While Ali Sethi saved the first episode of Coke Studio 10 with ‘Ranjhish hi sahi, dil hi dukhanay k liye aa’, the PCB’s Board of Governors apparently took notice and recalled his father, Najam Sethi, as the Cricket Board’s Chairman. This is not the first time Sr. Sethi has found himself at the helm of affairs of the Pakistan Cricket Board. He has seesawed with Zaka Ashraf for the position in the past as well which definitely caused a lot of embarrassment for the country on the international front. Najam Sethi, because of his loyalty and affiliation with the Sharif’s and the absence of any sort of cricketing experience generally garners animosity from the masses. Senior Ex-cricketers aren’t also great fans of Sethi based on their opinion that only cricketers should run cricket boards (Even though Javed Miandad, during his stint as Director General, PCB proved many of them wrong). Ex-cricketers from recent times like Wasim Akram and Rashid Latif support Sethi as someone who can give Pakistan cricket a new direction.
Najam Sethi’s affair with Pakistan Cricket began not even a month after his much debated ‘successful’ stint as the Caretaker Chief Minister of Punjab ahead of the 2013 general elections. He has been part of the PCB since then in one way or the other. During Shehryar Khan’s tenure as Chairman PCB, Sethi was considered as someone who was actually running the show from behind the scenes. His stance regarding Pakistan’s vote for the controversial Big 3 proposal when he was Chairman PCB received mixed reactions from all circles. Many argue that it was a decision that was ‘not emotional’ and pragmatic considering Pakistan’s position in world cricket at that time. Nevertheless, Pakistan is yet to bear fruits for that decision as the bilateral series that was promised between India and Pakistan as a result of Pakistan’s vote in favor of Big 3 has not materialized and neither has Pakistan yet been compensated financially as a result of India backing out.
The Pakistan Super League (PSL) has been Sethi’s biggest success so far. The grandeur with which both editions of the tournament have been organized is comparable to any major cricket league in the world and speaks volumes of Sethi’s efforts in restoring faith of the ICC and many of its member boards in Pakistan cricket. No matter what Imran Khan and PTI have to say, staging the final in Lahore for the 2nd edition of the league was one of the biggest achievements PCB had made in recent times. And even though most of the international players who were supposed to represent their respective sides in the final backed out, the amount of support Pakistan cricket received for successfully and peacefully organizing the final is immeasurable and will go a long way. It is because of that final that a home series against an ICC World XI is now on the cards and if the PCB is able to successfully pull that off (what a series that would be!), it will surely prove many critics wrong.
The world is about marketing and lobbying these days and even if that is a bad specialty to have, Sethi is most definitely good at it. Two Ex-PCB chairmen (Khalid Mahmood and Gen. (Retd.) Touqir Zia) have also backed Sethi for the Chairmanship of the board. Ironically, both had also not played cricket but are considered opinion leaders when it comes to cricket administration in Pakistan. Najam Sethi will however need to disconnect himself from politics (if that’s possible) and focus on building a team that creates a domestic cricket structure which can back initiatives like the PSL in the future. I’m personally not a fan of the man with the ‘Chirya’ but I do hope he takes Pakistan Cricket to new heights and brings back international cricket to the country. People miss the biryani at National Stadium.
Hammad A. Mateen