Why am I not surprised?

April 6, 2014

Why am I not surprised?

So Pakistan did not make it to the semi-finals of World Twenty20 for the first time since the tournament began in 2007. Why am I not surprised?

So Hafeez made 55 runs (3 fours) in 4 innings at an average of 13.75 with a strike rate of 72.36 batting at the crucial position of No 3, and did not complete his quota of 4 overs in any game nor bowled near the end of the innings. Why am I not surprised?

So "experienced all-rounder" Shoaib Malik did not bowl at all and scored 52 runs (4 fours and a six) in 4 innings at 17.33 with a strike rate of 100 batting at No.5 where the person is expected to take the lower order with him and finish the innings. Why am I not surprised?

So Kamran Akmal dropped a couple of catches and missed stumpings and scored 48 runs (31 in one knock) in 4 innings at an average of 12 with a strike rate of 85.71 while opening the innings. Why am I not surprised?

So Sohail Tanveer took one wicket in 7 overs at an average of 53 and a runs-per-over of almost 8 runs. Why am I not surprised?

So Sharjeel Khan did not play at all, Junaid Khan played a single game and Sohaib Maqsood was sent in at No.6 with a few balls left in 3 of 4 innings. Anwar Ali and Sarfraz Ahmed were never included in the touring party. Why am I not surprised?

So Najam Sethi promises accountability but reminds us that we reached the semi-finals four times out of four previously and beat Australia and Bangladesh this time. Why am I not surprised?

Well I’m not surprised because I said on record during my 2011 World Cup shows on a channel that Hafeez is an off-spinner who can also bat and should play at No.7. Even senior commentators and experts today criticising him said nothing of the sort till a few months ago. They kept backing him and eventually promoted him as a professor and captain of the national team.

I again warned before the 2012 World Twenty20 and then the 2013 Champions Trophy that he has to come down the order, that being insecure and self preservative as captain he will cause hindrances in development of alternates, play too many dot balls and cause anger within the players and team management over his insistence on senior friends being in the side and refusing to listen to reason.

Since the same time I had cried hoarse to dump Kamran and Malik from the team for good. That there is precocious talent the likes of Rashid Latif, Wasim Akram and Inzamam out there, just that we are not looking for it deliberately. A ‘camp’ where hundreds of the young and hopeful are packed into a couple of hours and a few balls to play and bowl is pure eyewash.

I am not surprised at any of the above because Pakistan cricket is under siege and has been for some time. It is a fortress which changed hands almost every other year as one firepower overrides another and is itself destroyed by yet another army of sorts. To me the objective appears to be power and money and pleasing the influential, who can have varied desires. It is infested by people who seemingly are eons away from a honed management capability and perspective for sports management and strategy. Above all, they talk patriotism and then execute actions that reek of treason to the game.

Sure, there is an open court being held and talk of accountability and a promise to the nation. Give it a few weeks and the national budget will bring more misery to the masses, people will be worried over cost of living, jobs, lack of utilities, traffic jams and street fighting and bombing. By then the anger will have been diverted and the favourites (some of whom were not selected this year) will be sneaked back in over the next season. A few popular decisions will be taken to show that people in PCB care about cricket and the wishes of the people and that nothing is more superior to that. Hogwash!

The PCB will ride on the good fortune that the next public interest will come after some five months when Pakistan play Australia. By then a few matches of some importance will be arranged and the players that have to be retained or recalled will strangely show outstanding performances. Or maybe some league performance in England will be mentioned as proof of capability, form, etc.

In case some quick Twenty20 tour is arranged in the summer, you can expect Shahid Afridi or Saeed Ajmal to lead the team. But if they want to be mischievous they can appoint Umar Akmal to that position. But that’s only because of his pathetic performance in full view in a world cup. Had this happened in a bilateral series you can bet Hafeez would remain confirmed as captain for the future.

For Tests and ODIs we still have Misbah-ul-Haq. The former T20 captain has the right to ask, by the way, that if he was pulled out of the T20 squad because of slow scoring and conservative captaincy then why in heavens are those positions being occupied by Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez? Both of them have a lower strike rate over last two years and the leadership could not be more stymied, selfish and scared.

I would have understood if someone more dynamic with the strokeplay had taken his place. He has already shamed the PCB by hitting more sixes in 3 games in last year’s Champions Trophy in India than any other batsmen who played the full tournament! Just check the quality of batsmen that played that tournament.

So can Najam Sethi please also hold accountable the person responsible who took out Misbah for Malik and Hafeez, and chose Kamran Akmal over Sarfraz Ahmed, whose attacking innings built the base for the greatest chase in Test history just a few weeks back?

Why am I not surprised?