too by his own lawyer, Ahmed Reza Kasuri. It isn’t a criminal case. Yet.
Meanwhile, New Zealand skipper Bremdon McCullum is testifying his heart out to the ICC’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit, talking about who was trying to swing the deal for match-fixers. As a result, Chris Cairns has gone public with a vehement denial. And the New Zealand Board, Cricket New Zealand, has only expressed concern about who leaked McCullum‘s testimony to the press.
With the ICC poised to make BCCI chief Vishwanathan its President, it needs someone good at matchfixing in charge of Pakistan’s Board. The PCB was already under attack because of ‘tainted cricketers’ holding office there. However, that should be a good sign, because it means that Pakistan is gearing up to play India. The sort of betting generated by Pakistan-India matches are not even generated by the Ashes. So you need a PCB which will ensure a positive result in any encounter. And that means an Indian win.
And these days, you need to make sure India wins, not just at cricket, but also at other things, like trade. Narendra Modi has been elected Prime Minister of India, and being from Gujarat, should be a cricket enthusiast. It’s interesting, but our Nawaz Sharif also has a cricketing background, as well as being pro-business like Modi. Modi might be a Hindu, but the last famous Modi was Sohrab, the actor, a Parsi. Mian Nawaz has no acting connection, but he has a cricketing connection, having been an opener in his youth. And he played at Lahore Gymkhana in his second term. Now, in his third, he is 65, and it seems that his playing days are behind him. They seem to be behind Imran Khan too, but since he is only 60, and still attracts the youth vote. Maybe they aren’t. Neither are too old to bet on the game, now that both have reached an age where dinner (or any meal) consists of rusks sopping with tea. It’s a pity that the weather is turning hot at last, after a spell of unseasonal rains.
Though Imran might now be past 61, he still thinks Najam Sethi fixed the match, or rather the last election, against him. And that’s why he is so much against the TV channel on which Hamid Mir was an anchor. That channel is accused of having damaged a national institution, by accusing it of having carried out the murder attempt on Mir. The channel then faced the charge that it was involved in the rigging that stopped Imran from winning in the Punjab. Then it faced the blasphemy accusation because of a morning show. No one has accused the national institution of being behind this, nor has this charge been part of the PEMRA proceedings against it. PEMRA clearly doesn’t have any idea of what is going on, with it first deciding to suspend licences of three of five channels, and then declaring that the meeting deciding the suspensions was not valid.
And though Mian Nawaz is about four years older than Imran, he can still be frightened, and one hears that he was as upset by the military coup in Thailand as Asif Zardari is whenever he hears of any politician being accused of corruption. Another thing being used to frighten him is the last coup. He should remember that any chief of service will be loyal to his service, and only then to any other person. Even the late General Tikka Khan was more loyal to the Army than to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who had selected him for the job. The most that will happen is that the Army chief a PM selects won’t carry out a coup against him. As Tikka didn’t. But Ziaul Haq did. And Musharraf.
But then, Mian Nawaz is also more engaged with his visit to Modi’s oath-taking, for which he leaves today. It will be the first time a Pakistani PM will be attending an Indian PM’s swearing-in, and shows that India is approaching the ideal it aspires to: total obedience by small countries in the region. The next step is Pakistan declaring India a Most Favoured Nation. Then comes the settlement of the Kashmir issue on Indian terms. And is Nawaz supposed to become a karsevak after that? A karsevak is someone who participates in building a Ram Mandir on the Babri Masjid site, as Modi is committed to.
Still, I don’t think Mian Nawaz will be criticized. If there was a military ruler, he would also hasten to go over. The operation in North Waziristan is not going to stop Modi’s oath. Nor the talks with the militants, which are also going nowhere.