By Agha Akbar –
ICC World T20 2014 looms ahead Welding the Greenshirts into a fighting unit
The fond hopes of further successes and consistency that began with the win over arch- rivals India in the two shorter formats and on its home turf at the turn of the year have rapidly evaporated in thin air. Defeat has followed defeat with an alarming frequency. Many records have been broken, not by but against Pakistan by the opposition.
The Test defeat in the away series against bottom of the table Zimbabwe again lit up the reality of our cricket condition better than anything else, and the ODI defeat against them also rankled. Earlier in the year the away rubber against South Africa saw Pakistan whipped 3-0 in the Test rubber and beaten 3-2 in the ODIs, with its solitary victory and no defeat in the T20I the only consolation. This was followed by three losses out of three to crash out of the ICC Champions Trophy in England. Subsequently, Pakistan beat the West Indies in overs-limited cricket – 3-1 in ODIs and 2-0 in T20Is.
But that was only a brief interregnum, as the string of reverses across the three formats has continued, with only rare victories so far. This raises a serious question mark over the standing and worth of our experienced (read ageing) players even when pitted against the game’s pygmies.
Even in its ‘home’ rubber in the UAE against South Africa, the number one Test side in the world, Pakistan caved in completely after its success in the first Test. But at the same time, too many close ODI matches were lost, also raising doubts about the team’s focus, mental strength and fighting qualities.
Exposing its ability to think with clarity and conviction in the thick of battle, Pakistan failed to win a single DRS referral in the Gulf encounters against the Proteas despite all the experience in its ranks, which included among others one with the sobriquet of ‘Professor’.
After the disastrous showing against South Africa following the first Test, captain Misbah ul Haq came squarely into the eye of the storm. Although he personally batted superbly throughout the series despite his 39 years, his captaincy left much to be desired in the eyes of his growing number of detractors. He was too defensive, it was said, and that his technical skills as skipper left much to be desired.
And indeed there were a number of occasions on which boldness and audacity might have paid off, instead of erring on the side of caution. But then the bunch of non-performers in his ranks must have made him think of safety first, not to mention the numerous dropped catches which allowed the rivals to regain the initiative on more than one occasion. Batting and fielding remain the weak links, even more so in the recent matches. The greenshirts have become, with rare exceptions, the world’s champion chokers, snatching this dubious mantle from the Proteas.
Of course, in their defence it must be said that the country has turned into a cricketing desert, with foreign teams preferring to say away since the March 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team. But the decline has also been caused by poor management and ad hoc policies of the various administrators who, knowing nothing or little about cricket being loyalists of the party in power, tend to gather a coterie around them for their enlightenment.
And the only consistent thing about our cricket is the closely knit clique of never changing yes men who surround the top man. They get lucrative salaries and perks, but the game goes from bad to worse.
But with the ICC Twenty 20 World Cup 2014 nearly upon us, commencing in Bangladesh in the middle of March 2014, things have to change for the better in a hurry or the results of our various encounters will be the same as in the case of hockey in recent years: foretold.
The writer is a journalist based in Lahore