By Mohammad Zahid (9th April, 2016)
Fallout From Pakistan's Poor Showing at the World Twenty20
We all saw Pakistan’s performance at the World Twenty20 – it was pathetic overall. I’m of the same opinion as all Pakistanis in that it was below average and unacceptable, particularly when you look at how far all the other teams have progressed in Twenty20 cricket. Pakistan were poor in all aspects of the game. I don’t know exactly what was happening inside the dressing as I wasn’t there, but it was apparent that there was a lot going on behind the scenes, from groupings to question marks over the captaincy and management. Everyone just seemed separate, there was no cohesion on display; it didn’t look like a team at all.
Following the World Twenty20, lots of accusations started ranging from Waqar Younis' statements to Shahid Afridi speaking out to the press. If you look closely, you will see that no-one seems to be taking responsibility and is instead laying the blame on others. I don’t know how these reports keep getting leaked, it used to happen in the past and is still happening. Everyone seems to be talking about who leaked them but let’s get to the real question – what is being done to help Pakistan cricket? Are we improving the grounds or hiring qualified coaches at the grassroots level? Has anyone checked the fitness level of our players compared to all the other teams? Even compared to Bangladesh? It’s just not acceptable. I don’t think anything will happen as a result of all these reports and the fuss made about them. These reports have been produced in the past as well and just like in those times, there will be a lot of noise for a few days but we will go back to how we were.
Waqar Younis' resignation
Waqar has worked previously with the board and had to leave in bad circumstances and now he is leaving under a similar situation. It would appear that no-one seems to be getting on with each other and so, with all due respect to Waqar, it was probably in the interest of Pakistan cricket for him to leave. I don’t think the leakage of the report is the main issue – the report won’t have anything special in it. The main problem of how to improve our cricket and which players to bring in or which selectors to hire, is being ignored. Are we going to bring in the same people who have been working for the last forty years and recycle the same faces over and over again? Our cricket hasn’t improved, yet after a couple of years the same selectors are brought back so I don’t expect any improvement.
The Way Forward
It has been suggested that a committee of ex-cricketers, preferably from the '90s, should be picked to run and advise on Pakistan cricket. Whilst I would love to take part in that discussion as I have plenty of ideas to put forward, this is really not the way to run Pakistan cricket. No institutions can run with committees deciding on future course of action. What we really need is to start from the bottom-up such as improving our school cricket, making cricket more competitive at the domestic level and also improve the quality of the grounds. We need to bring in professional trainers because cricket, as with other sports, is a science now. I’ve always said you don’t coach a sports star, you train him. You can’t coach cricketers, you need to train them. Look at fast bowlers, they need six to eight years of training and after that it’s about the facilities they have. I played cricket for seventeen to eighteen years and, other than the Gaddafi Stadium, none of the other grounds even have proper toilet facilities! I also feel that we’ve lost the momentum generated from the PSL. There will always be hype whenever a new tournament starts whether it’s the IPL or PSL, but the main challenge is to do something with that goodwill and positive movement.
Selection of the selection committee
There is talk of a new selection committee. However their a big question mark over the selection of the selection committee. There are about ten different people that are being re-selected for the selection committee over the last thirty to forty years. So when there are doubts over the selectors themselves, how can they be entrusted to select players? A selector should be someone who is a person of integrity and can be trusted; someone who doesn’t just think about himself. Our problem is that many cricketers feel they are bigger than the country. Pakistan cricket needs people to come in who are sincere about their job and there are very few people in Pakistan cricket like that unfortunately. In my view, even if we have to plead and get down on our knees to beg, Majid Khan is perhaps one person who we should try to get to help in this regard but I don’t think he would be interested. Sadly speaking, there are really only one or two names that can make a positive difference.
Captaincy after Shahid Afridi
Shahid Afridi may have stepped down as captain of the Twenty20 team but rest assured, he isn’t going anywhere; he’ll still be around. Now personally speaking, I still feel he has a place in the shorter formats of the game but I am also sure that he will do his utmost to retain a position in the team and he won’t just walk away.
Coming to the newly announced captain of the Pakistan Twenty20 team, let me say quite bluntly that it’s going to be one hell of a tough job for Sarfraz Ahmed as captain. All I can say is good luck, but it will be a big big job for him. Time will tell, but the squad is likely to stay the same – perhaps one or two previously dropped players will return. It’s not an easy job to work with Pakistan players, so all I can say is that I’m a little apprehensive about the challenges that Sarfraz is likely to face in his new role! When there are such 'complex' personalities in the dressing room then only one person can fix them and that is someone of the authority and calibre of Imran Khan – and we don’t have him now. Grouping has always existed in Pakistan teams and there are always some very dirty politics at play. Everyone denies it all the time, they are all used to denying it, but it definitely goes on. Their denial makes no difference.
The Next Coach
It’s difficult to think of who should be the next coach. Is there a human in the world who can manage the Pakistan team? Dean Jones has been floated about as he was a coach in the PSL for the tournament winners Islamabad United, but I don’t think he has the ability to manage Pakistan. I know the names of Aaqib Javed and Mohsin Khan have been mentioned but my honest opinion is that many ex-players feel that if they hang-around long enough, they will be able to get a cushy job with the PCB as a coach for the national team. This is where the mistake lies. In my view instead of sitting around and waiting for this opportunity, they can really make a difference by going back to smaller cities and towns, where they can train young players there and basically stop worrying about the job of national coach. After retirement, what else can these cricketers do so why not put that time to good use?
Pakistan’s chances of winning in England are always slim. I don’t know what team will be selected but my main concern is our batting. Regardless though, I don’t fancy our chances too much although assuming that Mohammad Amir does get a visit visa for the UK, he will make a difference – he’s a better bowler now than he was five years ago. The crowd will get after him in England given the history but all that will become a secondary issue once he starts performing on the field. He will need to be prepared for some needle from crowds and possibly the opponents but it’s important for him to be able to handle that.