It has not even been a year since Zaka Ashraf took over the reigns of the PCB from Ijaz Butt, and yet he has achieved more than his predecessor did in 3 years.
The way Zaka Ashraf's term has been so far, he is among the most successful PCB Chairmans yet. Not many former Chairmen of the PCB can claim to have accomplished what Zaka Ashraf has managed to in his short time at the top job.
The best part about the role Zaka Ashraf has played thus far is that he has remained in the background. There has not been the Nasim Ashraf type jumping around at cricket grounds, nor has there been the Ijaz Butt type nonsensical statements or claims in front of the media.
He has quietly gone about his job off the field and let the selectors, team management, and players do theirs without any interference.
Here's a list of accomplishments for Pakistan on and off the field during the 9 months that Zaka Ashraf has been PCB Chairman:
1. 3-0 clean sweep of the world's number 1 test team, England.
2. Won the Asia Cup after 12 years.
3. Reached number 4 in the test rankings.
4. Negotiated a tour to India, which is planned for December. If it goes ahead it will be the first bilateral series between the two teams in 5 years.
5. Planned the Pakistan Premier League, which is expected to launch before the end of this year.
6. Increased player salaries.
7. Pakistan became the first country to get a sponsorship for DRS during the series against Sri Lanka in the UAE.
The World T20 does not get underway till mid September. The ICC deadline for submitting the 15-man squads is 18th August, while the deadline for submitting the list of 30 probables was 18th July.
The PCB, working in fast forward mode, released the list of 30 probables a week before the 18th July deadline, and then announced the 15-man squad a whole month before the deadline.
This has never happened before in the history of Pakistan cricket. Not in my lifetime at least.
The PCB has always announced the squads on the deadline, and at times even requested extensions to the deadlines.
So this announcement of the squad for the World T20 really came as a pleasant surprise.
For some people it was such a shock that there was a discussion over whether the PCB had misunderstood the deadlines and thought the 15-man squad was to be submitted by 18th July! Such has been the incompetence of the PCB in the past.
But this announcement is really a master stroke.
It is a no brainer that the squads for the T20 series against Australia and the World T20 had to be the same considering the series against Australia is sandwiched between the 18th August deadline and the World T20.
So that is not the reason for announcing the squad so early. Announcing it on 18th August, like in the past, would have accomplished the same objective of having the same squads. Moreover, the ODI series against Australia precedes the T20s and the squad for that has not been announced.
I believe that what this really does is leave no room for any speculation whatsoever. Stories of Afridi wanting the captaincy are always doing the rounds. The Pakistan media always cook up some captaincy controversy whether it is between Misbah and Hafeez or Afridi and Misbah.
With the captaincy sealed and the squad announced the media can't really speculate about anything and the team can be left to focus on the task of winning the World T20.
It can only be good.
I would like to believe that was the reason. I would like to believe that the PCB wanted to give the 15 men part of the World T20 squad a good 2 months to get mentally and physically prepared for the event without any uncertainty. I would like to believe that the PCB wanted to ensure that all focus is on the 15 men who have been entrusted with the task to bring T20 glory back to Pakistan.
If all these were in fact the reasons behind the early announcement then kudos to Zaka Ashraf and his team for taking a turn for the good. The PCB has suddenly started to look like a professional organization.
A professional board set up, a stable set of players, a team on the rise in the test rankings, no captaincy squabbles – beware world, a Pakistan team with no off-field issues can be the most dangerous opponent on this planet.
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