Changing direction

April 19, 2015

Changing direction

It has been heartening to hear -- even though the taste of the pudding lies in eating it and seeing is believing -- that Waqar Younis and Azhar Ali have emphasised that from now on it will be team first and individuals later.

They have also accepted what every close observer of the game has been saying and that is that the world has moved on to a new brand of cricket and we are nowhere near it.

It pains a bit though that it has taken watching the other 13 teams in the World Cup to realise that we indeed have been left far behind. Yes I include all 13 because even the UAE, in games they played against fellow Associates, played with more aggression and contemporary attitude than did the Pakistanis.

It is almost as if the PCB and the previous selectors and coach Waqar had been oblivious to how the world had moved on.

Nevertheless, at least they have now officially accepted it so there’s no hiding behind suggestions that this is how Pakistan should play irrespective of where others are coming from. Waqar Younis must now stand in the firing line if Pakistan team doesn’t deliver on the new approach before the year is out.

I say this because, as I wrote last week, the coach has clearly had an impact on selection and via interviews subsequent to the announcement of the side especially in the camp it is clear he is hardening his grip over the players.

He has nevertheless accepted that his generation of cricketers has been behind much of the individualism in the team we see today.

I gather this from a quote that was printed in a section of the media. He was quoted as saying: "For 25 years we have built stars. Do you want stars or do you want the team to do well? Please tell me what does the average fan want?"

If he had asked himself that question when he was playing for his country, Pakistan cricket may not have been where it is now.  After all it was in the early 1990s that the seeds were sown for individual stardom as Wasim and Waqar wrestled with their cohorts to take control of the team, combining first to see off Javed Miandad from the captaincy and then seeking their individual stardom at the expense of team unity. Now Waqar attempts to weed out what he once helped to sow.

He has made no bones in accepting that the complete omission of Umar Akmal from the touring party and the part exclusion of Ahmed Shahzad has been because of his observations in the World Cup.  Ironically these are two players who can most quickly adapt to the new world. But how much difference will these two not being there make is still to be seen.

Important is to quell the questioning from within and not just from outside. Reports have arisen of a couple of players mouthing their grievances over wearing the Pakistani blazer and tie on departure to the airport in what the players felt was hot weather. It may have come from a couple but it appears they have spoken for more.

The gripe is at the discipline being imposed by the manager, Naved Cheema, who insisted on the blazer and tie. The players apparently wanted shirt and jeans while travelling. I’m sure they meant the green T-shirt and khaki trousers.

They do have a point for summer-wear but they should bear in mind that this was for the first impression when the team landed at Dhaka airport.

But what is more pertinent for me is that they speak of stifling heat inside the jackets when they will hardly be out of air-conditioning environment for a few minutes, from say the exit of the arrivals at the airport to the waiting bus, both of which is air-conditioned. How sissy can sportsmen get?

There is a certain majesty in wearing the Pakistani team blazer. It has been treasured attire and here are these young players questioning wearing it. Can a green T-shirt with golden star emblazoned on it ever take the place of the green blazer and striped tie?

I say this because it shows that this generation of players is least bothered about tradition and ceremony which links it to the likes of Hanif Mohammad and Fazal Mahmood and that generation of players that stood stoically against all odds and fought without care for match fees and comfort.  Waqar and Co should definitely bring in the new deal but it should remain on field. It would bring him and the manager a lot of credit if they were to emphasise the traditional values of a team blazer.

Changing direction