Requiem for the Pakistan cricket team

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Requiem for the Pakistan cricket team

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Ansar M Bhatti

An ignominious defeat at the hands of cricket minnows USA during the T20 World Cup match does not bode well for the future of the Pakistan cricket team. After restricting Pakistan to a modest total of 159, the USA managed to chase down the target on the last ball, forcing the match into a super over. In the super over, the USA scored 18 runs. The Pakistani openers then failed to reach this target, bringing disrepute to themselves and their country.

Let’s delve into the various factors that led to this debacle, starting with team fitness. Key player Imad Wasim was brought back into the team to strengthen Pakistan’s middle order. However, he became unfit before the crucial match. The team had undergone numerous fitness tests at the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul before departing for Ireland and England. After the rigorous sessions at PMA, it was expected that fitness issues would not trouble the players.

Another player, Muhammad Amir, who had announced his retirement and was previously sentenced for involvement in betting, was also called back to the squad. He was chosen to bowl the super over, during which he conceded 18 runs, including 8 runs from extras. This proved to be a poor decision, especially with regular bowler Shaheen Afridi available.

We witnessed yet another disappointing performance from Azam Khan, both as a wicketkeeper and a batsman. It remains a mystery who is behind his selection for the team. I cannot recall any player in any sport with a physical structure like Azam Khan’s performing well. His physique appears unfit for any kind of sport, yet he continues to be part of the team.

The frequent changes in management at the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) are a significant factor contributing to the team’s lackluster performance. Often, PCB Chairmen lack a cricketing background, leading to the captain and senior team members dominating the selection process. Currently, Captain Babar Azam is believed to have formed a strong group of like-minded players within the team, thereby exerting considerable influence over team management decisions. The incumbent PCB Chairman, Mohsin Naqvi, appears to be inexperienced and easily influenced due to his lack of cricketing knowledge and administrative skills. Consequently, the team seems to be in disarray.

Taking a cue from the past and considering the current system at the PCB, it is evident that everyone aspires to be the PCB chairman due to the substantial perks and privileges associated with the position. Beyond the monetary benefits, the PCB chairman enjoys free travel, five-star accommodations, and other luxurious amenities while accompanying the team. The opportunity to grant favors to close associates further enhances the appeal of this role. Amidst this indulgence, little attention is given to team performance and discipline. To move in the right direction, this trend must be reversed.

The overall political system of a country undeniably has a direct impact on sports. In Pakistan, the political landscape is fluid, uncertain, and fraught with anomalies, which has disrupted the country’s systems, including sports. Appointments to key positions often ignore the merit principle, leading to poor performances in various sports disciplines.

The state of affairs at the Pakistan Hockey Federation is deeply troubling. Hockey, the national game of Pakistan, has been treated with neglect, undermining its very foundations. Hockey players, despite their dedication and contributions, are among the most neglected members of society, receiving meager compensation.

A recent example of their resilience was seen at the Azlan Shah Cup, where Pakistan finished second purely due to the personal efforts of the players. However, this success is overshadowed by the ongoing leadership crisis within the federation. Two factions are currently vying for control, a situation exacerbated by the government and the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination’s failure to resolve this contentious issue. This prolonged dispute has had a severely adverse effect on Pakistan hockey, hindering its progress and development at all levels.

Pakistan will now face India in their next match. If the green shirts are to repeat the USA performance, then for sure match against India is going to be a one-sided affair. Defeat against USA on one hand shall put extra pressure on Pakistan in the match against India while the Indian on the other hand shall feel relaxed as they will be taking on a team that was humiliated by cricket minnows.

Recently, Pakistan hired South African star player Gary Kirsten as the head coach of their cricket team. However, he cannot be blamed for the recent defeat as he did not have sufficient time to coach the team. Additionally, he likely had minimal influence over team selection, which is unfortunate.

In contrast, the Pakistan hockey team performed well in the Azlan Shah Cup and the National Cup in Poland, largely due to the influence of Dutch coach Roelant Oltmans, who was given the authority to select the team. This situation arose because of disagreements between two parallel selection committees within the hockey federation. The government intervened and empowered Oltmans to make team selections until the federations resolved their issues. This arrangement proved successful, as Oltmans selected the team based purely on merit.

Drawing from this experience, it might be beneficial for cricket to adopt a similar approach, eliminating the need for a separate selection committee and allowing the coach to make team selections directly. This arrangement will also do away with various pressure groups within the team.