Pakistani Cricket Team

wonko-south-park
Danyaal Hasan, a friend & colleague, has just written this article which will be published in “The Nation” newspaper very soon.  Feedback is appreciated.

Finding Heir Apparent?

By Danyaal Hasan

Pakistan’s form so far in the Twenty20 World Cup, culminated by its loss to England should not come as a surprise to its fans. In fact this has been just another predictable twist in a storyline that has, over the last 24 months, resembled episodes of South Park, characterised by the crude, surreal, and dark humour that the viewers are exposed to in each episode, in addition to the ever present off-air controversy. Not as predictable however, was the win against Netherlands even for its most die-hard fan.

If we dispassionately analyse Pakitan’s tournament losses thus far, there is a good argument to say that Pakistan has played not too far off its potential, which makes each of its starting 11 mediocre at best. Lack of competitive cricket, poor fielding, and bad captaincy are all reasonable excuses for the margin of defeat, but not the defeat itself. The reality is that Pakistan has now not produced proven world beating cricketing talent since Mohammed Asif, the lack of which has thus far been rudely evident in this tournament.

If Pakistan cricket is an episode of South Park, then the saga of its top three since the retirement of Saeed Anwar, has been an unpalatable parody of the three musketeers; I’m thinking brooms not bats. Of the most recent ensemble, Salman Butt has not played a decent innings against a team not named India since the tour of Australia eons ago, which probably explains why he was rested against India and played against South Africa and England. And whilst it’s too early to fairly assess the talents of Ahmed Shahzad, it is fair to question the decision to test new talent on such a stage when chances for the likes of Nasir Jamshaid are so few, far, and between. Kamral Akmal has shown over the last 7 years, of which the last 3 he spent as an on-the-job wicket keeping trainee, glimpses of ‘world class’, However this tease has now lost its allure and needs to either deliver to a standard regularly or make way for someone else’s stab at consistency. .

Pakistan’s middle order is possibly not as inept as its top order, however, they more than compensate for it with an abundance of confusion, playing passive aggressive cricket that has ‘very few runs for the loss of too many wickets’ written all over it. Overs 10-15 in a must score-big-game against Netherlands was a shocking reminder of how elusive this balance has been. Younis Khan is a solid test batsman albeit still not in the same league as his retired predecessors, and has the ingredients to be a good captain. However, his inclusion in a Twenty20 squad has to be on the basis of the latter and not the former. But given Pakistan’s need for a stabilising middle order batsman and team binding leader one can find ways to overlook his inability to reach or God forbid clear the boundary against a half decent side without resorting to the monkey sweep. What can’t be overlooked however is his penchant to use his time on the cricket field as an audition for Colgate Extra White, especially right after a catch has gone down. The captain wants to call the shots as Imran Khan once did but fails to recognise that the right to hold such authority comes with respect, will, hard work, and most importantly, results!

As for the all rounders, Afridi has now not scored a run since the launch of the Twenty20 format itself and what prompted Pakistan against India to hand the new ball to an ordinary Arafat in the presence of three specialist fast bowlers is beyond reason. In an era where great all rounders are defined by the names Kallis, Flintoff, and even Symonds, are we seriously considering taking the names Arafat and Afridi in the same breadth let alone sentence? And if not, why don’t we instead waste our time, energy, and oxygen on giving Fawad Alam an extended shot at this multi-task. 

Last but not least, for all the touted talent and promise of our bowling department, Saeed Ajmal has a better chance of winning the fielder of the year award, than for this group to run through a winning side. For all his genuine efforts and hard work, when was the last time even Gull bowled 4 match winning overs on the trot? The answer is just as hard to come by as has been thus far finding heir apparent to Imran Khan’s legacy.

A small share of the blame for our cricketing dilemma rests with our past. The meteoric ascent to greatness for most of our now retired cricketing legends has set a damning precedence for the present cricketing generation because their rise from obscurity came in spite of the system, not because of it. This precedence has instilled in us a false hope that regardless of the shambolic state of its governing body and its domestic cricketing structure, Pakistan cricket’s next great is just around the corner, ready to display his grit, passion, raw talent, and genius on the world stage. Unfortunately, 2 years on from the retirement of the last of these greats, we are more likely to see the words ‘Venereal and Warts’ repeated in a PCB circular, than heralding the re-awakening of our fast bowling traditions.

The larger share of the blame rests with the establishment itself (past and present), who are hell bent on employing short term fixes to a problem which needs medium to long term corrective strategies. How else do you explain the repeated inclusion of Shoaib Akhtar in your 15 over the likes of Sohail Khan, Mohammed Talha, Anwar Ali, and Mohammed Aamer? In order to unearth the next great ‘W’, the PCB will need to strengthen its resolve, its integrity, and most importantly its commitment towards building a strong grassroots foundation for cricket in the country. Till then however, it needs to take smarter selection decisions and employ tighter team and player management.

After its win against Netherlands, Pakistan may well take advantage of its weaker group and reach the semi finals, thereon making it anyone’s cup. However, much like Kenny’s regular demise in South Park, this would be a blow most unfair to the discipline, planning, hard work, and strength in match winning talent that teams such as South Africa, India, and Sri Lanka possess and regularly display.

 In the absence of greatness, one must make the most of good – for this die-hard Pakistani cricket fan, there is greatness in that.

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13 comments

  1. Completely agree with the conclusion of the article. We need to let go of our false sense of natural talent continuing to pave the way for pakistani cricket glory and have a more ‘scientific’ approach. Otherwise, we’ll have to continue to quench our nostalgic thurst by watching 1992 world cup videos on youtube for times to come.

  2. Ali Q · · Reply

    Danyaal, you’re absolutely right but I’m still praying for today’s match against the Netherlands! Pakistan Zindabad.

  3. Ditto for me Ali Q.

    I like the balanced line up today. Shoaib Malik should be playing at 3 and Misbah at 4 in this format of the game. Tanvir comes back in and finally we see Fawad Alam. Also like the persistence with Amir.

  4. Ijaz Ul Haq · · Reply

    Very well written with a touch of good humor..

  5. Don’t agree with this. I guess it was written after Pakistan lost against England, right? What about now?????

  6. I love the South Park analogy, and the picture is genius! Haha

  7. Nothing has changed by beating Netherlands. As i said, regardless of the outcome of this tournament, there are serious flaws in the team – the most glaring being our lack of consistent bowling penetration against decent sides. 175 against Netherlands in a must-score-big match would also worry me, especially when others are topping 200!

    But i still hope we WIN! and given the draw we have a fair chance of getting to the semis where its anyone’s game! Go Pakistan!

  8. Mian Mithu · · Reply

    i disagreed with portions of the article and failed to follow some of the arguments. for instance, the author mentions that pakistan has not produced world beating talent for the last 3 years. how do you define that? come to think of it, how many world beating cricketing talents have been spotted in the last 3 years? ajantha menthis. ishant sharma. can’t think of many more.

    if i take it to mean a softer version, i.e. a stream of talent, then the author contradicts himself (and rightly so) by mentioning the likes of sohail khan, mohammad aamer, and mohammad talha. i dont agree with many of the comments like the one about younis khan as well. i guess this was written right after of the loss against england

  9. Annan Qureshi · · Reply

    I think we need to first understand the current systems for developing cricketers. Let’s take an example at Australia where there are huge budgets, training schools, and academies for young cricket professionals. The top notch players from every school qualify for National Team etc etc.

    Where as in Pakistan, cricket lovers play on the streets and very few actually get to the top, either because of a political reference or other references. Brilliant players never reach the top if they don’t have a big daddy in the government or the Pakistan Sports Board. It’s a shame but it’s true.

    However, I think the Pakistani team still has a lot of potential.

    On a lighter note, don’t forget, we are an emotional nation – it’s funny how one day we appreciate and support our team and then forget about it and change our emotions the following day.

  10. Dale Steyn, Ajantha Mendis, Mitchell Johnson, JP Duminy, Ishant Sharma, emergence of AB de Villiers and Gautum Gambhir are a few examples of proven world beaters that have consistently delivered the goods over the last 3 years against winning sides. There is a longer list of emerging candidates a few of which are Suresh Raina, Shane Watson, Rohit Sharma, Lasith Malinga, etc. with Umar Gul being the only one that you can even think of putting in this list.

    Sohail Khan and the rest of the domesstic cricket names are not “proven” talent – they are domestic cricketing talent that need to be tested more regularly through a better selection policy. Maybe that’s why you have Abdul Qadir tendering his resignation as most of the names were not even included in the Pakistan A tour to Australia!

  11. There has been no paucity of world beaters coming through on the global stage over the past 3 years, sadly none of them belong to Pakistan. The author of this article I believe has let Younis Khan off softly, personally I think that a cricketer with the amount of “experience” that YK holds should have more sense than to orchestrate the dismal run chase against England,If i sitting at home on my Sofa, being distracted by one friend sneezing his nose off and the other trying to close a million dollar deal on conference call in turkey can realize that the game was a lost cause after 12 overs then so could he being captain of a cricket team and all…why was there no damage control done, why didnt we try and up our run rate, we had wickets in hand yet there was no accelaration from any of the batsmen……the last 6 balls produced 4 runs. Where is the think tank??? Malik is clearly a man past whatever prime he had, he finds it impossible to find let alone clear the boundary once the field is spread out, he is very much a one dimensional batsmen and apart from a ripping apart on Shaun Pollock in Lahore 6 years ago, I dont recall Malik taking the game by the scruff of the neck. DH would disagree…I await his rebuttal!

    Coming back to Colgate boy, what does he have against Misbah, does anyone here remember that he was the best batsmen in the last edition of “bit of fun” as YK so eloquently said……the poor man hardly gets a look in…..where his more accomplished counterparts ( Butt, Ahmed Shehzad and Malik) are labouriously scoring at less than a run a ball!

  12. Danyaal’s latest article:

    An encore most unwanted!
    By Danyaal Hasan

    If the script to Pakistan’s T20 World Cup triumph was written in the stars, then Lollywood’s finest must have penned the one to its encore, a first away-test-series loss to Sri Lanka. Who else could have concocted a recipe of action, thrills, and suspense, fit it into one neat package, and still end up with a train wrecked tragedy? This series was supposed to be the continuation of a journey that began last month with a monumental victory at the Lords Cricket Ground. Pakistanis all across the world heralded that victory as a new beginning for our beleaguered nation. Not even one month on and dark clouds of doubt have enveloped this dream of a new dawn. In truth, 30 wickets fell for circa 200 runs over three mind numbing innings to an average bowling attack. In reality however, quicksand set in, sucking the life out of its supporters.

    The aftermath of this colossal setback has already started to unfold. A long list of excuses has surfaced, of which not enough cricket, bad mental preparation, and poor umpiring are the odds on favourites to stand the test of scrutiny. All three are well supported by unintelligent conjecture and a notable plea for time. However, conspicuous absentees are chaotic opening partnerships, and a fragile middle order which a 40-year-old Inzamam would put to shame. No mention is made either of a wicketkeeper batsman who after a brief reunion with form has reverted to his proverbial miserable self. Lack of pace and consistent bowling penetration continues to be met with a deafening silence. And “butter fingers” is still considered a confectionary brand, not an affliction suffered by our starting 11.

    Today’s competitive world seldom rewards a lack of planning. Shortage of courage has even poorer returns, exemplified in the decision to debut Fawad Alam at the top of the order. Make no mistake, any attempt to classify this decision as ingenious needs to be met with a firm rebuttal of “spineless”! Nothing justifies debuting a 23 year old in a position that requires the best technique and carries the most pressure. One gets a sense of the absurdity of this decision when put into further perspective that Fawad has never played even a first class innings in that position. At a time when senior batsmen needed to step up and take charge to rectify a position almost entirely of their own making, they chose to hide behind the refuge of the middle order. How ironic then that such an act of cowardice be rewarded by fate with 168 going to the debutant and a combined 18 going to positions 4-7. The end never justifies the means or bad rationale. Fawad’s innings is testament to his previously mostly overlooked cricketing potential. It is not however, evidence of a captain’s effort to wrest initiative from the opposition and certainly not worthy of folklore that this account is threatening to now become.

    The notion that success in T20 cricket is easily transferred to Test cricket has been put to shame. The former may well afford or even reward a lack of method to the madness but the latter is clearly not as forgiving. Pakistan cricket continuously fails to realise that modern era champions, sporting or otherwise, are made as much from individual talent as from the systems they are developed within. Employing short-term measures to tackle longer-term institutional problems is business as usual at the PCB. Smart money suggests that the PCB Chairman, whoever he/she may be at that point, will be itching to yet again disregard lessons of the past and order bandages for this cancer.

    Nonetheless, as recent events have certified, Pakistan cricket makes the impossible possible (although more often than not visa versa), with the same frequency as Javed Miandad tenders resignations. It is this very notion that spares the tiniest belief that a dispassionate appraisal of Pakistan cricket will indeed take place. This evaluation will need to be replete with the team spirit shown three weeks ago if one off successes are to become habitual. Team selection and talent management are issues that need to be addressed with urgency. We cannot afford to settle with mediocrity when talents such as Fawad Alam and Mohammed Aamer are at our disposal.

    For cricket to flourish, the impasse between logic and ad-hoc has to be broken letting the PCB function as a credible regulatory body, nationally and internationally. The blame for losing hosting rights to the ICC Cricket World Cup has thus far been ably shouldered by the harrowing attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore. However, had the PCB been given a little more time to employ its full repertoire of corrupt ineptitude, it was more than capable of accomplishing this task without the assistance of those lunatics. Such is the confidence appreciated to this dictatorially appointed body of wannabes and has-beens. No wonder then that the board’s penchant to wash dirty linen in public has become second nature. Little preference is placed between political intervention, divine intervention, or more unlikely personal introspection to trigger a transformation in fortunes. Partiality is reserved however, for change itself.

    After the euphoric pandemonium of June, no one predicted a bipolar reality check of such magnitude. Match practice may lessen the blows of unpredictability but will not prevent the eventuality of a knockout. What is required is a strong chin to take the blows, a strong head to learn from past mistakes, and a strong will to bounce back harder and faster. There are no short cuts to good results and no substitute for hard work. The top three sides in the world understand this fundamental truth. If we are to compete with the likes then so must we.

    The writer used to be a die-hard Pakistani cricket fan. That was before he understood the very literal meaning to this label.

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