By Saj Sadiq
Ehsan Mani spent his early life in Pakistan playing for the Rawalpindi Club and Government College Lahore XI from 1959 to 1965 as a right-hand batsman and a left-arm fast medium bowler.
From 1989 to 1996, Mani represented the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) at the International Cricket Council. For the 1996 Cricket World Cup, he was on the advisory committee as the PCB representative. He was also on the same committee during the 1999 Cricket World Cup played in England. In 1996, he was elected by the ICC member nations to the position of Chairman of the ICC Finance and Marketing Committee.
He held on to this post until it was dissolved in June 2002. After that he took over as the Vice-President of the ICC Executive Board. He has also served on a number of ICC Committees, such as the Chairman’s Advisory Committee, set up to advice Lord Colin Cowdrey and Sir Clyde Walcott during their stints as ICC President. Other committees he has been a part of are the Rules Review Committee and the Governance and Organisation Committee. In June 2003, he became the ICC President.
Excerpts of an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net:
PakPassion.net (PPN): You were President of ICC at a time when the ICC had a lot of important decisions to make. Looking back at your tenure, is there anything you would have done differently?
Ehsan Mani (EM): The one big challenge which came towards the end of my presidency, which actually happened after I left, was the start of the IPL. And that has had a big impact on world cricket. If I had been able to foresee what would have happened, I would have made sure that the IPL would have been handled by the ICC in a very different way to which it was managed after I left.
PPN: Would you care to elaborate on what you mean by handled differently?
EM: I was beginning to hear whispers that something was happening when I was coming to the end of my term in 2006. What I would like to have done was to have made sure that the ICC had more control of the IPL.
The IPL has done a lot of damage to some countries by either encouraging players by paying them so much that they’re no longer interested in playing for their own countries. I can’t think of anything worse than that in cricket – where people don’t wish to play Tests and are not proud to be playing for their own country but rather play for money. Secondly, sometimes players who still had a good two or three years of cricket left in them decide to come out of the game early and just concentrate on a couple of weeks of cricket, earning enough money to keep going without playing for their own country.
What I would have liked to have seen changed if I had the opportunity is I would have made sure that the ICC would have a bigger say in how the IPL was run and how the finances would have been distributed. Certainly the ICC on behalf of its members should have had a royalty of some sort together with an undertaking from the BCCI that no player would be allowed to give priority to the IPL over playing for their own country. When I say the ICC would have received a royalty, it wouldn’t have been to make money out of this, it would have been a pool of funds where if a player had been chosen for an IPL team, it’s only if he’d been chosen, let’s say if he was being paid a million dollars for that season, he was called to play for his country where he was getting paid half a million dollars for doing that, then this fund would have been used to compensate the player for the difference. So the players would have not been affected, would not have received less for playing for their country and I would have also made sure that some of that money would have gone to the player’s board in that scenario.
After all it’s the national boards that make a huge investment in the development of a player, they bring him along, they make him into a superstar, they help to provide the platform for him to perform and then suddenly lose him to money-making, which is privately-owned money-making for the franchise – they are owned by private enterprises and that is something that I wish I had been able to foresee and do something about before my term expired.
PPN: On the subject of the domestic Twenty20 leagues we are seeing them pop up around the world for example in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – some of them aren’t regarded very highly by the public and their reputation isn’t that great either. Do you think cricket is in danger of overkill to the Twenty20 format?
EM: That is the matter of the market to tell us – I don’t have an issue with that. There are two or three aspects of Twenty20. One is it’s played introducing the game to people who would not have not traditionally followed the game. So, from a development point of view, for spreading the game from introducing the stakeholders who watched the game, it’s a wonderful thing. It brings people into the game who hopefully once they start watching Twenty20 will then also want to watch the longer forms of the game.
The dream is that kids of a young age come and watch it they find it exciting that is all good for cricket on the whole. Certainly it must be used more robustly and aggressively in developing cricket in countries like China and the United States, countries with a huge cricket market with a lot of potential and the Twenty20 format would be a wonderful way of introducing the game there and starting leagues in these sort of countries.
The big risks that something like Twenty20 cricket carries is the irrelevance of it, possibly if there are too many leagues around the world. Virtually every country is running their own league – Pakistan is trying, Bangladesh has one, Sri Lanka has got one going, India obviously has one, Australia has the Big Bash, England have one and the West Indies board is about to launch one. When you look at all this, the big risks that are there for cricket is corruption and the control of corruption by the players who can think this is just Mickey Mouse cricket, we can do fancy fixing and spot-fix without taking it too seriously, so the monitoring and control of this is important.
Technically the players techniques when I talk to some of the cricketers, especially the former greats, they tell me that the players who have been nurtured and brought up on Twenty20, most of them will not be able to succeed at the highest level in Test Cricket because the techniques are different. They are not used to playing long innings and saving a match that needs to be defended, so technically there are going to aspects that affect the performance of players but the biggest risk is corruption.
PPN: On the subject of corruption, there is a lot of discussion with regards to the personnel who should be employed at the ICC Anti Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) and whether ex-cricketers should be more involved as opposed to former police officers etc. What are your thoughts on the makeup of the ACSU?
EM: It has to be a professional organisation run by professional people who understand how these things work. There is no player in the world will have that sort of experience or knowledge so I disagree with that totally.
The ICC has a good mix of professionals – former people from Scotland Yard and the CBI of India. It has had a Pakistani from the intelligence services at one stage, so these are the people who understand how corruptors will work, how they will launder the money and how they will approach the players and try to corrupt them so I think the composition of the ICC anti-corruption unit is the right way to go.
On a broader basis the ICC is there to clear the guidelines, to monitor corruption, to make sure the message about corruption gets through to the players and to the boards, but the ultimate responsibility for managing and controlling corruption is each of the individual cricket boards and that’s where we’ve seen the failings in recent years.
PPN: When you say “failings,” do you think that the Pakistan Cricket Board did enough with regards to the Pakistani trio in 2010 and subsequently with Danish Kaneria?
EM: No, the Pakistan Cricket Board handled that very badly. It took their eye of the ball, they let things slip, they were not monitoring their players and they were certainly not educating them on the risks and dangers of corruption. If they were, the messages were not getting through and the PCB was not aware that message was not getting through.
Certainly when I was president I saw this as the biggest risk to cricket around the world particularly from Pakistan. I being a Pakistani myself, the one thing that would have totally undermined my presidency would have been corruption in Pakistan. With the help of the PCB we worked very, very hard on the players to make sure that the message was there, controls were there, the monitoring was there.
Somewhere between 2006 and 2007, the PCB for reasons known best to themselves, took their eye off the ball and stopped giving anti-corruption measures the importance they deserved and we had the consequences of that in front of us. Having said that, Pakistan is not the only country – we’ve had incidents in county cricket in England, we’ve had the IPL where the BCCI has suspended some players who tried to fix matches.
Corruption is not going to go away like this. Unless corruption is tackled at the highest level, it’s the big thing that stands out. Take the case of the three Pakistani players or last year’s case involving the Essex players. The one thing that really stands out for me is that none of the corruptors have been charged. The players have been charged for being corrupted, but the people who actually approached them to try and corrupt them, they are not being prosecuted. Therein lies the biggest problem.
PPN: There has been some criticism of the ICC’s ICC Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) for not being able to track down these corrupt players and even the three Pakistanis who were caught due to the activities of the agent and undercover work of journalists. Do you think the ACSU has the powers and the focus to catch any of the crooked players in future?
EM: The ICC anti-corruption unit has no legal powers to go into countries, any country, and set up phone tapping or entrapment. In some countries that is illegal and the ICC certainly wouldn’t be getting involved in that. That’s why I keep saying it’s now going to be exceedingly difficult to fix a whole match involving a whole team because of the monitoring that goes on around the match, but stopping spot fixing is going to be virtually impossible unless very robust action is taken against the corruptors themselves.
The ICC certainly doesn’t have the legal jurisdiction in many countries to do what the newspapers have been able to do. The basic things like wire-tapping, phone tapping, and setting up entrapment exercises.
PPN: Whilst Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Amir and Salman Butt have spent time in prison, it is possible that we could see Mohammad Amir return to domestic and international cricket in a few years. Do you think the fact that this may happen is enough of a deterrent to other young cricketers around the world?
EM: There are two levels of punishment here. One is through the courts of the United Kingdom and they sent these boys to prison. The other aspect is the ICC’s own regulations which require any player even after he’s served his sentence to get clearances from the ICC. The ICC in the case of Amir, who wasn’t tried – he pleaded guilty – and he was punished for that. In his hearings at the ICC, the ICC said they banned him for five years and then they recommended to the PCB that he should be put under their supervision – if he was to be brought back to cricket it should be under the PCB’s supervision. That’s a very big responsibility for the Pakistan Cricket Board.
For a young boy like Amir to be out of international cricket for five to seven years – it’s going to be exceedingly difficult no matter how talented he is for him to come back. If he’d been playing for the side for seven years he would have earned a couple of million dollars, he would have been right up there. The way he was going he would have been up there with some of the great fast bowlers we’ve had in recent years. The price he has paid for his stupidity is there for all of us to see and for him, more than anyone, to have suffered.
Spot-fixing scandal: PCB’s reaction from Day One was terrible
PPN: Some ex-cricketers have said the trio of Asif, Butt and Amir should have been banned for life from cricket or do you think that would have been too harsh?
EM: As far as I’m concerned, there is no place for corruptors in the game, but there can always be mitigating circumstances. If the ICC felt in the case of Amir, he was young, he was impressionable and he got dropped into something. One must also understand the background of some of these players, who come from pretty underprivileged backgrounds, they don’t know how to handle money, to cope with the publicity and the hero worship they get. They don’t know how to tell the difference between a fan and a corruptor who entraps them. It’s quite complex when you start looking at it, to sit in judgment and say they should never play. My attitude would be that if someone is corrupt, they should never play.
However, if the Pakistan Cricket Board in this case failed to get that message across to them, should not the Pakistan Cricket Board have been tried, for failing to stop corruption in the game? The whole reaction of the PCB from Day One was terrible.
My advice to the PCB immediately was to not wait, suspend the players and set up a board of inquiry. The PCB did none of this. The PCB said the players were not guilty, it was all accusations, we will not do anything and wait for the ICC to act. So the ICC acted. What was the board doing? The board washed their hands of any responsibility. That in my mind was unacceptable.
Did the PCB fail these players in the first instance? That’s the other thing to ask oneself.
PPN: Your advice appeared to be completely ignored by the PCB as Ijaz Butt didn’t help when instead he pointed the finger at some of the English players.
EM: Absolutely. It was beyond words and did a lot of damage to the credibility of Pakistan cricket. Here we had a situation where the England and Wales Cricket Board was hosting a series in England which was Pakistan’s home series against Australia and for the Pakistan Cricket Board to then turn onto its host country and make these sorts of accusations has done so much damage to Pakistan and today it stands isolated in world cricket, because of these sort of antics by our former President. This leads to the whole question of governance of cricket in Pakistan.
PPN: You touched on an important point there with regards to the Pakistan Cricket Board’s relations with other cricket boards around the world and the ICC, which around about 2010 were at an all time low. Zaka Ashraf took over as Chairman of PCB – how do you think he has performed in his role so far?
EM: Rather than getting involved with individuals, let me tell you my views on the structure on the way Pakistan goes about appointing people to run the cricket board. That’s just wrong. The biggest stakeholders of cricket in Pakistan are the cricket associations and the affiliate members of the PCB. They have no say in who will run Pakistan cricket. The person who is enforced on them by the President of Pakistan, who is the Patron, means that person has no accountability to the stakeholders – he’s given a total free hand to do what he wishes with no accountability.
This has been happening since the Late General Zia-ul-Haq’s time and has done more damage to Pakistan cricket than anything else. Pakistan has to change the way it runs its cricket, it has to accept the fact that cricket belongs to the people who run cricket in the country at the domestic and national levels within Pakistan. The government and particularly one person who is the Patron should have absolutely no role in appointing someone. At most they should be a safeguard that they can reject someone if someone inappropriate is appointed. The governance structure is wrong.
Talking specifically about the current Chairman of the PCB, I think the PCB, because there is no accountability, he works for his own benefits and this happens with every chairman whether it’s Zaka Ashraf, Ijaz Butt or anyone else and without due consideration and understanding for what is really needed in cricket in Pakistan. Let me give you an example of this. There has been talk within Pakistan by the PCB about building a new stadium in Islamabad. They’re talking about an expenditure of about $50 million at a time when there is no international cricket in Pakistan. There is a big stadium in Rawalpindi. And the Pindi Stadium is actually between Rawalpindi and Islamabad. It’s only about 3 kilometres out of Islamabad. Why do you need a new stadium?
Can you imagine how much of the $50 million could provide to the playing fields in Pakistan for club cricketers? You could change the whole landscape of facilities available for people who want to play the game at a local level, but no they go for these big projects which are virtually another white elephant sitting there. There’s absolutely no need for this in the country.
PPN: The PCB is rumoured to be saying that there are insufficient funds to send Pakistan ‘A’ teams overseas, yet they are spending a significant sum on a stadium that will hardly be used?
EM: Yes, absolutely. Also I have been involved in every television deal negotiation in Pakistan since 1993, since Pakistan has started earning money from international television. The last deal I did was for over $120 million, yet more than half of that money was to come from the tours against India which are not taking place. But PCB would still have received somewhere between $40 and $50 million over the last four years – those four years and this year.
Pakistan cricket does not have a shortage of money, in spite of the fact that no international matches are being played there. So long as Pakistan continues to play its international matches somewhere, which it has been playing in Dubai and other places, the PCB will earn that money from the media. What is worrying to me and quite frightening is the pace at which the PCB has been increasing its expenditure.
Since Zaka Ashraf has come in, the expenditure of the Pakistan Cricket Board has increased by Rs. 30 million (c. $300k) a month. What is this money being spent on? When I say expenditure, I am just talking about the payroll cost. It’s not coaches or anything – its cronies. That is the big damage that is being done to Pakistan cricket. Money spent on people like big government employees who manage to give jobs for political gains. These are the sort of issues that have to be tackled.
PPN: You mentioned earlier about the Chairman and how he comes into power so to speak. What would be the best way – someone elected from within the cricket associations and by the cricket associations?
EM: Why not? The cricket associations are the people who develop and run grassroots cricket. They’ll be involved in clubs. They’ll be involved in the divisional and state teams. They are the people who manage and run cricket up to the highest level. When it comes to the national level, suddenly someone else comes in and takes over who has no clue on how cricket is run in the country and that is what has done so much damage to cricket in Pakistan.
If you look at the performance of teams on the field, you’ll find that the best performing teams are the ones who have the best governance structures. That’s why countries like Australia, England, and South Africa do well. They have good solid governance structures.
PPN: On the point of cricket returning to Pakistan, do you think that the Pakistan Cricket Board is going about it the right way and also do you envisage international cricket returning soon to Pakistan?
EM: To some extent, the Pakistan board is desperate and it’s sort of going around banging every door it possibly can and trying to get people to come. But really, when you stand back and look at it, it’s got nothing to do with the Pakistan cricket board. It’s got everything to do with the security situation in the country and the perception that people have of Pakistan as a place which is not secure.
Rather than going off to Bangladesh or India or wherever begging them to come and play in Pakistan, if I was running the Pakistan board, I’d be talking to my government and asking how to create an atmosphere where people are comfortable to come and visit us. Players are not going to want to come to Pakistan and be treated like prisoners. They can’t go to the hotels. They can’t socialise with people. They would simply go the ground in an armoured car and come back in an armoured truck or whatever the PCB is proposing. That’s not the way to bring cricket back to Pakistan.
We have to be convinced ourselves that it’s safe for people to come and then, we’ll find that they’ll come themselves. If it is not safe, then it will be madness to bring people to play cricket in Pakistan because if an incident happens again, then the consequences will be terrible for Pakistan and Pakistan cricket.
What is really required is to look at the fundamentals which is the state of security within Pakistan and unless we’re honest with ourselves about that, I would be loathed to approach foreign teams to come and play.
PPN: At the moment, the Pakistan Cricket Board has basically put all its eggs in one basket by playing all home series in the UAE. Putting yourself in the current Chairman’s shoes and the decision makers, do you think it’s the right philosophy to play all these series in the UAE? Or should they be looking elsewhere with regards to where to play these home series?
EM: From Pakistan’s perspective there are a number of reasons for this. One is in the season that Pakistan plays cricket which is basically from about September to March-April, every other country apart from England has its cricket season. If it’s not going to play in Pakistan, then logistically it’s probably the UAE that is the nearest to Pakistan. The England and Wales Cricket Board actually tried to help Pakistan by hosting the Australia series in England and we didn’t conduct ourselves too well with our hosts and I doubt they’ll want to host us again.
When I think eventually how we actually get cricket back into Pakistan, teams will still be reluctant to come. We’ll have to win their confidence and one of the ways would be say for example you were playing three ODIs against Australia. You would play one in Dubai, one in Abu Dhabi, and the third one you would say to them ‘We’ll fly you to Lahore or Karachi’. Come try in, try out play that and you will gradually start breaking down that perception of concern that people have.
If you insist to countries like Bangladesh that they have to come and play, it’s not going to happen – we saw that with Bangladesh. Bangladesh turned around in the end and said sorry we can’t come. We bullied them and threatened them, so they said ok we’ll come and then got someone to go to court to get a stay order against them sending their team to Pakistan.
PPN: This tour of India. It’s a step in the right direction. It’s a good thing that Pakistan and India bilateral series are starting. Albeit, it’s a handful of one-dayers and a couple of T20 matches, but to the observer its looks as if the Pakistan Cricket Board has agreed to this series without any sort of return from the BCCI with regards to either another series on a neutral ground or anything coming the Pakistan Cricket Board’s way. Do you think this is a concern – sending a team there without any reassurances from the BCCI?
EM: Absolutely. I think the PCB is wrong to have agreed to this. If it is a political decision, then the PCB should have asked the politicians to make sure that India reciprocated by coming and playing against Pakistan, even if it was at a neutral venue.
For Pakistan to go and play in India, when India owes Pakistan two series which it has cancelled out on, from a reciprocity point of view, it is totally wrong that Pakistan should be going to India. My opinion is Pakistan should not be going to India at all. India or the BCCI went out of its way after the Mumbai attack to isolate Pakistan cricket at the ICC.
BCCI knew full well that by refusing to play Pakistan even at neutral venue, they were going to cost Pakistan a huge amount of money, which they did, about $70 or $80 million. This short series will enable BCCI to earn over $100 million, probably as much as $150 million. All we’re doing is to help India make a lot of money out of us, with no assurance of a reciprocal tour.
So I think it has not been thought through properly. It is sort of trying to get the headlines. I don’t see any benefit to Pakistan cricket in terms of getting cricket back to Pakistan by playing this series. Certainly, I am not in favour of it.
PPN: What do you think are currently the key points and areas that the ICC need to keep a close tab on in international cricket?
EM: Corruption will continue to be an issue that will need to be monitored diligently and that will always be on the top of my list in terms of what the ICC should be doing. But the other thing is that the state of international cricket is getting more and more fragile. You have from a financial point of view, there are three countries, may be four, that are doing reasonably well – India, Australia, England, South Africa and then there is a whole of others. You cannot run international cricket on the strength of four countries. Countries like Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan are in that basket, as is New Zealand are all in pretty bad financial condition. So there is something wrong in the whole structure of the way that the ICC funding is taking place.
The ICC commissioned a report by The IPL has done a lot of damage to some countries by either encouraging players by paying them so much that they’re no longer interested in playing for their own countries. I can’t think of anything worse than that in cricket earlier this year which came up with some very radical and some very good suggestions. The ICC, I can assure you, has no intention of even debating it because the BCCI has decided it is not going to accept any of it. It shows the weakness of the central body. The ICC becomes irrelevant if that’s the way it’s going and if certain members of the ICC continue to behave in this way.
There is a lot of damage being done to undermine the whole authority of the ICC and that’s a big challenge for the ICC to overcome.
PPN: Many thanks for your time.
EM: Thank you.
(Saj Sadiq is Senior Editor at PakPassion.net)
Also on cricketcountry.com