Thursday December 02, 2021

Debacle in New Zealand — who’s to blame?

By Comment
January 08, 2021

By Abdul Mohi Shah

The knives are out and everyone is calling for the head of not only Misbahul Haq and Waqar Younis but also the PCB’s top brass. There may be some merit in the demand, but what is surprising is sudden and synchronised public outcry following the last two days of the Christchurch Test.

To put the facts right let’s quickly recap what happened during the second Test.

After day one of the first Test, the fans as well as game’s experts were praising the batsmen’s fightback on a difficult batting surface when they finished at 297. Hopes were slightly dampened after draw of the stumps on day two when Kiwis finished at 286-3. The results could have been different had Shaheen Afridi not delivered a no-ball and given a reprieve to Henry Nicolls when New Zealand were at 77-3.

So the anger is basically over the team’s show on the last two days of the tour in which Pakistan fought bravely to almost draw the first Test and recovered to win the Napier T20I.

Let’s bear in mind, these performances were at the back of a 14-day quarantine period where the players were unable to leave their rooms, forget about any training, and after losing Babar Azam, Imamul Haq and Shadab Khan. On the other side, New Zealand were playing Tests and inflicting innings’ defeats on the West Indies.

Despite all, Misbah has not done any favour to himself by selecting some mindboggling team and playing XI as well as match strategies since his appointment in September 2019.

Misbah, whether he survives the series loss or not, will probably go down as the most powerful head coach ever as he was also the chief selector thus responsible for overall performance of the side. When he was entrusted with huge responsibilities, there were calls and suggestions that the PCB was making a mistake, but the board may have other ideas or views.

The assessments about Misbah were basically around his apparent lazy and casual body language since his playing days. He may be the most successful Test captain and one of the prominent performers, cricket fans have neither forgotten nor forgiven him for the shot he played in the ICC World T20 2007 final against India in Johannesburg.

Ehsan Mani and Wasim Khan made Misbah the all-powerful head coach, but are they only responsible for the glaring error, if it was really a glaring one?

After the 2019 World Cup, the cricket committee met in Lahore and recommended that Micky Arthur’s management should be replaced. These recommendations were accepted by the PCB chairman. There was not a single mistake, but two!

The applicants were interviewed by an independent panel who made their recommendations, following which Misbah and Waqar were put in place. Another set of mistakes!

So, if there was collective decision-marking, there needs to be collective accountability and it should actually start from the cricket committee and the independent panel that recommended changes and proposed Misbah and Waqar. In fact, all those who were calling for Mickey and Sarfaraz Ahmed’s heads during the World Cup and now praising their achievements should also be quizzed and grilled.

The two big factors that contributed to this depressing performance are: inability of our coaches to teach cricketers how to cope with tough and demanding situations and the failure of selectors to pick the right talent at the outset.

Misbah definitely has contributed to the national cause as a player and as a captain but as a coach he requires more than just being a quality former captain. The tricks and trades of a quality coach have nothing to do with his services as a player or as a captain. A coach should be a master of mind games rather the one having a quality career as a player. Here coaches experience and education also come into play. Misbah, however, is lacking on both fronts.

Our cricketing system never helped us spot and groom young talent. Over the years, cricket think-tank knowingly or unknowingly supported those having their links in the corridors of power. Irrespective of his inborn talent, lobbies played their role in giving unnecessarily hype to favorites’ unseen talent. As a result, we keep on getting the likes of Shan Masood in our system. Years of learning and effort may have earned them a place in the team but they always lack the quality in testing times. So the big question that arises here is why those responsible for such selection, protection, and projection were never been exposed. The strong lobbies working behind the scene to project non-deserving at the expense of genuine talent has harmed Pakistan cricket more than any other factor.

Moving on from the Pakistan team, the PCB may have done some unprecedented work on the on-field cricket front, which can be acknowledged, but the fact remains they have faltered on the governance side of the business.

To date, the interim set-ups have not been constituted, which means local activities are yet to start. Independent members have been appointed to the Board of Governors, but elected representatives are still missing. The Annual General Meeting has not taken place for two consecutive years.