Pakistan, widely hailed as the most ‘unpredictable’ team, whatever that means, has quite predictably ended its world cup campaign without achieving much, other than a lot of muck from ex-players and the media back home. After their loss to India in the very first game, emotions ran high and the team was in a spot of bother early on. Shoaib Akhtar’s now famous rant went viral https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VDN-yPr9as. Even greats like Akram and Yousuf didn’t miss the opportunity to jump on the bandwagon and flay the players and the board.
Now with the unceremonious exit, all there is left is licking the wound of yet another world cup failure. Pakistan prides itself over its great cricketers. From legends like Sarfaraz Nawaz, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram to the modern day great Shahid Afridi, they all have given moments of rare joy to this beleaguered nation. Cricket has had a soothing effect in the hearts of this war-torn conflict ridden nation. It only makes sense that among other things that don’t work in Pakistan; Cricket should really be looked after. Pakistan has had its share of bad luck though, especially after the 2009 terror attack on the touring Sri Lankan team that ended international cricket in the country, followed by the 2010 spot-fixing scandal leading to loss of quality players to corruption.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is run like a private club with the country’s politicians having absolute power over appointments of key functionaries. The current setup appointed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reeks of favoritism and high handedness. While selection has always been an issue, mishandling the senior players was also something that really damaged the prospects. Before the world cup started, they lost Saeed Ajmal to suspect action and Mohammad Hafeez to injury. While the former could have been redeemed in time for the tournament, not much urgency was shown from the board’s part. Another major omission was Fawad Alam considered by many the best batsman Pakistan has presently.
The entire tournament too saw its own set of blunders. Sarfaraz Ahmed, who turned out to be the best batsman, was not picked for the first three crucial games. Yasir Shah, famously billed as the mystery spinner, vanished after failing against India. Rahat Ali was picked but wasn’t used effectively as a bowler. Shahid Afridi failed miserably in everything he did. Umar Akmal continued the Akmal tradition of dropping catches and Ahmed Shehzad looked busy playing ‘gareebon ka Kohli’ during the course of the tournament. Misbah played some forgettable innings, an art he has mastered over the course of his captaincy. Only bright spot was the bowling of Wahab Riaz against Australia in the QFs but it was too little, too late.
We saw quite an unusual reaction by the two senior most players of the team on returning home. Both Misbah and Afridi hit back at their critics and the media. While the former insisted about continuing to play Test cricket, the latter wants to remain the T20 captain. The fact that they can come out and say it after a world cup disaster says a lot about how the board handles these players. It almost seems that they are watching by the sidelines while the whole tamasha unfolds.
Some ex-players were not impressed by this combative attitude of the stars and hit out at them and appealed the board to take action. Sikander Bakht who is a regular with Geo News took the charge.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWPdSZtlAxI
While there can be several other arguments like no IPL exposure or lack of quality tournaments, rather ineffective domestic cricket; one can only but lament the fall of Pakistan Cricket. As an Indian fan, I do miss the two countries playing against each other, despite Pakistan having a superior record over us. Even when we play, it’s always an epic encounter. Cricket in Pakistan needs to be revived. While the Big 3 can play a big role, the onus lies on the Pakistan Board to do some house cleaning and bringing Pakistan back to the heights it had archived in the era of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Inzamam-ul-Haq.