June 10, 2011
Former national cricket team captain Shahid Khan Afridi, a.k.a “Boom Boom Afridi”, came in front of the media recently and announced conditional retirement on the premise of his alleged humiliation at the hands of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), adding that he was ready to reverse his decision if and when the new cricket board replaced the current administration.
After returning home, Afridi met and telephoned dozen of politicians, including Pakistan Muslim League (N) Chief Mian Nawaz Sharif, Governor Sindh Dr. Ishrat ul Ebad Khan, Sports Minister Engineer Shoukat Ullah Khan, MQM top leadership and other political personalities, to augment his own case, and telling every one that the fans are the ones who gave him strength. The decision caps - for now - a saga that began last December effectively, when the board first began to hesitate in appointing Afridi captain. He was made leader for the New Zealand ODI series, and then only two weeks before the tournament began, he was made captain for the World Cup.
The history of Pakistan cricket concerning disciplinary issues is not very good as Pakistan Cricket Board heads in past gave relaxation to players like Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar, Inzimam ul Haq, Amir Sohail and others who violated the code of conduct. Players who frequented the night clubs and indulged in objectionable late night ‘activities’ were let of the hook and no taken any action against. Players wielding raw power and influence have been a big problem in the national cricket team.
Just three years ago Interior Minister Rehman Malik had pledged to get involved to settle the controversy between former PCB Chairman Dr. Naseem Ashraf and Rawalpindi Express Shoaib Akhtar, where Naseem Ashraf also took strong steps against Shoaib as he violated the PCB players code of conduct, but like Shoaib, now Afridi is doing the same.
Politicians and fans are saying that Afridi should be back in the team, but no one is considering the number of blunders Mr. Afridi made during this captaincy tenure, especially the disciplinary volitions in the last cricket series against West Indies. PCB management led by Ijaz Butt is taking strong steps to destroy the players’ power in the national cricket team and is not compromising on the disciplinary issue. In this regard, PCB sent a notice to Shahid Afridi over his attitude. Afridi’s retirement announcement was not new as in past, too, he first announced a temporary sabbatical from Test cricket in April 2006 to concentrate only on ODIs in the lead-up to the 2007 World Cup. He later returned to the side, and even led Pakistan's Test side at the start of their tumultuous tour of England last summer.
Afridi, using his good contacts with the government high-ups, is trying to portray himself as a victim, while, on the other side, the PCB is also right as discipline is for every body. Afridi’s statements like “there is nothing bigger than a man's respect,” and “the way the board has treated me, there is a limit to everything”, sounds more like those of a politician than a sportsman. He is also blaming the Lahore lobby, and commenting that the lobby has been filling the PCB chairman Ijaz Butt ears against him.
But the tipping point came upon Afridi's arrival back from the Caribbean, with growing differences between him and coach Waqar Younis over matters of selection being another concern. Then, he told reporters "Although the differences in team management are not such which could not be solved; I feel everyone should do his job and need not interfere in others’ work".
On the other hand, Pakistan Cricket Board has voiced its concern over the interference from "a number of political functionaries” in Afridi’s matter.
Ijaz Butt, the chairman of PCB, said it was disappointing that despite Afridi’s pleading guilty to the offences, some political functionaries were extending their support with a view to influencing the disciplinary process being followed by PCB, and it was totally an internal disciplinary matter. He said it was very important to build the understanding among all the stakeholders including media and the politicians that no one is above the law.
"PCB has been criticised for being ineffective in the past in the context of discipline. It would now appear an attempt by some forces to prevent the board from implementing the code of conduct. It may well damage Pakistan Cricket, if they continue to lend support to Afridi and exert undue pressure on PCB for their 'non-cricketing' interests."