The recently concluded ODI series between Pakistan and Australia left fans with mixed reactions. Some of us thought that Pakistan did well to manage 2 victories, whilst others thought that Pakistan had the ability to perform better against a tired and inexperienced Australian side. Whatever the case may be, no strict action was taken against any of the senior players who failed to perform in that series. The main culprits were captain Younis Khan, vice captain Misbah, former captain Shoaib Malik and the most experienced pacer Shoaib Akhtar.
When will the PCB realise that tolerating average performances will destroy Pakistan’s status in international cricket? When will the cricket administrators realise that Pakistan is treading down the path of the West Indies, a team which ruled the cricket scene for two decades but is now considered almost a minnow team? Corruption, politics and negligent management has destroyed cricket in the West Indies and Pakistan is certainly heading down that path.
There is no denying that an indication of a weak cricket board is that player power is rampant and players consider themselves above the board and the country. In the Pakistan team groupings are formed and certain players back other players and create a situation where, “I scratch your back and you scratch mine”. The board could not convince Younis Khan to accept captaincy and as a result a weak and inept captain was selected in Shoaib Malik. The board cannot persuade Malik and Misbah to raise their level of performance against good sides in pressure situations despite both these players being on the top tier of central contracts, earning a sizable amount every month from the PCB. No administration has ever been able to control Shoaib Akhtar and he continues to fool the board, the team and the fans in broad daylight but he is above every being it seems. He is barely capable of bowling 5 overs in a match and yet he is an automatic selection in the team. This is a joke and this can only happen in Pakistan. Nasim Ashraf’s administration tried to put Akhtar in his place but Ashraf became very unpopular with the masses when he tried to curb player power.
A lot of the PCB’s incompetencies result from the social and political problems in Pakistan. There is corruption, ethnic bias, nepotism, dishonesty, mismanagement in the police force, in the armed forces, in the civil service, in government offices, so why should be cricket board be bereft of such evils? The cricket board, after all, is a public organisation and it works in tandem with the sports ministry. How to resolve these types of problems, becomes a political discussion, not a discussion about cricket and we have spoken about these issues many times on this blog.
There is an absence of professionalism in the PCB which filters down to the players on the field when they are playing. On his day Kamran Akmal can score a century against Australia, but in the same series he is very capable of dropping easy catches and playing stupid shots. Consistency has been Pakistan’s biggest problem for over a decade now and the PCB is absolutely clueless. Consistency does not come from the player itself; when a player performs and does something spectacular, that is a sign that this player is capable of doing something amazing and it is up to the team management and the board to ensure the player reaches his potential and performs more often. However, the PCB has not been able to answer the question, “How to nurture a player’s talent so that he becomes consistent?”
Since the PCB is incapable of producing consistency from the players, it should rotate players more often so that seniors are kept on their toes. Pakistan cricket has to come out of this tried and tested mentality that a senior player should not be dropped because it will weaken the team. Why do senior players in Pakistan have so much power and why are they untouchable? Recently I saw a programme where it was revealed that Shoaib Akhtar has sources in the Punjab government, which is why he is never dropped on accounts of unfitness or bad behaviour. So again we come to the point about corruption and favouritism in the Pakistan and how that affects everything, including sport.
Fawad Alam has become a victim of team politics and most people now consider him to be exceptionally tenacious to still have a big heart and still hope for playing for Pakistan. Fawad has been amongst the top domestic batsmen in Pakistan for about 3 years. He has performed in all formats- 4 day, 1 day and T20 and he is amongst the few players in the world who average above 40 in all 3 formats domestically. Whatever limited chances he has benefited from playing at the highest level, he has made a mark but he is still being ignored. He single handedly won a T20 for Pakistan when he hit 3 sixes in 5 balls. He has been involved in brief partnerships with seniors like Malik, Misbah and Yousuf and he has outperformed them, yet he has been ignored. Recently in a practice match against the international Pakistan side he was the best batsman against the bowling of Akhtar, Gul and Tanvir and he was the best bowler too. He is also one of the best fielders in the country.
So in real terms it seems no improvement was detected with Pakistan cricket. There is widespread incompetence, player power and politics that is ruining the sport in the nation. People in Pakistan are becoming fed up of the team’s substandard performances and are turning to other sports like football, baseball and basketball. In the time of Imran Khan and Miandad, players played with more fire and patriotism but now these current players only play for themselves and for money. As cricket has become more “glamourised” and “commercialised”, perhaps that is not entirely the fault of the players themselves. However, politics and nepotism are definitely evils that should have nothing to do with sport.