Wasim Khan, the former Chief Executive of Leicestershire County Cricket Club, has now spent over three months in his new role as Managing Director at the PCB and gained a first-hand understanding of the myriad of issues facing Pakistan cricket.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net (conducted on 10th May, 2019), Wasim Khan spoke about settling down in Lahore, the issues faced in implementing changes at the PCB, reforms in Pakistan's domestic structure, restoration of international cricket in Pakistan, the possibilities of a bilateral series against India and Pakistan's chances in the ongoing World Cup.
By Amir Husain (6th June, 2019)
PakPassion.net: How has the experience been of settling down in Pakistan?
Wasim Khan: It’s been an excellent experience and I am glad to say that my family are moving out full-time to Lahore at the end of July this year. As for me, I have been in Lahore for almost three months now and have done quite a bit of travelling as well and have been to Karachi, Islamabad and also spent a bit of time in Peshawar too. Part of my remit is to get out and about in Pakistan as well, and I am loving the life in Lahore as it's very different but culturally rich so, yes, I am really enjoying myself in Pakistan.PakPassion.net: Are you enjoying the challenges that you are facing at the PCB?
Wasim Khan: I am absolutely enjoying it. I knew that it would be a big challenge and I did go in with my eyes wide open and I am relishing every part of it. There are never any fun and easy jobs and the challenges come when you are fighting for something you believe in. Certainly, in terms of the vision of where we wish to take Pakistan cricket in the next five years, this is a very exciting time and I am privileged to be given the opportunity to drive that forward.PakPassion.net: How tough has it been to implement your ideas and convince your colleagues about their effectiveness?
Wasim Khan: Firstly, let me say that there is always a danger when you come in and try and change things too quickly in any organisation. The Pakistani culture, like most others, does not like change but you just need to take your time and see firstly what your quick wins are. The key for me is to try and convince people in the PCB about why we need to go in a certain direction and then take them with you, rather than force my ideas on them as all that does is create resistance. That’s pretty much been my strategy, right from the word go. At the moment, we’re busy on reforming the domestic structure where we are looking at a six-province setup which is something Prime Minister Imran Khan is really keen on himself. But that is a radical change, and have we had 40-50 years of departments and regions operating teams and now, we are moving in a slightly different direction. That change is naturally causing a bit of a concern to a lot of people but ultimately the goal is to do what is right for Pakistan cricket.
PakPassion.net: Have you been surprised by the levels of resistance to change from some individuals in the Pakistan cricket establishment?
Wasim Khan: I haven’t been surprised by the reactions by some to our proposals. I feel that some people are scared of change. Rather than change itself, its more about the worry they have which is common in most cultures and it boils down to the following. Whenever a change happens, people start to become a little bit nervous as they feel that ultimately, somewhere along the line it will affect them and their jobs. So, I knew that there would be some resistance and I had been advised about what to expect in this regard and it seems that the advice has proven correct in every way.PakPassion.net: What are your views on the best way forward for the issue of the reform of domestic cricket in Pakistan?
Wasim Khan: Well, I think we are moving ahead now and looking ahead at the six-provincial teams structure. I feel that in any high-performing domestic structure around the world, you need to have stress in the system. We currently have 16 domestic teams involved in Pakistan domestic cricket which does make it a lot tougher. And so, we would like to move to a structure of six provincial teams, with a second XI of six that sits underneath that. We would have city-based competitions that feed into your provinces and then below that you would have the 2-Day club cricket setup. That is the kind of structure we are looking to implement, and I genuinely believe that this could work and will create high-quality cricket in Pakistan. As a consequence of this change, you will have the best 66 players playing for the first teams in terms of provincial cricket and I think Pakistan cricket will benefit from it.PakPassion.net: In our last conversation, you spoke about your intent to professionalise the Pakistan Cricket Board. Has that journey started?
Wasim Khan: Yes, definitely we are well on our way as far as the objective of professionalisation of the PCB is concerned. In Ehsan Mani we have a great person in charge as our Chairman. Just the little things like having clarity around job descriptions, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for staff are some of the things that are being put in place by him. If you don’t have such measures in place, you cannot have accountability. Also, if you allow people grey-areas in their job roles then they will take that any day of the week because if there are grey-areas, then there is no accountability. So, what I am trying to do, is to streamline all that and put clarity around job descriptions for everybody and making sure that there are clear objectives over the next 12 months about what people have to deliver. Let me tell you that when I first walked into my role, I addressed the staff and said that look working for the PCB should be a privilege and not an entitlement. If I don’t do my job properly, then I don’t expect to have my job, so delivery is what everyone gets paid to do. You don’t just get paid to do a job, rather you get paid to achieve and deliver something. For me, accountability should be part and parcel of everybody’s job and that is something we will have in place in the next month or two.PakPassion.net: Has Prime Minister Imran Khan offered any advice to Ehsan Mani and yourself?
Wasim Khan: Ehsan Mani has probably spent more time with the Prime Minister than I have, and they do speak quite often. My job really is to get on with it and put the plans in place. There is obviously a big piece of work we have to do to get international cricket back into Pakistan again as well as implementing domestic reforms and restructuring domestic cricket too. So, there are a number of areas we are looking at including the Pakistan Super League where we are looking to bring the whole PSL back to Pakistan for the next edition which will take place in February 2020.PakPassion.net: Are there any further updates on international tours to Pakistan?
Wasim Khan: We are due to play Sri Lanka in a home series in late September to early October of this year. We will start discussions with them very soon and we are very hopeful that they will come and play in Pakistan. To reiterate, we are yet to have any official conversations with Sri Lanka Cricket regarding playing our home series later this year in Pakistan, but the fact is that we have a very good relationship with SLC as demonstrated by the postponement based on mutual understanding of the Pakistan Under-19 tour in response to the terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka. The fact is that Sri Lanka Cricket has always been there for us when we have needed them so I am hoping that come the time for discussions for them potentially touring Pakistan, they will be very receptive to that idea.PakPassion.net: Has there been any progress on discussions with the BCCI for the restoration of cricket ties with India?
Wasim Khan: Nothing as yet has materialised on contacts with BCCI for playing series against India. There is certainly no resistance from our side, and we are open to that. If we need to play a Test series in England against India for example, we will be very very open to that idea and we would also be fine if they wish to play in any other neutral venues. The sad part is that we play India in ICC tournaments but when it comes to bilateral One-Day or Test series, they won’t play against us. The fact is that sport is a great way of bringing people together and there are great friendships between Indian and Pakistan players. Cricket is a passion in both countries and it’s a great shame that people are being denied on both sides of the border of what is probably the greatest sporting contest in the world. However, we are hopeful that at some stage we can re-open those conversations and start playing Test cricket and ODIs against each other again. PakPassion.net: Have any discussions happened with the ECB regarding some India-Pakistan games being played in England?
Wasim Khan: No discussions have taken place in this regard at the moment. In terms of precedence, we know that in the past Pakistan has played Australia in a Test series in England. The ECB are very supportive of helping Pakistan cricket and if we believe that the proposal to play games against Pakistan in England is something the BCCI would be open to, we would then begin negotiations with the ECB on this subject. We are open to playing against India in England or anywhere else in a bilateral series. There is no reluctance on our side, we will play India anywhere.PakPassion.net: How do you rate Pakistan’s chances in the 2019 World Cup?
Wasim Khan: I feel that we are ultra-competitive, and we have as good a chance of winning the title as any other participating team. Mickey Arthur and his staff have worked very hard with the players at a camp for about three and a half weeks prior to arriving in England. We also rested eight players during the ODI series against Australia and they have now come back into the side, and they are fresh and ready to go. People seem to forget that these guys aren’t robots and that they have been on the road since September of last year and have been living in hotels, day-in and day-out and they needed a rest at some point. So, the players are pretty fresh and we are very fortunate that we played a five ODIs series against England before the main tournament for the guys to acclimatise and get themselves ready. PakPassion.net: Does Mickey Arthur’s future with the Pakistan side rest upon what happens at the World Cup?
Wasim Khan: It’s no secret that we want to win the World Cup and do very well. But the PCB are very keen to wait until after the World Cup to see how we move forward. We have the Test Championship starting in September as well to think about and Mickey Arthur’s done a tremendous job for Pakistan cricket turning our fortunes around with the Champions Trophy in 2017, and we are at the number one position in ICC’s T20I Rankings. So, a lot of good stuff has happened with Mickey Arthur in charge, but his position is for the board to consider at the end of the World Cup. The fact is that Pakistan cricket moving forward is about delivering and also winning and that will certainly be the focus during the World Cup, and we will reassess the situation regarding renewals of contracts at the end of that tournament.