What is happening in Pakistan Cricket?

KHALID BUTT, Bureau Chief, Lahore
Sep 18 - 24, 2006

For nearly a year PCB and its highly over-rated and over-paid foreign coach had been preparing for its rare and highly coveted English tour this summer. It was billed to show its full strength after their recent successes at home. With the availability of additional firepower at their disposal through its pace bowlers earlier on injured list, it was supposed to be favorites. However, thing have not turned out exactly according to general expectations. Even some of the leading exponents of the game including our own stalwarts like Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Intikhab Alam and others had all rated chances of our squad quite higher then England. A former Pakistan Captain and a noted commentator Ramiz Raja has said Pakistan when confronted with trying conditions such as a seaming pitch have usually played a bad hand. This team gives the impression of a formidable talent on batting-friendly tracks but once they are exposed to extravagant swing and bounce they seem to throw in the towel instantly. To become a top quality team you have to be mentally strong and react to technical difficulties manfully, he added. Another former Pak stalwart Shafqat Rana noted that Pakistan lost and England succeeded in drawing the One-Day Series was due to Pakistan's lack of conviction and mental toughness. Former cricket great Imran Khan has felt dejected at Pakistan's poor performance in the one-day series against what he rated England's žweakestÓ outfit. "This was the poorest performance by any Pakistan team and considering England was the weakest one-day outfit, I am disappointed at the on-day series result" khan has said. The results have been quite obviously disappointing, which call for a postmortem. First look at the performance of our team in both the Test series and One-dayers. In the 4-Test series Pakistan after just saving the first match at the Lord's were simply routed by England in the next two to clinch the series convincingly. Pakistan was clearly found lacking in all departments and appeared ill prepared for a full tour. So much for its long planning by its highest ever-paid foreign coach and the "gora paltan" at his disposal. It main weakness was its lack of game plan, whether it was batting order or bowling strategy or other aspects like its fielding which proved to be its weakest link. The side generally showed to be one bowler short and its batting order including the issue of regular openers and one down position always in quandary. Both its Manager with his rich background of English conditions and test cricket and the English Coach who was supposed to be great asset were found lacking in preparing strategies for the team. Inzimam too appeared lacking in effective communication skills and other demands of captaincy when under pressure. This was shown throughout the tour and more so in the Oval Test which allowed things to peter out of hands, both the manager and coach were found as hapless bystanders. These weaknesses have been so widely highlighted in the media already and there has been talk of Zaheer Abbas being sidelined for future. That will only tantamount to finding a mere scapegoat. But still there is no sign of the coach being questioned on his highly dubious role in his long stay and what has he done for the team, which could not be done by any Pakistani coach. Pakistan continues to make needless experiments with its batting order and other combinations, which has already assumed scandalous proportions. And above all is the role of the lackluster PCB Chairman, who has broken all previous records of taking this job for a ride. He has been sitting out for nearly 12 weeks in England, something, which need to be explained. Some other cronies of his too have been in and out of England enjoying lavish hospitality of PCB. But the man most relevant to cricket, its Director Cricket Operations named Saleem Altaf, sits smugly in Lahore. Totally cut off from cricket, while Pakistan team is going through its worst ever crisis. Whenever, he has spoken or made any suggestions, very promptly he has been snubbed through an official rebuttal. The question to be asked is what an upright parson and a Test cricketer of note, like 'Bobby' Saleem Altaf, doing in PCB in a situation like this. One man Ů the patron of PCB- who has so far chosen to ignore all these happenings can only answer the question. What I fear most is that with England tour over, ICC is soon to take up the episode of Oval Test and hand out the decision, which may grievously hurt Pakistan Captain and Pakistan Cricket. It is somewhat like "Nero playing the flute while the Rome burns". Can one say more about what is happening in Pakistan Cricket?