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Pakistan Cricket: Cricket by Chance - Is it still or not anymore?!

England's John Simpson reacts as Pakistan's Imam-ul-Haq is bowled by England's Matt Parkinson
England's John Simpson reacts as Pakistan's Imam-ul-Haq is bowled by England's Matt Parkinson
©Reuters
 

Being a cricket enthusiast, I glued myself to television for the first ODI with England, to go through the ordeal and frustration of our batting failure to begin with, and then witnessed the apathy of our bowling squad.

England v Pakistan ODI Series 2021 - Match Scorecards and Stats 

As well as the mind-set or psyche of our top-rated commander on the field, it appeared as if the team had already accepted defeat before it was actually inflicted. The team did not fight back.  The Captain’s role on the field was that of a defeated individual. What a betrayal !  A Pakistan XI facing the county boys and falling like a House of Cards or like Ten Pins on first strike.

 

In school, we were told that cricket is by chance. And we always took it for granted and saw the failure of our batsmen as something that happened by chance.  May be this was not their day! Is it still the same, with all the development that has taken place since then ? Training Academies at Club level as well as domestic and national level. Coaches galore, batting coach, bowling coach, fielding coach. Imported managers, imported management, you name it --- and all very highly compensated in dollars. And above all, the time and cost of acclimatization of not only 20 members of the team, but also of officials on away-tours.     

 

Looking at the select ODI specialist team, one is reminded of specialization in the three formats of the game. Test team, ODI specialists and Twenty / 20 performers.  Interaction with international players at the Pakistan Super League level.  Evaluating individual strengths, endurance and physical fitness obviously requires professionals of high calibre to watch and tutor development on a regular basis.  

 

With so much elaborate technical training year around, changed domestic format ala Australian style, to ensure highly competitive encounters to produce top-quality cricketers should essentially be reflected in all three specialized formats. If it is not, then we are missing a few more specialist professionals. We should have a psychologist, a match strategist and an expert in the laws of cricket and playing conditions. Honestly speaking, we need someone to keep an eye on coaches towards timely performance in the dressing room during a match.

 

Having said that, I realize that the first ODI fiasco has raised a million dollar question --- with a million shoulders to blame.

 

A sports journalist has simply put it as a contrast between two domestic systems.  If that is so, then how about adapting the UK domestic format ?  In that case, what is the UK-trained management doing? But that’s not fair. In such a case we will be needing to match each country’s domestic system to play with them.  

 

Systems evolve over a period and not overnight. May be then, selectors have been unlucky in picking up Sohaib to make a come-back after more than five years, and or selecting Saud Shakeel, a debutant on the Karachi quota! Ah, how many more shoulders! The Captain should have played Sarfaraz to strengthen the middle order, may be. But how about his own performance? Is there too much dependence on him… he fails, the team fails!

 

There is yet another comment I came across—one successful individual performance is good enough for A category placement for the remuneration package. Have a jaunt for the year ! The other comment is more meaningful. Are we preparing the second and third XI through the changed format of our domestic season?  The media follow-up does not indicate this. Nor has the Director, Media, PCB reported any progress.

 

I intentionally held back this piece for completion thinking that the first fiasco may be due to variants other than our team’s performance. But then I was wrong. The second ODI was no less, having restricted England to a manageable winning total of 247, we failed to take advantage to make the series 1-1. We lost by 52 runs.

 

As if this was not sufficient we were taught how to fight back an unsurmountable total of 331 set by us, with planning, patience and endurance even to the sixth-wicket partnership by the inexperienced team having an attacking mind-set under the motivational leadership of Ben Stokes to make a clean sweep. All credit to a better team.

 

A historian of the game may say that our National Teams have been performing more or less the same way and in the same trend without having this huge dollar expense on their training and grooming.  The following crowns were achieved with due efforts and teamwork and they speak volumes in terms of leadership.

 

  • 1987 Test Series win in India
  • 1987,1992, & 1996-Hat-trick of Test series wins in England
  • 1992 Benson & Hedges World Cup
  • 1999 Asian Test Championship
  • 2009 ICC T20 Championship
  • 2017 ICC Champions Trophy

 

All before the “change” occurred in 2018!

 

Over the period there have been committed (not just lucky) Boards, committed Captains and motivated teams to have brought laurels to Pakistan in terms of winning Test Status, multiple Test Series, the World Cup as well as Championships in the modern format. We had the honour to host two World Cups in the South Asia. All of it without any additional costs and with skeleton management and staff.  And a number of times without even acclimatization!

 

The game of cricket cannot be left any more to the excuse of “cricket by chance” !  Neither can blame be put on the million shoulders.  But those expensive shoulders must be made to account as in any professional limited company. I say this because our Prime Minister who is also the Patron of the Pakistan Cricket Board has categorically spelt out “Merit” as the only criteria in every sphere of our life, what to say of cricket.

 

Win or lose has never been in question. Lovers of the game wish to witness the fighting spirit and best efforts to make a game competitive. In any case, I do not wish to hurt anyone’s feelings by reflecting the feelings of all those who have been hurt. I have heard the loud and clear voice in and around Edgbaston. Why should it resound in the open, when there is a respectable way to express ?! We do not need to name individuals, as every enthusiast knows and sees the obvious quite clearly. Then please search your own souls. I do not see anything wrong in asking all those who are responsible for the poor performance of our ODI squad. Let them come forward and make a commitment to the nation which deserves to hold its head high in the community of nations.  

©Cricket World 2021