An edited version of this letter first appeared on Dawn.com
(google images: image for illustrative purposes only)
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 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 Anwer and Shahid Afridi as they walked in to open the innings and revelled in the glory when Wasim Akram led our team to the world Cup finals in 1999. 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-final in Mohali. I guess you know what that meant to us as a nation. It all seems like an eternity ago, because the public spat between Ijaz Butt and Shahid Afridi is every cricket-lover’s 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 feeling. 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 a war-torn nation!
I don’t know if it’s true but a lot of people say that the reason he’s still in the driving seat of a very unfortunate PCB is because he has links to you! Imagine! I mean come on, Mr Zardari – I’m sure you’re a man of principle and if someone of your kith doesn’t deserve a position you’d never bestow it on him right? What would the children of Pakistan think? Can we afford to break their fragile trust yet again in that one thing which they’ve always clung on to – cricket?
Tell you what 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 might already be history. I understand you might have reservations because of his close relation to you, 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 – are you still reading? Because I have something nice to say about you. 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, except the current dictator seems to lack the brains that guys like Hitler and Napoleon had.
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 much 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 – because after all, history has proven that politicians do not take great cricketing decisions.
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.