Nothing unexpected

April 5, 2015

The undeniable fact is that Pakistan cricket has reached its nadir

Nothing unexpected

Another World Cup is over. The overall result was not unexpected; nor was Pakistan’s finish. The seventh-ranked side’s campaign ended in the quarter-finals.

The undeniable fact is that Pakistan cricket has reached its nadir. Barring one or two sporadic individual outstanding performances, the Green-shirts’ campaign had disaster written all over it. In fact, it was a foregone conclusion. The weakest team ever sent to any World Cup couldn’t have done any better.

The perennial debate about the selection of the team would always be there. Had he gone… but it is all meaningless. Fawad Alams, Sohail Tanveers or Hammad Azams of this world wouldn’t have made any difference in the end.

Pakistan has given marvels to the world from nowhere. To name a few: Wasim Akram’s Test debut came in only his third first class game, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Aamir Sohail  were yet to make their Test debut when they starred in the victorious campaign of 1992 World Cup. Now, we are only producing mediocre players, and for quite some time.

Some players of this squad have even been labeled potential world beaters. Ahmed Shahzad, Pakistan’s answer to Virat Kohli -- one could only laugh at this comparison. Then there is Umar Akmal who has remained ‘promising’ for such a long time that the linguists must now be thinking of giving a new meaning to this word.

Afridi’s star stature is no less than that of Imran Khan at the latter’s prime. The first named, the only genuine all-rounder in the squad, has the worst average of all the batsmen with more than 8,000 runs in ODIs. Even after 19 years of international cricket, Afridi has failed to overcome the basic flaws in his batting technique.

The great Imran despite being Pakistan’s premier bowler in late 70s still worked on his run up, and the new action with that jump helped him reach unimaginable heights. Likewise, he removed his batting flaws. Imran’s Test average was only in early 20s when he became the captain. As the skipper of the national team, the legend averaged 50 with the bat. The present day super star couldn’t curb his foolish instincts for just a few balls before the arrival of the power play in the quarter-final.

In fact, that in a nut shell explains the dilemma. Today, no one is prepared to think and improve -- the aim is to earn a place in the team and ads.

The other superstar who has retired from the ODIs is the captain Misbah. Admittedly, he was Pakistan’s top scorer with 350 runs. But this was a 50-overs tournament, not a Test match. His scoring rate of 75.1 was the slowest of all the 25 batsmen scoring more than 275 runs in the tourney.

Yet, a large portion of the media is projecting his retirement perhaps the biggest loss to the ODIs since Viv Richards’ exit.  Coming to his captaincy, this Niazi seems to be more of Lt General AAK Niazi’s ilk rather than that of Imran Khan Niazi.

In all of Pakistan’s great cricketing eras, it is the captains who had been calling the shots, AH Kardar, Mushtaq Mohammad and Imran Khan. They selected the teams and also faced the media. Misbah was completely overshadowed by the coach Waqar Younis, who repeatedly and unashamedly defended the team selection, especially that of Nasir Jamshed, while the PCB chairman Shahyaryar Khan, sitting in Pakistan, issued statements for Jamshed’s replacement by Sarfraz. All this made Pakistan the laughing stock of the cricketing world as if that was not the case before.

Some would point out, "Look, Pakistan beat South Africa, one of the pre-tournament favourites. Hence potential is there."

The minnows often have their day. Ireland have had a big victim in each of the last three World Cups: Pakistan (in 2007), England (in 2011) and the West Indies this time around. Pakistan’s win over the Proteas was nothing different.

Winning and losing is part of sports. But this Pakistan side was completely devoid of quality in two of the three departments. In the quarter-final, not a single batsman could dominate the Australian bowling even for a brief period. Of fielding, the less said the better. The team easily topped the chart for the number of dropped catches. And quite a few of them would have put a school cricketer to shame.

There is a PCB chairman and there is also a Head of the PCB executive committee. Many Pakistani cricketers spend summers in England playing in various leagues as professionals. The ECB has set a qualification criterion entailing that the player must have played a certain number of first class matches in the preceding domestic season of his country. A former chief selector of Lahore region charged cricketers, interested in getting a contract in some English leagues, a good amount of money for a place in the region’s teams for first class competitions. We are talking about country’s biggest cricket nursery.

No need lamenting the current state of affairs. The PCB, well aware of the alarming situation, is set upon putting everything right. The revolution is coming. A five-year strategic plan is being laid out. The results would obviously be seen after the next World. It is no fault of the PCB that the World Cup comes around every four years. The visionaries of the board go for punj-sala mansooba. The initial steps have already been taken. There is an entirely new selection committee: Haroon Rasheed (chief selector) , Azhar Khan, Saleem Jaffar and Kabir Khan. The first three have had selectorial stints before.  Yet, it is revamping and not shuffling. Azhar Ali has been named the new ODI captain. Yes, the same Azhar Ali, who wasn’t even among the 30 probables for the World Cup. Doesn’t that make it a revolutionary step?

Tail Piece: Cleanup operation is required at all the tiers: board, team management, players and administrators. Arguably, it should start from the self-imposed Patron in Chief.

Nothing unexpected