A Cricket Fan’s Letter to President Zardari
By Mehmudah Rehman
Dear President Zardari,
I hope this finds you well. I think you must be a worried man right now because of the strange things that have been happening in the cricketing scene in the country. Since you are the chief patron of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), as a cricket fan, I felt helpless and I just had to write to you.
I, like countless other Pakistani children, grew up playing cricket. Through the highs and lows of Pakistan cricket, I hung on loyally. I chanted the names of Saeed Anwar and Shahid Afridi as they walked in to open the innings and reveled in joy when Wasim Akram’s heroics led our team to World Cup glory in 1992. I’m sure you did too. I squirmed in shame at the ugly spot-fixing saga and felt enraged when people said all Pakistanis were cheats. I whooped and cheered when Shahid Afridi led our team to the semi-finals in Mohali. It all seems like an eternity ago, because the public spat between Ijaz Butt and Shahid Afridi has become every cricket-lover’s recurring nightmare.
Mr Zardari, I wanted to talk to you about someone who’s been troubling us immensely for the past three years or so — Ijaz Butt. Some of the best sportsmen and sports-journalists of the country have said it in no uncertain terms: The man is suicidal for Pakistan cricket.
And more importantly, 170 million people of your country echo that sentiment, with more profound feelings. You read the papers don’t you, or should I do the unpleasant task of informing you that Ijaz Butt has denounced up to nine captains in only three years, and has been the cause of great humiliation and discord. Yet, it’s truly baffling that the man sits pretty in his seat, without an iota of discomfort as he causes rampage after rampage and plays with the brittle hearts of an embattled nation!
Mr President, sometimes I feel sympathy towards you because being head of state is so, so difficult. With power comes responsibility – the ability to hire, the right to fire and even before I finish this letter to you, if you want, Ijaz Butt could already be history.
I understand you might have reservations, but you know Mr Zardari, when a limb becomes infected with gangrene, it must be severed or the disease can spread to all parts of the body. And let’s just put it this way — Ijaz Butt has already infected Pakistan cricket in myriad ways. He keeps surprising us with just how low he can go. Afridi must have spoken to you about that in his appeal, no?
Mr Zardari if you’re still reading, I don’t confess to being your greatest fan, but you know what I always liked about the PPP? Right from the time of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, there was always something overwhelmingly democratic about your policies. Even your late wife believed in equal rights and democracy. But sadly, the PCB is run like a dictatorship.
As you know Mr Zardari, the country is currently in a very unstable political position and if I were you, I’d use this moment and oust Ijaz Butt amid much fanfare and get on the good side of people.
It has been alleged that letting Afridi retire quietly like this might be really, really bad for your regime, (especially after he made that smart move of appealing to you). And we don’t want that do we, Mr President? Especially, when more pressing questions about sovereignty and security within the country are being raised embarrassingly at international platforms.
Please put a smile on our faces and appoint a new chief of the PCB — someone intelligent, talented, experienced and competent. And it wouldn’t hurt to do so with a consensus of opinion with some of the greatest cricketing brains in our country.
I hope you will take notice of an appeal that comes from a nation which, miraculously, still hasn’t let go of hope.
An expectant fan.
(Mehmudah Rehman is a cricket nut who blogs at Notes to Self- Dawn)