The current ABN AMRO Pentangular Cup being played in Pakistan is generating significant interest in the country and beyond. For the first time a domestic competition is being broadcast live on television. The aim of the Cup is for the national selectors to identify the topmost talent in the country.
However, therein lies the problem. The selectors have utilised these types of tournaments recently to pick players for the national team but the plan has not worked for most of the time. Salman Butt is a classic example of this assertion. Butt averages 42 in first class cricket and 41 in LIST A. Yet his performance in international cricket has been pathetic, averaging 29 in Tests and 32 in ODI’s. Of the 32 he averages in ODI’s, his average in the Subcontinent is 37, which indicates a dismal record playing on greener, bouncier and livelier pitches. Butt’s dominance is domestic cricket can be exemplified by his average in the Pentangular Cup, which is 160.
Another such specimen is Mohammad Hafeez, who averages 33 in LIST A cricket, but only 19 in ODI’s. It would be hard to imagine a domestic game where Hafeez is fit and not playing- such is his significance to domestic cricket. In international cricket, however, he is almost a forgotten entity. Many names can be added to this neverending list of under achievers in international cricket, most notably Faisal Iqbal, Hasan Raza, Yasir Hameed, Rana Naved, Mohammad Sami etc
This begs the question as to why the same strategy is applied. Pakistan cricket has faced countless failures since 2003, yet the PCB cannot manage to fathom a pattern, find the source/sources and remedy the crisis?
A simple yet potent argument has been sidelined. The pitches in Pakistan are amongst the driest in the cricketing world. There is a common ground amongst most of Pakistan’s failed openers- too much impulsiveness, either over confidence or under confidence, short attention span and absence of mental strength. Yet the PCB seems obsessed with recruiting the same type of individual! This type of individual is incompatible with playing on foreign pitches.
Anyhow, the problem or problems cannot be remedied by staging a litany of these so called talent hunting contests, which result in the same players emerging victorious. Rather, this time and money can be better spent at school level or U-19 level, or actually improving facilities at first class level so players at first class level can be competent enough to have a realistic likelihood of succeeding at international level. What Pakistan cricket fans do not need, is for another opener to be gambled with, with the eternal excuse, “Let him play international cricket against top teams and in foreign conditions- he will learn how to bat only through those means”. This formula has not worked with Butt, Nazir, Hameed, Umar, Farhat or Hafeez. It is a botched formula that is the bane of Pakistan’s continued failures since 2003.
Hence, this “Pentangular Cup” can reasonably be termed “an exercise in futility”. It will not change anything as Cups like these only exist to reinforce the status quo. It might unearth useful middle order batsmen or lethal fast bowlers- but Pakistan over the years has managed to produce some anyway and there are already hopefuls lined up in those respective departments, such as Misbah who has taken Inzamam’s place (and players like Fawad Alam who can replace any specialist batsman if need be), and any of Sohail Khan , Anwar Ali, Wahab Riaz, Kamran Hussain etc can become greats for Pakistan, fitness and discipline permitting.
Today was a historic day in Pakistan’s political landscape, with the Murree Declaration being signed by Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari. This might trigger a political and social revolution in Pakistan. Pakistani cricket fans will hope that the future is brighter for Pakistan cricket, too. Lately the PCB has identified certain problems and has promised it will endeavour to remedy them, such as the abysmal state of first class cricket and the lack of lively pitches in Pakistan. However, if history is anything to go by, Pakistanis may as well stop hoping, as the PCB has still not produced many results it promised years ago.