Of all policy matters which Prime Minister Imran Khan may or may not struggle with because of lack of experience or anything else, cricket was something everybody expected to trust him about quite blindly. Yet his decision to revamp the domestic structure by abolishing departmental cricket and giving it a more regional and provincial colour has already stirred a fair bit of controversy. And things only got worse when his decision forced head coach Misbah-ul-Haq, Test team captain Azhar Ali, and ranking player Mohammad Hafeez to personally call on him and request a reconsideration because of all the jobs that have already been lost due to it. They were just told to mind their own business and leave policy-making for those elected for it.
It’s no secret of course that the prime minister favours the regional format over the departmental one since his early playing days. And his reasoning was simple enough to understand, that people would naturally be more interested in watching a match between two cities than two companies, like in Australia, etc. But that simplistic analysis overlooks the rather crucial fact that most players in Australia do not depend on some department’s paycheck to keep their kitchen’s running. Since the present arrangement took care of this very basic need, it also gave players the peace of mind needed to mind their business and play well and deliver results. Besides, surely the prime minister knows well enough that the system he does not favour at all also produced almost all of our brightest shining stars, right from the beginning.
How would players like Hanif Mohammad, Majid Khan, Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram, and even Imran Khan himself have had the opportunity to display and polish their skills if not for departments that patronised the game? Nobody doubts the prime minister’s intention. Surely he knows enough about the game to improve its governance in the country. But he must also take care of all the jobs that his choices are hurting. That, too, is his responsibility as head of state. Only time will tell now if his decision is the right one or not. But in the meantime something will have to be done about all the layoffs. As the system shifts from one structural format to another, there must also be a mechanism to support all the players who will take a hit because of it. Anything less would be unsportsmanlike.