When the Pakistan team won the 20 20 world cup it was as usual against all odds. No one expected us to be even there in the finals but we were and to the joy of the entire nation we swept aside the Sri lankanâ€™s quite clinically. Back home people went mad as this was a burst of good news and cheer after such a long period of doom and gloom. Fireworks exploded, people danced and routines were broken to give surge to a spirit of patriotism we saw carry on for some time.
The next task was off course the tour of Srilanka and a chance for Pakistan to prove once and for all to the entire world that they had what it took. However instead of riding on the wave of optimism and confidence in their abilities back home, they threw away two chances in the first two test matches to win. Having done that the glib smiles vanished from the faces of players and fans alike. The crusted ones (ex captains) came out with the old daggers and started twisting them in the teams back. In all fairness Pakistan did claw back to lose the test series 3-2 but with this loss the polish of the 20 20 certainly faded away and our team is left exposed once more as a unit both fragmented and in total disarray.
Not only this but there were reports of bookies being spotted by Pakistani players in their team hotel. A matter which ICC has investigated and cleared Pakistan on so before anyone raises that banner let me point out its been done and dusted. Although the predicament of our team needs thorough examination and to my mind the following points must be examined thoroughly and with impunity
Rivalry and Cliques
The Pakistan team seems to have been a patient of this disease for a long time and have always needed a strong captain to remove any unwanted stigmas and rivalries by ruling with an iron hand. Yunis Khan to me does not seem to be a character of strength in this regard for it is quite clear that there are some issues between him and some old players in the camp on whose return to the team infighting is the norm. Either we give our current captain a full chance by removing the menaces from within or we remove him to have a leader who can take control of the entire team.
The need for cohesive strategy
Obviously since we have won the world 20 20 in some style there is no doubt as to our ability on the field in the limited version of the game. However we cannot pretend to be world champions till we dominate all aspects of the game and for that our strategy cannot be the same as 20 20. I know I am stating the obvious here but it seems that every time there is a pressure situation on field we tend to try to hit our way out of it. Test match cricket cannot be won like that. Yes that strategy has been put to the task and used successfully by Australian teams in the past but then they had the services of a Waugh, Ghilcrist, Hayden, Ponting type batsmen which we certainly do not. When Javed miandad was coach there was a good strategic plan of slowly building up a batting innings and I think that suits our natural style of play rather than going at it from the first ball.
Proper support personal
Cricket is as much a game of science now as it is of skill so although I do not have up to the minute knowledge of the teams scientific support staff I can venture at least as far as to say that it is certainly not up to the mark of the more tech oriented teams like England and Australia or South Africa for that matter. Now by tech I do not mean coaches with laptops but a proper nutrition and exercise regime according to the needs of every player which is monitored by a personal trainer as well as a team physician.Â Yes I know I am talking of a third world cricket team here but please dear reader do have a look at some of the profits the PCB makes and it will be clear upon thee that we are not as much worse for wear as we think. We can certainly afford to keep our players fit and provide them with the latest equipment and staff to do so. Either we do that or we do not expect them to perform at the levels of the teams outlined above because they really cannot do it on skill alone.
Cricket is a full time job and it is sad to see our players endorsing wavering land schemes and doing part time jobs to make ends meet. Is it too unreasonable a request for our playing 11 to have their financial needs taken care off? I do realize we might not be able to pay like England and Australia does or else people might leave banks to play cricket here. However we can at least give them a decent amount? So that they can stop worrying about their families and concentrate on making a good and decent living from the game itself?
Our fans are one of the most loyal and unwavering bunch present in world cricket. This is why we still see wild celebrations all over the country when the team wins anything at all. Thus I feel that it is up to the team and the management now to really live up to our expectations, else cricket could go the way of hockey as well in the future.
As published in The Friday times on Sep 11th 2009