| Dr Ashraf at his first Media conference, after Younis agreed to lead in the Champions Trophy
Widely regarded as being close to President Pervez Musharraf, Dr Nasim Ashraf got the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairmanship at a time of considerable turmoil, early last month. Yet, the 56-year-old nephrologist (who enjoys the rank of minister of state by virtue of heading a national commission), hasn’t shied away from bold decisions.
Dr Ashraf, who was in Mumbai with wife Aseela and youngest daughter Humaira for an International Cricket Council (ICC) meeting, spoke to The Telegraph there a few days ago.
The following are excerpts from the 30-minute one-on-one (incidentally, one-time allrounder Dr Ashraf’s first to any Indian publication):
Q What was your reaction on being told you would take over from Shaharyar Khan'
A I was in a hospital in Peshawar, where my father had been admitted, when the call came from Islamabad… I felt honoured, but made the point I should have the time to continue with my main work — being chairman of the National Commission for Human Development. That’s my passion.
Did President Musharraf telephone in person'
His chief of staff did, saying the President had decided I would head the PCB.
You’d been a member of the ad hoc committee, so you aren’t exactly on unfamiliar territory…
Your first action was to give the captaincy (for the Champions Trophy) back to Younis Khan. Was it easy taking such a big decision'
(Smiles) I had to do it for the country… Had to get the team united… As the boys were about to leave for India, I rushed to Lahore and met Mohammed Yousuf before interacting with anybody else.
What did Yousuf, captain for just a day, say'
Yousuf was very gracious and declared that he played for the country and not for personal goals... He added he wouldn’t have a problem playing under Younis and left the (captaincy) decision to me. I hugged him and said he’d met my expectations. After that, I spoke to Younis. I didn’t really have to convince him to take back the captaincy.
A shade over a week later came the doping scandal featuring Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammed Asif. Were you tempted to withhold the damning reports'
There are occasions in life when (hard) decisions have to be taken… Only, they ought to be on merit… The PCB had, on its own, sent the samples of 19 players for testing. So, where’s the question of even thinking about hushing it up' When I got the news, all I asked for is that the reports must be reconfirmed. I wanted the samples re-run… Being a doctor and having dealt with lab tests, I wanted to be absolutely sure… As the weekend came in between, the reconfirmation came on Monday (October 16) morning. The decision to suspend the duo and recall them was taken within half-an-hour… I believe in playing straight… That’s the best policy. (After a pause) We’ve decided, by the way, to have more effective communication with the players on the issue of banned drugs.
The Anti-Doping Commission acted fast in banning the spearheads and you’ve quickly appointed a tribunal to hear the appeals…
Procedures are being followed… Justice (retd) Fakhruddin Ebrahim, a former Sindh governor with immense credibility, is on the panel. As is Haseeb Ahsan, former Test player, selection committee chairman and manager… He has an independent mind and, more often than not, is critical of the PCB. The Commission, you may recall, included Intikhab Alam… I don’t need to elaborate on his stature.
Right now, what’s the PCB’s stand'
Both Shoaib and Asif are claiming to be innocent. They should prove that before the tribunal… They can’t say the PCB didn’t give them the opportunity.
Moving away from the doping scandal… Haven’t you put Inzamam-ul Haq under pressure by saying that the captaincy will be reviewed after the West Indies series'
A bit of pressure doesn’t hurt anybody… It had been decided during my predecessor’s tenure itself that Inzamam would be captain till the end of the year and there would be a review of form and fitness after that… I haven’t stated anything new… In fact, I personally told Inzamam that nobody was out to remove him, but the earlier arrangement would stand… Whatever one’s field of activity, performance (alone) counts... Of course, I accept Inzamam’s record as captain is pretty good.
You’ve started a dialogue with the England & Wales Cricket Board to sort out its compensation claim following the forfeiture of The Oval Test…
Yes, but I wouldn’t like to go into specifics at this point in time. Suffice to say that the PCB doesn’t owe anybody any money. I’ve put it on record... I accept England is an aggrieved party, but even we’re an aggrieved party. We didn’t want to forfeit that Test… It wasn’t our fault… Chief Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle’s report to the ICC has categorically said that (umpire) Darrell Hair didn’t take all the steps to ensure the game resumed and didn’t make Pakistan understand that the Test would otherwise be forfeited.
[Subsequently, there have been reports that the PCB has offered to play a one-dayer in England next summer.]
What’s it like being in a seat which is arguably as hot as the captain’s'
(Laughs) I know I’m in a high profile seat, but I want the powers and perks of the PCB chairman to be reduced… I’ve already delegated responsibility to colleagues and I want corporate governance. I’ve assigned a leading head-hunting firm to help get us the best possible chief executive.
It’s unusual for an office-holder to call for his perks and powers to be reduced…
But that’s what I feel… I don’t want the PCB to be a one- man show. An institution must not be run that way.
When is the PCB going to be governed by a constitution'
The draft has been sent to the patron-in-chief (President Musharraf). Inputs have been taken from all stakeholders, including the Media… I expect a response within a month.
You’ve played first-class cricket…
In 1969, I even played for the Pakistan colts… Opener Graham Barlow was one of my victims (out first ball) when the England U-19 team came on tour… That side, I remember, included Bob Willis. (After a pause) My maternal grand-father, Lala Karim Buksh (a contemporary of Lala Amarnath), introduced cricket in the North West Frontier Province and I actually grew up sitting on the laps of Test players.
Finally, who has been your favourite'
Sir Garfield Sobers… As for leadership, Imran Khan was unbelievable.