Before I start, for full disclosure, I'm a person of Indian origin who has lived in the US for a very long time, and I love cricket with great passion.
I have loved watching the Pakistan team of the past, including the one lead by Imran Khan when I was young, and wonder what the way out for Pakistan is to become a force to reckon with. Before you all jump at me, I realize that the team has done reasonably well the past two years, and that some of you wish that Pakistan gets to play the best teams again to prove it's ability.
I can think of three reasons.
1. It takes a lot to build trust and only a few things to break it.
Incidents such as the attack on the Srilankan cricket team, match fixing, and other incidents that the country has suffered at large has led to a lack of trust in general.
SO how does one build it again? Professional attitudes to mistakes of the past, and professional system for lesser mistakes in the future would be a good start. This is not enough though. What one needs is lots of patience to be accepted again, similar to what an infidel husband has to do, to prove to a suspecting wife.
Hence, be patient for trust to be built.
2. Sports helps channel our need for competition in a healthy way, politicizing it makes it unhealthy all over again
One reason why the ancient romans watched gladiators go at each other, and why we watch rival teams go at each other --- is because of our innate sense of competition. Except team sports played with national identity, such as cricket, is a great way to channelize energy for the youth.
However, once you bring political drama (whether team selection, management etc) to the game, then you bring the gladiators back, and then people are looking for blood to be shed instead of runs to be scored. So the more the team can be seen as independent of political activity, the better of it is. One might argue, then isnt this the case for the BCCI. Yes it is, infact that is one of the prime reasons why Indian cricket hasnt yet gained its respect despite the money, the glitz, the glamor and the great players.
3. A professional system is more important than a great professional leader
Imran Khan was awesome at spotting talent, however, what one needs is a system that not only helps bring the best talent to the fore.....but also instills in them a great sense of professionalism, that will make 11 brand pakistan ambassadors out of talented individuals from rural areas.
International cricket is a finishing school for talented individuals, to display talent and to build accolades for the national side. However, professional domestic cricket is the building block to get these individuals to become the Younis Khan kind of ambassadors, who smile when things are going bad....and display fair and good play. Not the biting the ball, kind of display that Shahid Afridi displayed, that beyond his talent, acted as a poor ambassador for pakistan cricket.
So, build a professional domestic league.
That's it folks three reasons is what I came up with -- be patient to build trust, de-politicize the current system, and build a professional domestic league.
What other things can you come up with?