Pakistan suffered one of its worst tour defeats at the hands of Australia. Pakistanis were completely outplayed in Tests and ODI’s and the tragedy was that they could not even win the lone T20. Chaos ensued during and after this forgettable, yet unforgettable series and grievous flaws were identified right from the top of PCB’s management to the Pakistan team’s on-field behaviour.
There are reports of turmoil within the PCB as Ijaz Butt has failed to change the culture of the PCB and in fact internal strife, mismanagement and incompetence levels have increased. Butt is under immense pressure to resign as it is alleged he is too old, incompetent and more concerned about running his private business than managing the cricket situation in the country. Since Butt has appeared on the cricket scene, the team has gone from bad to worse. There is no vision, no planning, and like his appointor, Asif Zardari, Butt is spending more time facing flak and responding (unconvincingly) to criticism than actually doing something positive to remedy the affliction the Pakistan team is experiencing.
On one hand Butt said that Yousuf was the wrong choice as captain of
the team for the Australia tour, but on the other hand he said there was no alternative. What kind of decision-making is this? Why was a younger player not appointed as a temporary captain? Yousuf proved to be a worse captain than anyone thought. Not only was he completely negative in everything that he did- batting, field placement, bowling changes, managing team morale etc, he also failed to win the respect of his team-mates, unlike Inzamam who was at least senior enough to obtain some respect from the juniors. It was also disheartening to see Yousuf openly condemning Butt’s running between the wickets and Manzoor’s technique. Interestingly, Butt proved to be Pakistan’s best batsmen in Tests and Manzoor probably played the best knock by a Pakistani in the Test series.
At the same time as Butt’s inept management and Yousuf’s maladroit captaincy, there were reports of team disunity. Some reports went as far as suggesting that two camps were created in the team- the Karachi camp (thought to be led by Younis Khan and Shahid Afridi) and the Sialkot/Punjab camp led by Shoaib Malik. In fact some news suggested that the team manager had created a report on Shoaib Malik using politics to advance his camp’s interests. Whether any action is taken against Malik for this remains to be seen. Indeed, Malik captained Pakistan’s T20 match and although it was known Pakistan would provide a tough challenge to Australia in any circumstance, Malik’s captaincy has been hailed as “inspirational” and “attacking” by his misled supporters. The truth is that a club T20 team from Pakistan can provide a tough challenge to Australia in T20, yet somehow Malik’s supporters have forgotten this.
In such dire times, Pakistan needs a completely new and revolutionary strategy. As far as team
performance is concerned, in Umar Akmal and Fawad Alam Pakistan found their best 2 ODI batsmen. This firstly proves that the much maligned Pakistani domestic structure can still produce good players. Secondly, this proves that for some reason or the other, the team’s main batsmen- Younis, Yousuf and Malik, are not up to the mark and must make way for juniors. When your best ODI batsmen are not your 4 or 5 most experienced batsmen, you know something is wrong with your team.
The horror seen in Butt’s time shows that a former cricketer is not necessarily a good administrator. Pakistan should appoint a management expert with good cricket acumen to lead the Board. In fact, the best way forward is probably to fire all former cricketers who are involved in running the show as all of these cricketers seem to have shady motives and personal grudges against each other, and an organisation cannot run successfully in this way.
A younger, fitter coach should be appointed. Pakistan should look beyond people like Intikhab Alam and should opt for a relatively low profile coach, perhaps from some regional academy. Pakistan has suffered too much and too long under Intikhab- his failure reflects in the fact that no improvements have been seen in the players. All the technical weaknesses remain, the standard of fielding is still poor, the bowlers are still getting injured relatively easily. The worst aspect is that mentally the Pakistan team has worsened under Intikhab, whereas when Inti was appointed he said mental strength would be one of his main areas of focus. Pakistan is losing Test matches from winning positions and it is looking increasingly vulnerable when chasing even modest targets.
Mediocrity is prevalent across the squad. Being mediocre is in some
ways worse than being pathetic, because a mediocre player makes 30 runs with some consistency to cement his position in the team, but is always focusing to remain in the team because he finds it so hard to make sizable scores, especially when the situation demands some character from a batsman. Similarly, bowlers like Rana and Rao survive on picking up 1 or 2 wickets here and there, or keeping the economy rate to under 4.5. Whereas, a pathetic or substandard player gets booted straightaway from the team. Shoaib Malik must not be tolerated anymore in the lineup. Similarly, Rana and Rao must be permanently banned from playing international cricket.
Afridi’s ball tampering incident was regrettable. However, whereas it has caused anger for many, many also see Afridi as someone who would be willing to think outside the box and who would be desperate to win matches for Pakistan. Although Afridi is not the brightest cricketer in the squad, he is very unlikely to tamper with the ball again. Afridi has received his penalty from the ICC and he must now be forgiven by the PCB and Pakistani public. Pakistan needs Afridi’s passionate captaincy and fighting spirit, and the fans should persuade the PCB to experiment with Afridi in all formats. Otherwise, Malik or Akmal will be appointed captain and Pakistan should not reward their consistently poor performances any longer.
Now the PCB must use their initiative and build a Test team with Younis, Yousuf, Afridi, U Akmal and Fawad Alam in the middle order. In ODI’s, Afridi, U Akmal and Alam must be the main batsmen and perhaps Butt will also improve his ODI form and become a significant cog in the wheel. In Umer Akmal and Fawad Alam Pakistan has found two exciting and talented players and now the PCB must look for more players like them.