Aamer Sohail © Getty Images
By Aamer Sohail
I am very concerned about the thought and rationale behind the award of central contracts by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). The logical way of thinking behind such contracts is to have a primary aim of keeping players bound to the Board so that their full attention is focused towards playing for their country. A secondary goal is to ensure that they do not indulge in corruption and other activities that result due to financial pressures.
Now there are many tried and tested formulae to achieve these aims. One way of assigning categories for contracts is by first examining how a player is to be utilized for the team in the coming year, and what sort of compensation he deserves based upon his previous record. For example, take Younis Khan, he used to play all three formats but only plays Test matches now. He was earning about PKR 7 Crores (USD 71,000) a year before but if he is now only supposed to play Test matches, then you need to ensure that he earns at least PKR 5 Crores (USD 51,000) so that he is adequately compensated for any income that he loses by not playing in all formats. This is one way of making the award of central contracts more meaningful and fair to the players.
If you look at the system of contracts as implemented by other Boards, you will note that the best levels (A & B) are awarded to about 20 or 22 players who are expected to represent the country in all formats of the game. In addition, you have another category which consists of a group of younger players who have performed in First Class cricket and are now knocking at the door of the international team. Each one of those players should be capable of stepping in should there be an injury to the regular or senior players.
In our case, it appears that this lower category (D) also has players who are expected to play regularly in all formats of the game! This is totally baffling to me and does not make any sense to me. Why award Category D to players like Sohaib Maqsood and Bilawal Bhatti when you know that they will be playing in all 3 formats? This is absolute nonsense. Why aren’t youngsters who are at the brink of making an entry into the senior team not included in that Category? Or take the case of Mohammad Irfan, it seems that the management has no idea or are totally confused as to how to utilize him in the future which is why he has also been awarded Category D as well! If it is the case that people who award these contracts don’t understand how this should be done then they should ask for advice!
If the argument is that awarding Category D contracts to good players is for the sake of leaving room for improvement then my view is simply this – if you wish to improve these players, chuck them out of the team and let them improve themselves in domestic cricket and come back when they are ready to represent Pakistan at the highest level! As I stated before, there is a distinct lack of understanding of how they wish to utilize players. Take for example, how the rest of the world is encouraging good leg-spinners in their squads. What have we done? We have 3 left arm spinners in our contracted players list – none of which can really be a replacement for Saeed Ajmal. What if Ajmal gets injured, who will take 20 wickets in a Test Match for you?
It really boils down to the performance of one man and that is Najam Sethi. It appears that he is too busy playing political games in board rooms instead of looking after the welfare of players where we have the likes of poor Taufeeq Umar who averages around 40 in Test matches but is unable to get into any contracted category! If the idea was to replace Taufeeq with a better player then I would have expected a better player, possible someone with a much better average to replace him in Test matches to take his place but clearly that is not the case. It’s not as if some really extra-ordinary talent has been pulled out of thin air to replace Taufeeq. He has been pushed out of the team for no apparent reason and as a consequence you cannot offer him a contract and that is simply ridiculous. If the idea is for players to be selected or discarded based on computer based statistics alone, then why not get rid of selectors and just use some software to find your new talents and be done with it and save some money as well!
The issue of corruption in Cricket
The recent ban on Naved Arif by ECB is an interesting development but my opinion is simply that instead of handing out life-bans to a few players to make headlines, it’s the ACSU itself that needs attention and has to be reformed. What it needs is a proper leader and not an ex policeman from Scotland Yard. There is someone who knows about this subject very well and has been speaking about it for a good many years and that person is Rashid Latif. I believe Rashid Latif should be appointed as Head of the ACSU. Others in that organization can help him achieve his objectives, which is fine. Rashid has pretty much sacrificed his career and then devoted his life to bringing this issue to the limelight so, in my view, he is the obvious choice to lead the organization but, we all know the reason why the International Cricket Council (ICC) will never have him in that position!
Najam Sethi’s handling of the future of International cricket in Pakistan, post Karachi airport attack
Everyone knows that there is a security issue in Pakistan but some of the people simply like to play to the galleries without any regards to the situation on the ground which is really disgraceful. They start making statements without any idea as to what they are saying or who their audience is.
Not so long ago they were making big statements about how international cricket is coming to Pakistan. Once the Karachi airport attack happened, the same people without hesitation are saying that international cricket will not happen in Pakistan. I would really like such people to keep their mouths shut or when they do speak, talk sense! What was the need to make a statement like there will be no international cricket in Pakistan? Wouldn’t it have been better and smarter to say that look we had this security situation occur but we will keep on working on this. There are diplomatic ways of saying things. We have the Chairman of PCB saying in an interview with the media that international cricket cannot return to Pakistan instead of saying that we have a problem and our armed forces are dealing with the problem. These kind of irresponsible statements are sabotaging efforts to get international cricket back in Pakistan and that is totally unacceptable.
(Aamer Sohail is a former Pakistan captain who played 47 Tests and 156 One-Day Internationals between 1992 and 2000. The above column was first published in PakPassion.net)