PCB’s Problems

Pakistan Cricket Team fans are reeling from another gut punch as the men in green snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against arch-rivals India on Sunday. In and of itself, the manner of the defeat would have raised questions, but coming off the back of a listless performance against part-time cricketers from Team USA, the public’s exasperation reached a boiling point.

As rightly pointed out by the outpouring of condemnation that followed the match, while sports are based on razor-thin margins where on-field luck plays a huge part in determining outcomes, a pattern of off-field controversies and upheavals impacts performances. More than the team, an individual player, or the coaching staff, the responsibility for this dismal campaign, like several before it, rests at the feet of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). No sport board is apolitical, but none are as politically sensitive as the PCB. Around the world, sporting matters, especially for national sports that draw the most attention, are left to professionals. High-performance sportsmen need a stable environment, established long-term player and team development plans, a respected and capable coaching staff, and, most importantly, a culture where everyone is pulling in the same direction.

In the PCB, all this conventional wisdom is thrown out the window. Each government appoints its own Chairman, who then brings in favored people to fill various positions and introduces new ideas on how the team is run. Clashing ideologies and a lack of certainty create antagonistic groups and cliques. As a result, captains are changed on a whim, and team selection remains as controversial as ever, with players relying on lobbies rather than performance to make the cut.

If cricket is to stay alive in Pakistan, the PCB must be depoliticized and decoupled from the government. Sports must not dance to political tunes.

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