Najam Sethi’s departure from his role as PCB chairman is all but confirmed after he formally submitted his resignation on Monday.
There had been intense speculation surrounding Sethi’s future in the PCB ever since Imran Khan was elected Pakistan’s prime minister; the former Pakistan captain and Sethi had a famously poor relationship. With the prime minister allowed – according to the PCB constitution – to change the PCB chairman if he so desired, it seemed unlikely Sethi would be able to stay on beyond Imran formally taking charge.
Along with his resignation letter, Sethi tweeted that he had been “waiting for the new Prime Minister to take oath” before deciding to hand in his resignation – which Imran did on Saturday. Sethi was appointed PCB chairman for his last, unbroken stint in 2017, but had previously served as PCB chairman in 2013 and 2014. That was a period marred at the PCB by a power struggle between him and former PCB chairman Zaka Ashraf; the pair swapped positions several times before Sethi finally consolidated his position at the helm of the PCB.
Addressing his resignation letter directly to the prime minister, Sethi said, “You have said on many occasions you have a vision for Pakistan cricket. Therefore, it is only proper that you should assume charge and responsibility for assembling a management team for PCB that enjoys your full confidence and trust.” Sethi pointed out he had been appointed the PCB chairman unanimously in 2017 for a three-year term following elections last year, and that he believed he had “served the cause of cricket diligently”.
The inevitability of Sethi’s resignation has its roots in politics rather than cricket. Sethi was appointed caretaker chief minister of Punjab, the stronghold of Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N party, Imran’s main political rival and the winner of the 2013 parliamentary elections. Imran repeatedly accused Sethi of unjustly helping Sharif win the elections that year. In 2014, Sethi was nominated to the PCB Board of Governors by Sharif, approved by the ICC and the Supreme Court of Pakistan. But it was widely believed that if Imran ever was to come to power, Sethi’s days at the PCB would be numbered. Therefore, even though Sethi’s resignation can theoretically be rejected, the chances of that happening are exceedingly slim.
The patron of the PCB (which, as prime minister, is Imran Khan), can request the election commissioner to hold fresh elections for the PCB chairman if the position falls vacant – as it would if the resignation was to be accepted.
While Sethi only formally became PCB chairman in 2017, he was de facto the most influential man at the organisation for much of his predecessor Shaharyar Khan’s tenure, where he served as the head of the PCB executive committee. Most visibly, he was the chairman of the Pakistan Super League, Pakistan’s first inaugural international T20 franchise competition. It is arguably what he’ll most prominently be remembered for, particularly since the competition is also viewed as the gateway towards the return of international cricket to Pakistan. The 2017 PSL final was held in Lahore, and the 18 months since have seen a trickle of matches played in Pakistan’s two major cities, Lahore and Karachi. With the PSL not a separate entity to the PCB – that idea was floated but ultimately never came to fruition – Sethi will play no further part in that competition either.
I have appointed Ehsan Mani as Chairman PCB. He brings vast and valuable experience to the job. He represented PCB in the ICC; was Treasurer ICC for 3 yrs and then headed the ICC for another 3 yrs.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) August 20, 2018
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