The sorry state of our domestic cricket

December 10,2017

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The manner in which Pakistan domestic cricket is currently organised and run reeks of inefficiency and disorganisation. To me, Pakistan domestic cricket is in a state of disarray. For the past 4-5 years, the emphasis of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is on anything but domestic cricket and things have got worse now with the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in the mix. Domestic cricket is a nursery for growing good cricketers, but we are paying scant regard to its development. There seems to be no direction and agreement on how to run cricket in our country. The structure of domestic cricket is perpetually being tinkered with and there is general confusion about how to organise it. It undergoes a change every year or so and there is no sense of continuity in how things are run. The very simple fact of the matter is that unless you concentrate on making the domestic structure better, your cricket and cricketers will never progress. I am also shocked and disheartened by rumours that the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy could be scrapped in the future as to me that will represent the single most idiotic step ever taken and I pray that it will never happen, as this shows that some people have absolutely no idea or simply don’t care about Pakistan cricket.

Once again, the ineptitude of the administration comes to the fore when we talk about the scheduling of our domestic cricket. I for one, have no objections to our players playing in leagues and tournaments around the world. What I would have liked to see is that the PCB planning their domestic schedules one year in advance. In that way, if a player had been approached by BPL or any other league, he would have looked at the schedule and said, yes or no depending on what was arranged by the PCB. It would have been clear to the player about his commitments next year and he would have taken the appropriate call on signing up for a foreign league. But that is not the case now and the players end up committing to other leagues in the absence of any concrete information about Pakistan’s domestic cricket schedule for the next season. Look at what happened during the time the Caribbean Premier League was being held. Our players were called back on the pretext of a domestic tournament being held in Pakistan and then that was postponed, leaving them in limbo. No other word, other than ineptitude comes to my mind to describe this situation, as it is clear that future planning is a concept which is alien to the PCB.

The biggest tragedy afflicting our cricket at the moment is that our board is not spending money on aspects of our domestic game where it is needed most. If you are wondering why India produces such high-quality batsmen, then look no further than the provision of good and true pitches. In my view, if a batsman does not get a chance to bat for longer periods then he will never develop the confidence and skills needed to play those long innings. The batsman’s talent will only flourish and his game improve if is he is able to play on good quality pitches. If the batsman, as is the case in Pakistan, spends most of his time on the pitch trying to survive with just defence, then he is likely to turn out to be a poor-quality player. Poor international batsmen, in my view, are a by-product of low quality domestic pitches.

In our playing days, each pitch we played had a unique and distinct character. For example, The Gaddafi Stadium was known for its slow pitch, Karachi had a turning track, ‘Pindi stadium had a lot of grass on the pitch and the Gujranwala pitch was expected to be pacy and with a lot of bounce on it and so on. So, a batsman had a chance to hone his skills on different and contrasting surfaces. Today, we see that every other pitch is bowler friendly and the batsmen have no option but to try and survive in whatever way they can. And the proof of that is in the fact that for a long time, we are yet to see a quality batsman come through the ranks of our domestic players. In my view, the few decent batsmen apart from the likes of Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq that Pakistan has produced in recent times are Asim Kamal, Salman Butt and more recently, Asad Shafiq. Apart from that I see no real high-class batsmen in our ranks and the reason for that is the quality of our pitches. Pakistan’s batting is indeed in a state of crisis as we have had to depend on batsmen who in some cases had clearly exceeded their shelf-life simply because we didn’t have replacements for them.

The opener’s slot for any decent side in the world is a very important position in the team. The player who needs to take that slot needs to be the most technically accomplished batsman for the team. In our case, we seem to put players with severe technical deficiencies in the opening position and then expect miracles of them. And then there is the case of unfair treatment for some players who were actually qualified for this job. The case of Taufeeq Umar is well known in this regard. To my eyes, he was the most talented and gifted opener, but we wasted him and discarded him. We, unfortunately, are great in destroying good players but are unable to develop good ones. Therein lies our problem. We are unable to select the right players for the right job and if, by some fluke we do, then we have no way to develop him into a better player.

It is a little sad to note that for all the success that Fakhar Zaman experienced at the Champions Trophy in the summer, he has been unable to repeat that in subsequent games. The reason for that is rather simple and that is the fact that during the Champions Trophy, not many sides knew much about Fakhar. He was new and a surprise package for many opposing teams. Since then, the other teams have worked him out and come up with ways to neutralise his threat. In my opinion, it is his back-lift and how he crouches before deliveries is where all his problems stem from. Regardless of what the actual issue is, the shocking aspect of all this is that despite having an army of coaches, no one has been able to help Fakhar resolve his problems. These coaches are incapable of helping a struggling batsman to improve his technique by giving him the right kind of information. Although there seems to be no dearth of unnecessary information provided to the player which only confuses the batsman without any obvious benefit. Without precise information, a player will continue to struggle and Fakhar is a good example of that failing.


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