The incident at the PD final has raised significant concern around the league as to how the league will handle this situation and how we can prevent such an event from happening in the future. There has been a lot of discussion on the wcl forum and amongst the wcl community. I thought the President should be put on  the hot seat where we ask him questions about how he plans to handle this situation. Shoaib agreed to answer the questions, and here is the entire interview with him.

  

Shoaib, thanks for agreeing to answer questions. I’m sure this has been a tough week for you. The PD final last week was marred by team/player/spectator misbehavior, including physical manhandling of the umpire, and overall unruly behavior on the field when players and spectators entered the playing area after a controversial catch on the boundary line. There were EC members present at the ground. Do you believe that the situation could have been handled better? If so, how?

The only EC members present at the ground were Jay Sharma and I, there were no other EC member at the Final. Vice President was handling the D1 final and other members of the EC were unavailable that day.

It was undoubtedly a very unfortunate and disturbing incident. I think this is a black eye for the WCL. My term as President was left with only 9 balls in this final plus t20 playoffs and I’m deeply disappointed that it ended this way. Whatever the umpire’s call was, the behavior was unwarranted. There is no excuse for such behavior. I want to make sure that we learn from the incident and make sure that it does not happen in the future. This was one of the most exciting finals. The first time a team scored 300 and it was almost chased. Very disappointed how crowd behaved. We need to work on this in the future. It hurt me personally very much. As the president of WCL, it bothered me a lot and I’m not taking it lightly.

 

How do you plan to ensure that proper investigation is done and those responsible for this incident and behavior are properly punished and a clear message is sent to all the players and teams that there are serious consequences for such behavior?

For the first time ever we had a live broadcast at WCL final. We’ve had incidents in the past where we didn’t have video evidence, but this time we do. And we also have a large group of witnesses. We have received this evidence and once we have gone through it thoroughly, frame-by-frame, we plan to take appropriate action, to the full extent of the code-of-conduct, and we plan to address this in a way that it sets a precedence for the future and creates serious deterrent. We expect to complete this process before the AGM and make the entire league aware of our findings. 

 

Vijaya Mallela has said that the league has not taken appropriate and timely action on the incident involving him, where he was physically assaulted while umpiring and he had reported to the League. Can you please address this?

Vijay Malella incident happened in the Virginia CC vs Jamaica game back in July. Historically, and as per the WCL rules, such incidents are handled by the Judiciary Committee. To give you a broader perspective, there are 3 separate and independent entities: Executive Committee, Judiciary Committee and the Umpiring Association. On top of all that we have the Board of Directors. The report from that incident you referred to was forwarded to the Judiciary Committee, which is the correct process. Now I sympathize with Vijaya that, yes, the Judiciary Committee took a long time, but once they did make a decision, it was enforced. I personally feel that the decision wasn’t severe enough but I need to live by-it. I cannot interfere in that decision making.  The mistake that was made was that the decision wasn’t conveyed to Vijay Malela until he brought it to our attention recently. EC gets a copy of the decision and the Executive Secretary is the custodian of the records, and he shared it with Vijay. It should have gone straight to all the parties involved from the Judiciary Committee directly. That’s the proper protocol. So there were some mistakes on how it was/wasn’t communicated. But I hope to make it clear that this was a Judiciary Committee matter and not an EC matter so I was not involved. I have limitations based on the Constitution so I can’t get involved in it. I do want to clarify that EC only gets involved if it is deemed critical. During my 7 year tenure the EC has been involved in only 2 on-field related incidents that are generally handled by the Judiciary Committee. The first was the incident between Star and Tigers where on-field violence took place and lifetime suspensions and multiple game suspensions and heavy monetary fines were handed down. And now the EC has taken charge of the incident that occurred last week at the finals.  These are the only 2 instances where the EC has gotten involved in Judiciary related matters. What I’m trying to say is that the magnitude of the incident determines if the EC will get involved.

 

Going back to the incident from last week, it appears that spectators, who are not a part of any team’s official roster were also involved. How will you take action against spectators who are not part of any team?

In high profile games, such as the final, there are a lot of spectators and there is not much we can do about that. We have no way of knowing if a person belongs to a team or is a supporter of a team or just a fan of the game. But we need to find ways to address fan behavior. We need to come up with effective rules to hold them accountable for their behavior. Moving forward, we need to change the code of conduct. In this case, we have a lot of video clips and we intend to review them frame by frame. Based on this evidence, we will identify all those who were involved. Everything will be carefully analyzed and based on evidence, decisions will be made. Not only were there players from the teams involved, but also players from other teams involved. And as you mentioned, spectators involved. You were there, you saw what happened. I assure you, everyone who was involved will be dealt with. There will be no leniency shown towards anybody who was involved in the disruption and violence. We will make an example of this so people understand that there are severe consequences to such behavior and action.

 

For proper due-process, will people be given an opportunity to present their defense before you hand down punishment?

Yes, they will be given an opportunity to present their defense. There were a lot of people who misbehaved and some of them are part of other teams. We want to know why they were involved. We will give them an opportunity to explain. But video doesn’t lie and we will send out notices to all those involved once we go through all the evidence. We know people are upset around the league, and rightly so, but we hope they will be patient and will allow us to address this issue properly and fairly.

 

Due to the incidents over the past few weeks, especially in the playoffs, the umpires are feeling insecure and unprotected. How do you plan to address their concerns?

We had 300+ games this year and we had 3 or 4 incidents where some incident occurred. If you look at the larger scheme of things, that’s less than 1 percent. People should understand that even 1 incident is too many. We are learning from this, and we will set the example and make sure that people understand that there will be serious consequences for such behavior. We want to ensure that WCL is a safe place for players and officials.

 

ICC has adopted a new rule that allows umpires to send players off the field for poor behavior. Will the WCL adopt this?

Generally, we wait 1 full year before adopting new ICC rules. But we will address this in the off-season. I think it will be wise for us to adopt this new ICC rule for the coming season. It will be a deterrent for poor behavior.

 

What do you plan to do to prevent untoward incidents in future finals?

Look, nobody thought this can happen in a WCl final. A few things went wrong in our preparation and unfortunately, that had an impact. For example, we always have boundary ropes for the finals. We should have had them this year too, and that was the plan. When I got to the ground I was informed that the ropes were tangled and it would have taken a very long time and significant effort to entangle them. I don’t want to make excuses. It was my responsibility and we will make sure that we have proper boundary markings and ropes next time.

When you have such a large crowd with only 2 umpires plus 1 or 2 league officials, it is difficult. We will come up with ways to mitigate that situation, but we also need teams and their leadership to take more responsibility. We can’t guarantee that there won’t be crowd invasion. But we can implement certain rules about crowd behavior and team responsibilities at such games. Moving forward, teams will be held accountable for actions of their members.

I’ll give you an example. A few years ago, NBA had an incident where there was bench clearing and players got into a fight during the game. In response, the league set a new policy where any player on the bench that leaves the bench and steps foot on the playing court will be severely fined and suspended. And the league held coaches accountable too. We need to do the same thing. This is a learning experience for the EC as well. This is unprecedented. Stakes are getting higher and higher, and we need to update our playing conditions and code of conduct accordingly to address this. We will update the code of conduct about players/spectators entering the field of play and we will inform and educate all captains and team POCs about the updated rules via email, AGM, Captain’s meeting, umpiring seminars.

 

With your term coming to an end, do you plan to run again for President?

I wish this incident had not happened in the final. I feel that my legacy has been tarnished by this. I hope people won’t remember my legacy because of this. I’m given a lot of my energy and family time to this league. It may sound weird, but the day of the final was my 20th wedding anniversary and my family wanted to go out to dinner. But I told them that I can’t go that day because I have to attend WCL final for PD and D1. I’m lucky that they understand the commitment I’ve made to the league as President. I have done enough for the league and have taken it to the level where it is one of the top leagues in the country, especially competitiveness wise. We take pride in what we do to prepare for the season and all that we do during the season to facilitate a smooth game day experience. I want to go out on a high note and I want to leave this to the next generation. We need new vision and ideas and it’s time for me to hand the keys to the next generation. But I also want to see people carry forward the good work we have done to grow this league.

I will not be seeking re-election. I will totally focus on my team now. I’m the only President not to win the championship while in office. For me, I lost focus for my team. I did more for WCL than my team. It’s time to focus on my own team and let the younger guys take the reins of this league. I built on what Sheldon did, and I hope my successor builds on what I’ve done.

 

Any last comments?

I’m honestly disappointed in what is happening in WCL right now. I’m searching for words to describe my feelings about what is happening in the league. I’ve always put league first, ahead of my team. I feel that people gave me a responsibility to run this league. In fulfilling my responsibility, I hurt my business, I took time away from my family, which by-the-way is also true for other members of the EC, especially people like Nikhil, Sameera, Anand. Emaash and Tahir. I’m sure I’m leaving names out because so much is going on in my head.

I feel so sad that people are trying to destabilize the league because they think what happened this year, they feel like WCL is not doing well. When I sit in my President’s chair, I do not care about where a team is from. I don’t bring that into the decision making process. Now people are making such accusations and trying to divide us, it hurts me. I was the first President from Pakistan to be elected. I had so much pressure, including from my team about not playing 40 over game during Ramadan. I always stood against that idea. My philosophy is simple. I want to keep cricket and religion separate. If I do this for Ramadan, then I must do it for other religions. I had to argue with so many people on this topic every year. But I stood firm on this. This should tell you who I am. I always thought that cricket should not be associated with any other element (religion, ethnicity, nationality, etc.) When I hear things like “You’ve done things in the past”, this bothers me. My record stands for itself and the EC members will vouch for me that I’ve not compromised on my integrity. When I sit in the office I only base decision on cricket and nothing else.


 

1 Comment

  1. I feel your pain and i am sure it is painful to all associated with WCL. I must commend you for your sacrifices for the betterment of WCL over the years. Big shoes to fill.

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