Pakistan cricket needs revolution, not tinkering
Despite a cricket-mad population of 180 million we haven’t turned out more than the twenty players who are being recycled in perpetuity, over the last decade. Isn’t that astonishing? If this is the best we can do, why not go back to playing gilly danda. Much cheaper and far less stress! Ok. Let us quickly agree something is drastically wrong. Either we don’t have the talent, or the system is plague infected.
In this backdrop, perhaps Najam Sethi’s appointment as interim chief of PCB may not be a bad thing. Cricket needs to be rid of the plague infected Gaddafi Stadium mafia, consisting of men claiming dubious cricketing glory and possessed of peripheral knowledge that has depressingly dominated cricket for decades. If serious results are intended then you have to go for the jugular. And only someone totally unrelated with the politics of game can strike that blow.
The key factor is that not every player or sports broadcaster is a brilliant administrator no matter how good he was or is. Granted every administrator is not a brilliant player or student of the game either. To be clear, the two roles are entirely different: both requiring specific expertise. Appointments in both aspects therefore need to be made in accordance and on merit. Pakistan cricket needs a revolution not simple tinkering.
Let me quote an example from Wikepedia, “Theo Nathaniel Epstein (born December 29, 1973) is the president of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs. On November 25, 2002, he became the youngest GM in the history of Major League Baseball when the Boston Red Sox hired him at the age of 28. In 2004, he was general manager of the club that won the first World Series championship by the Red Sox in 86 years and was in the position when the team won another championship in the 2007 season.” There are people out there.
If this game is to be regenerated, the answer lies in running PCB as a corporate entity with the cricketers as the prime asset and a business plan developed around the tangible assets and resources available thus mobilizing them into a profitable, viable and winning team. Najam Sethi must employ new and credible operational staff. And, importantly, restore regional parity. A hugely perceived bias has alienated a significant part of the national cricketing structure. The concurrent priority should be to review the legal status, ICC compliances and operational and financial propriety.
Cricket has become a science. The magic lies in defying the information and statistics available to opponents from videos and eliminating those shortcomings using excellent coaching talent. For example, the field deployed by the Indians for Eoin Morgan who apparently has an offside bias. The commentators kept repeating that the Indians “are on to him”. And sure enough, they stifled him and got him out. It’s the same with every player on the international arena; gossip flies and weaknesses and secrets are exposed. It’s how teams exploit our mistakes; the faulty technique that we aren’t able to cure. Like Shahid Afridi, fifteen years of the same nonsense!
The BBC termed Afridi’s 2010 Test innings “the most indiscreet innings ever played at Lord’s”. That was the first innings. To my mind the second was far worse because it happened within hours of the first. It was an act of gross mental indiscipline and extremely poor judgment. It’s the best he can do. He is severely handicapped. But PCB resurrects him time and again. With a test average of 35 and ODI average of 23, how can they dare to?
Statistics reveal Imran Farhat has been given chances for a decade. A whole decade of being paralyzed and flatfooted at the crease! Then Salman Butt, after disgracing the country wants to play again. What audacity! Only in Pakistan can these things happen.
Cricket here is played purely on the whims of the mafia and selection follows suit. For the national side to boast a run of the mill cricketer like Iqbal Qasim, as chief selector is a bad joke on cricket and the nation. To have ‘inspired’ ignoramus bleating on media about the advantages of local, as opposed to foreign coaches, is even more ridiculous. What professional coach do we have in this country? And if we did have one of standing, an international team would have snapped him up. Media must also take the responsibility to ensure quality broadcasts rather than this rubbish.
Not having replacements earmarked isn’t due to lack of talent it is because talent is throttled. The classic case is Misbah, denied by Inzamam’s politics, in connivance with the mafia, until he was over 30. There are plenty like him out there being deprived of a ‘look-in’. I sincerely believe an alternate team can be built within six months that can take on and even defeat the current side.
Wasim Akram and Javed Miandad, and possibly Zaheer Abbas, Pakistani cricketers with a genuine understanding and knowledge of the game can generate the benchmark to play for Pakistan. A significant role for them in national selection is vital and they need a free hand. An independent panel to harness indisputable talent is equally essential. The game has moved on. To combat this we need a team of foreign coaches, for different departments of the game, headed by a Greg Chappell, someone who will take no nonsense. This team of coaches should be provided the platform to develop the best teams to represent the country.
School cricket is dead. A dedicated division within PCB is urgently needed to fully develop school and collegiate cricket as the prime resource base for the future of cricket. Successful international nurseries must be consulted regarding its format and an elaborate plan including infrastructure, academies and competitions be drawn up. Talent at the street level may throw up occasional brilliance but experience says we do not possess the skills to manage this beyond a point.
Public interest in domestic cricket is zero. The absence of fans is because there are no regional or provincial teams fighting for top honours. In the existing structure it is a bank or a corporation competing. The fans don’t ‘own’ them. The existing structure undoubtedly provides financial support and lucrative employment benefits to players but perhaps these institutions can be sponsors of regional and city teams creating healthy competition and developing fan clubs. International football is a prime example. Without this the nursery, domestic cricket, will continue to be a lacklustre event, dismissed by the ‘stars’ and totally counterproductive.
During the period 1956 to 1971 cricket was run as a tight ship, through tough times, with men of stature at the helm, Justice Cornelius, Fida Hasan, I.A. Khan and Muzafar Husain. For one there wasn’t any money in the game. Second, bidding farewell to the Oval heroes, building a new team, and then building another new team a few years later, goodbye Hanif, Saeed, Nasim et al was no mean task. Dealing with the Burki catastrophe in 1962 and so forth. But it was done. Perhaps Pakistan didn’t win many matches but discipline was perfect. It was soon after that the Kerry Packer typhoon hit cricket. It has never been the same again and that was like 41 years ago.
So Najam Sethi, let me ask why interim? Having mastered the elections, add yet another scalp to your inventory. Bowl that Doosra now!
The writer played for Karachi in the Ayub and Quaid-e-Azam trophies and served on the board of the Sind Cricket Association.
The writer can be contacted at: [email protected]