LAHORE: Former International Cricket Council (ICC) president Ehsan Mani took over the reins of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) as its new chairman after he was elected unanimously and unopposed by the PCB Board of Governors (BoG) here on Tuesday. He was the only candidate to submit his nomination papers for the vacant post. Mani, who was Prime Minister Imran Khan’s nominee for the post, has been elected for a period of three years. The chairman’s post had been lying vacant since the previous PCB chief Najam Aziz Sethi tendered his resignation last month. It is pertinent to mention that 73 years old Mani had shown his interest in the coveted post when there was a legal battle going on between former chairmen Zaka Ashraf and Najam Sethi in 2013 and Pakistan cricket being in doldrums. But later Sethi succeeded with the help of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Sethi’s relationship with Prime Minister Imran worsened after the latter accused the former for helping the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) in 2013 General Elections when he was the caretaker Punjab Chief Minister. Justice (r) Afzal Haider conducted the elections as election commissioner. Mani previously represented the PCB at the ICC as treasurer for three years and later headed the body for another three years from 2003 to 2006. He has also served on the Board of Governors of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust Hospital – a charity project of PM Imran – but on an honorary basis without withdrawing any salary. Mani believes the PCB is in need of ‘a major overhaul.’ A chartered accountant by profession, it was during Mani’s tenure that the ICC office moved from London to Dubai, the ICC entered into a partnership with the United Nations to promote awareness of AIDs and HIV through cricket and China was made a member of the ICC. Following the Asian Tsunami and the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, the ICC raised over $17 million for emergency relief work and the ICC Global Cricket Academy was set up in Dubai. Over the years Mani has assisted Pakistan and West Indies cricket boards in the sale of their media rights raising hundreds of millions for the game in these countries. Amongst the first few tasks ahead of him as the PCB chief will be reviewing the ongoing legal battle between the PCB and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) following India’s failure to fulfil the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) the two sides had signed in 2014. The ICC’s dispute panel is set to chair the ongoing issues between the PCB and BCCI on October 1. Pakistan are bracing themselves for a busy few months. Their first assignment is the Asia Cup which will be staged in the UAE from September 15. They will then play a full home series against Australia and New Zealand in Dubai and Abu Dhabi from October to December. A tour to South Africa will follow soon after. Addressing the media after his election, Mani made it clear that the PCB would not beg or request India on playing bilateral cricket series. “In my opinion, Indian Board has a contradictory stance and policy on playing cricket with Pakistan; they are ready to fulfill their ICC commitments and even ready to play Pakistan in the Asia Cup, but surprisingly when it matters playing bilateral cricket they have a different stance,” he added. Mani sounded confidence by saying: “I assure you that we will not be begging or requesting India to play bilateral cricket series. Pakistan has its own self-esteem and prestige and we will always uphold it no matter what are the circumstances.” To a question, he said that he was confident that the International Cricket Council would take a decision on merit on the case the PCB had filed for claiming damages on India for its refusal not to fulfill it bilateral series commitment with Pakistan. Answering another question, he said he believed in good professional governance of the PCB as it would yield positive impact on the working of the Board and Pakistan cricket. “My utmost effort will be to introduce a new system of good governance in the PCB for the overall development of game and to run the PCB on professional lines, making it an institution to sustain all sort of pressure and its performance and progress should not hamper in any circumstances,” he said. The PCB chairman said that corruption would not be tolerated at any level in the PCB nor in its allied affairs including PSL. He said resumption of international cricket is not an overnight process and defiantly it would take some time. Mani said that he would work on improving domestic cricket for which he had ‘short and long-term strategies’. “We have to make a five-year plan besides focusing on school, college and club cricket.” He also vowed to ‘wipe out’ nepotism from the cricket body, a promise in line with the new government’s agenda. “We will dig out the best talent in youngsters and will give them a chance to prove themselves at the international level,” he said. In order to ‘bring Pakistan cricket on the right path,’ Mani said he would ‘take suggestions from the country’s cricket legends’. The former ICC president also pointed out that even though he had spent ‘55 years of his life abroad,’ he only had ‘one passport and that is a green one.’ Even though Mani has already expressed his desire that he will follow Prime Minister Imran’s austerity drive, there are very lucrative perks and privileges that the 73-year-old will have to say no to: fully furnished accommodation of Rs 100,000 per month, one 3500 CC fully maintained car with driver, reimbursement of residential utility bills for electricity, water, and gas of Rs 40,000 per month, four full-time domestic servants including one security guard, one landline and one cellular phone and reimbursement of all medical expenses for self and spouse, first-class air travel for self and spouse for official tours with five-star hotel accommodation. During domestic tour, daily allowance of Rs10,000, during international tour, $300 daily allowance with hotel accommodation or $650 without hotel accommodation. The PCB chairman can spend money as actual without limit on business entertainment. A top job always requires good administrator. Some of the best heads of the PCB were not former cricketers but people with good managerial background. Running cricket is not rocket science, just the use of the rarest of qualities, common sense. How Mani will use his skills, if he has any, is anyone’s guess. Running a global body and a cricket board of a country are poles apart. From the administration point of view a cricketing background is not mandatory for the chairman. In Pakistan cricketing history and even around the world most of the chairmen or presidents aren’t cricketers; it’s a plus point if one has two qualifications but passion towards the game is must. Mani will be confronting big chronic ills: the dirty player politics, media controversies, international cricket ties (especially with India), ongoing spot-fixing scandal in the Pakistan Super League, the state of the domestic game and its declining talent pool and PCB and its relation with cricket associations. And above all, crisis of confidence in the PCB, reduced to a ridiculed and maligned institution. The performance of the high PCB officials, including that of the legal, finance and media teams, raises a number of questions, the most important being whether they are capable of handling the affairs of most loved sport of the country. The evidence of the past couple of years quite emphatically suggests that they are not. Everyone knows that there are serious problems with Pakistan cricket. In other countries, the sports decision makers contribute by taking professional decisions and by executing them with competence rather than on the basis of personal preference and bias. But, frankly, we are not such a nation. Mani’s media statements so far have been quite encouraging. One sincerely hopes they are not an eyewash like his predecessors. He has acknowledged the problems faced by Pakistan cricket and promised to tackle them swiftly. He has also assured former cricket greats that their feedback and advice will be heard and acted upon – one of the areas previous chairmen failed miserably. Mani will also need to turn his eyes to the Pakistan Super League. The franchise-based T20 league has largely been played in the UAE, something the hosts are looking to change, and it also awaits fresh commercial and TV rights signings. Besides, all six teams have been left hanging since the national election results in July that made Sethi’s departure all but inevitable, given his well-publicised poor relationship with Imran. A meeting between the PCB and PSL franchise owners was slotted to take place last month to discuss various topics, but was postponed indefinitely, presumably in anticipation of a new chairman taking charge. At the same time, Mani will have to be extra careful of those former cricketers who want to join the PCB bandwagon at all costs whether they are suitable for the job or not. The perception of people of this ‘Land of the Pure’ that former uneducated cricketers can do wonders for Pakistan cricket is nothing but a mirage. It is accepted that a brilliant pupil, almost never makes a good teacher. The same logic applies to cricket. Whether Mani is competent enough to run Pakistan cricket in an efficient way only time will tell. Pakistan cricket needs a strong administrator, the right kind of decision-making excluding nepotism and above all accountability or it can continue to wallow in the depths, where it will ultimately perish. But the thing is, one has serious reservations because our cricket is what we really are. Published in Daily Times, September 5th 2018.