Episode 16: Talking with Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Ehsan Mani

Cricket authors (and obsessives) Peter Oborne and Richard Heller have launched a new podcast to help deprived listeners endure a world without cricket. They chat regularly about cricket topics – hoping to keep a good line and length but with occasional wides into other subjects.

Ehsan Mani, chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board since 2018, is the most experienced and high-achieving cricket administrator in the world. Apart from his present post, he served on the International Cricket Council from 1996 to 2006 and played a leading role in the transformation of world cricket.

Peter and Richard talk to Ehsan Mani about Pakistan’s tour of England, on making cricket grow worldwide, on Pakistan v India, on Imran Khan – and the future Lord Botham


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Anticipating Pakistan’s series of three Test Matches and three T20s, he predicts that an exciting team will adapt to the bio-secure conditions (many have experience of playing in almost empty stadiums in the UAE). He picks out three talents he expects to shine.

He describes his dramatic appointment by Imran Khan (by telephone and Twitter) to his present post, and explains how Pakistan cricket is governed. He outlines his own plans to reform Pakistan’s first-class structure, decentralize power and responsibility, and multiply opportunities and support for young players. He shows how he and the PCB cope with a litigious cricket environment, where almost any aggrieved party can find a court to launch a “public interest action” against them. (His estimate is that there are 24 current cases against the PCB.)

Ehsan Mani,gives an account of the PCB’s efforts to overcome politics and resume bilateral cricket relations with India. He shares his hopes for more international visitors to Pakistan after COVID, in the greatly improved security situation and after highly successful tours from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the MCC, led by Kumar Sangakkara, a victim of the attack in Lahore in 2009. Pakistan is eager not only for an early England team visit but for tours from schools, colleges and private groups, and for English players to join Pakistan’s new first-class teams.

Looking back, he describes how he “stumbled” into cricket administration and his achievements as a negotiator for the ICC. These led to cricket’s “Big Bang” in the 2000s and generated immense new sums from the sale of media rights. These transformed the ICC from an obscure committee, whose members argued over expenditures of a few thousand pounds into a financial powerhouse for global cricket. He reveals how he pushed for a share of this money to grow cricket worldwide – and how the Chinese authorities were eager to make cricket take off in their country.

Earlier, he responds to the announcement of a peerage for Ian Botham (who made a infamous disparaging remark about Pakistan). “As a cricketer, he probably deserves it, one of the greatest all-rounders England has had. I don’t like cricket and politics coming together. I feel he’s been used a little bit, and been given a peerage for the wrong reasons.” Peter and Richard revive their proposal for a peerage for Michael Holding – and suggest a new cricketer to join him: Mike Brearley.

 

Peter Oborne & Richard Heller

Peter Oborne has been the chief political commentator for the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, a maker of several documentaries and written and broadcast for many different media. He is the author of a biography of Basil D’Oliveira and of Wounded Tiger, a history of Pakistan cricket, both of which won major awards.

Richard Heller was a long-serving humorous columnist on The Mail on Sunday and more briefly, on The Times. He worked in the movie business in the United States and the UK, including a brief engagement on a motion picture called Cycle Sluts Versus The Zombie Ghouls. He is the author of two cricket-themed novels A Tale of Ten Wickets and The Network. He appeared in two Mastermind finals: in the first his special subject was the life of Sir Gary Sobers.

Jointly, he and Peter produced White On Green, celebrating the drama of Pakistan cricket, including the true story of the team which lost a first-class match by an innings and 851 runs.

Peter and Richard have played cricket with and against each other for a variety of social sides, including Parliament’s team, the Lords and Commons, and in over twenty countries including India, Pakistan, the United States, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, France, Greece, Australia, Zimbabwe, New Zealand and Morocco.

The Podcast was produced by Bridget Osborne and James Willcocks at The Chiswick Calendar.