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Monday July 22, 2024

Pakistan’s absence from Super 8 stage upsets fans

By Abdul Mohi Shah
June 22, 2024
Pakistans players Shaheen Shah Afridi, Babar Azam, and Mohammad Rizwan. — AFP/File
Pakistan's players Shaheen Shah Afridi, Babar Azam, and Mohammad Rizwan. — AFP/File

ANTIGUA (Caribbean Islands): Pakistan cricket fans have expressed extreme disappointment over the absence of their team from the Super 8 stage of the T20 World Cup as they were seen questioning as to why such a higher ranked team has shown slackness in the first round where even the minnows looked stronger and eager to make a point.

Cricket followers in the US as well as in the Caribbean Islands seemed upset over Greenshirts’ absence from the Super Eight stage despite having cherished cricketing traditions. Not finding Pakistan’s name in top eight of any format raises serious questions on handling the challenges faced by the team in preparations at all levels.

Much has been said and claimed as to why the Greenshirts failed at the very first hurdle. Severe criticism of players and their approach towards the game was unleashed since the curtains fell on Pakistan’s campaign in T20 World Cup. Ordinary fans to lesser knowledgeable critics, all started blaming some leading cricketers for making the mess of the given challenge.

Admitted that infighting was one of the key reasons behind this unprecedented downfall, those handling the affairs from the very start have sowed the seeds of a fruitless crop. Preparing for any mega event has never been a short term effort, in fact it takes almost a year to start making right calls that could ensure establishment of a truly balanced outfit.

On the contrary, when Shadab Khan (for the series against Afghanistan) and Shaheen Shah Afridi (for the away T20 series against New Zealand) were named captains, it was comprehended as the moves made in haste might trigger far-reaching complications for future Pakistan cricket. These were more or less the same efforts that we have seen decades back starting from early eighties when Javed Miandad was named captain ahead of all seniors including Majid Khan, Zaheer Abbas and Imran Khan.

Similarly Pakistan camp saw infighting between Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis for captaincy making a mess of the 2003 ODI World Cup campaign. Also the tussle between Rashid Latif and Moin Khan over wicket keeping and captaincy issues was never a secret controversy. All these tussles resulted in poor outcome at the Test and ODI levels.

In the same way, when you raise the status of a youngster like Najam Sethi and Zaka Ashraf did in Shadab and Shaheen Shah Afridi’s cases, you disturb the team’s focus. Instead of working on their own performances, these youngsters start thinking as if captaincy is the job they are meant for. The same happened with Shadab and Shaheen Shah when they were named captains they forgot about their actual roles -- specialist all-rounder and of a tear away fast bowler.

From that point onward, Shadab and Shaheen Shah started thinking as adversaries to Babar Azam rather team members or contributors to a winning cause. Though Shadab and Shaheen’s captaincies were short-lived affairs, their changed status left an irreparable damage to their personal performances.

One of the major factors that made Pakistan less impressive in recent times is the system’s inability to change with international cricket requirements. Gone are the days when players possessing the same ability used to win the matches. Neither Pakistan cricket has changed with the international cricket requirements nor the so-called super stars made any adjustments to their game.

These cricketers can be effective on a couple of occasions but not all the time. Cricket brains across the world are working round the clock to pick weaknesses and exploit these on a given day. Say if Fakhar Zaman is a suspect on a slow bouncer or Mohammad Rizwan has a habit of playing cross-batted shots, it is enough for the analysts to make them pay. Our leading cricketers hardly learn from the past mistakes and keep on committing the same mistakes time and again. On the contrary, owing to lack of professionalism Pakistan has not been able to chalk out a counter strategy to nullify opponents’ game plans.

There has been a big flaw in the team’s selection process which is being run on the basis of favoritism and friendships. Those responsible for the selection at the national level have no vision as to whether the players selected on the team has the potential to become a star of the future. Every fresh T20 mega event demands fresh challenges.

We only prefer tried and tested ones, knowing little that their approach will not be different from the one they already have shown in the past event. T20 cricket is a game for young legs having the desire to play strong and aggressive cricket. There is no professional cricketer in the US team, all are part-timers, yet they are in the Super Eight of the 2014 T20 World Cup at the expense of truly professional Pakistan cricketers.