Ramiz Raja sacked as PCB chairman; Najam Sethi heads management committee

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Ramiz Raja is no longer chairman of the PCB. His removal from the post and the current board was formally initiated by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shehbaz Sharif, who is also patron of the cricket board.

A 14-member management committee, headed by former board head and prominent media analyst Najam Sethi, and including former Pakistan captains Shahid Afridi and Sana Mir will take interim charge of affairs.

The committee will have 120 days in which they are expected to change the PCB’s constitution, bringing back the 2014 version to replace the current one (put in place in 2019).

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“The cricket regime headed by Ramiz Raja is no more,” Sethi tweeted late on Wednesday. “The 2014 PCB constitution stands restored. The Management Committee will work tirelessly to revive first class cricket. Thousands of cricketers will be employed again. The famine in cricket will come to an end.”

The more formal notification of events had been issued earlier from the Prime Minister’s office and a summary from the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) which confirmed speculation that had built over the last couple of days, prompted by Pakistan’s defeat in Karachi to England.

That loss completed an unprecedented 0-3 home whitewash.

“Constitution of a management committee to manage the affairs of PCB with full executive powers with the aim of effecting the restoration of Departmental Cricket Structure and other allied matters, including the nomination of a Board of Governors and election of chairman, as stipulated in the 2014 constitution, within a timeframe of 120 days,” the notification said.

“The management committee of PCB shall comprise of the Chairman/Chief Executive & required members.”

The notification has to be sent to the Law and Justice division to be legally vetted, before being put in front of the cabinet for approval. That is expected to be a mere formality. It is not clear at the moment what implications – if any – this has on the senior executive in the board, though ESPNcricinfo believes there will be a cull.

The 2014 constitution did not have scope for a CEO, for instance, with the chairman doubling up in that role. At the moment, the CEO is Faisal Hasnain and the COO – for whom there is a role – Salman Naseer.

On Wednesday, Pakistan also announced a squad for the Test series against New Zealand which begins from December 26 in Karachi. New Zealand’s squad are due to arrive on Wednesday evening for their first series of any kind in Pakistan since 2003 – to a board in flux.

Both the Pakistan captain Babar Azam and coach Saqlain Mushtaq have come under scrutiny after the loss to England but it is unlikely either of those positions change so soon – in any case Saqlain’s tenure ends in February 2023.

Though Ramiz’s expected departure will be the headline consequence, the main order of business for the new committee is the repeal of the current board constitution to reinstate the 2014 version.

In fact, the summary sent by the IPC to the prime minister’s office is not specifically about a board change. Its main concern is the constitutional revamp whereby department teams can return to domestic cricket.

It is in this roundabout way that the current administration led by Ramiz is being removed – because the 2019 constitution does not recognise departmental cricket, the old constitution that does is being brought back and an interim management committee will be tasked to carry that out.

Getting rid of departments was insisted upon by Imran Khan, when he was Prime Minister, who had for long wanted Pakistan’s domestic scene to replicate that of Australia’s – a provincial model, with six teams made up of Pakistan’s provinces playing in all tournaments.

But with Imran’s exit in April 2022, a group of former board members has begun urging the government to go back to the previous domestic structure in which departmental teams such as WAPDA, SNGPL and PIA were part of the first-class circuit – a number of those members, unsurprisingly, make up the proposed interim management committee. Imran’s orders to abolish departmental cricket, the notification read, had been revoked by Sharif, who succeeded him as premier.

The PCB had been criticised for abolishing departmental cricket, as it rendered hundreds of cricketers jobless at a stroke. It is worth noting that a number of department sides had shut down their sporting operations even before Imran’s change and, in the current economic climate, there might not be much appetite for such organisations to hire a squad of cricketers.

Sethi was head of the PCB in one capacity or another from 2013 until 2018, though the stint was initially embroiled in legal battles with his predecessor Zaka Ashraf; he resigned once Imran became Prime Minister in August 2018. (ESPNcricinfo)

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