Cricket blues

It can hardly get more achievable than this in the modern era of T20 cricket

By Editorial Board
June 11, 2024
Hardik Pandya celebrates with teammates after India took a wicket during the ICC men's Twenty20 World Cup 2024 group A cricket match between India and Pakistan at Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in East Meadow, New York on June 9, 2024. — AFP

The T20 World Cup’s Pakistan vs India match’s first innings ended with India all out at 119, setting the boys in green a target of 120 runs from 20 overs. It can hardly get more achievable than this in the modern era of T20 cricket, even with a slow, rain-soaked outfield. And yet, ask any Pakistani cricket fan what they felt like as their team took to the field for their turn to bat and confidence would have likely been the last word on any of their minds. Cruel experience has taught them that their team is capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory like no other, at least when it comes to the top teams in cricket. But does a team of well-paid professionals that loses to a green US side that includes a full time engineer as among its star players really still retain the right to count itself among the world’s best when it comes to cricket? The batting performance against India suggests otherwise. A low target was made to seem like a mountain, experienced players lost their wickets making shots that would embarrass amateurs and there was a total inability to control the pace of the innings. The tawdry performance only compounded the usual cloud of selection, decision-making and off-field controversies that tend to dog the Pakistan cricket team at major tournaments.

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In the aftermath of this defeat, there are many factors one can point to explain the performance. Despite their lacklustre performance in this tournament and in general over the last few years, Pakistani cricketers may well be making more money than ever before. Many of the fans and pundits on the Indian side have often raised similar concerns about their players’ commitment to the national side due to the impact of such lucrative offers. But the PSL is new and these performances are not. So, what are the constants when it comes to Pakistani cricket. One is the PCB, whose chairman has called for major surgery in the aftermath of the humiliating loss and has promised that fans will see a major overhaul. Indeed, this is the right way to go and ought to include the nation’s top cricketing body as there is no way one can fall short so consistently without there being problems at the very top. For one, the cricket board ought to be made more apolitical. Who does or does not become prime minister should not have an impact on the workings of the PCB. Political meddling in the form of the Imran Khan government’s ban on departmental cricket, reversed by the earlier PDM government, also does not appear to have done up-and-coming cricketing talent in the country any favours. Certainly, a lot of questions ought to be asked of some of the selections that have been made for this tournament. Is this really the best a country that once had Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Javed Miandad on the same team can produce?

The other constant is of course the fact that cricket has been king in Pakistan for as long as most of us can remember. It is rather embarrassing that a country of well over 200 million can only compete at a world class level in one or two major sports, the latter if one counts field hockey. As such, one can argue there is a lot of room for complacency in our cricketing atmosphere. After all, what else will people watch? But this is fast becoming a dated assumption. Sports is now well and truly global and it is no longer hard to find Pakistani sports fans who would rather watch football, mixed martial arts, basketball or any of the innumerable sports one can now watch with a wifi connection. The promises flooding in on social media of fans promising not to watch the Pakistan cricket team anymore strike a more serious chord with this backdrop.

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