One down with many more to go
So the Doosra struck, taking its first victim, allowing Najam Sethi to pick up the glory without soiling his hands. Good riddance to Iqbal Qasim. I won’t say more. Let the man responsible set the new benchmark by appointing a superior successor and, strongly recommended, a three-man selection committee comprising Wasim Akram, Javed Miandad and Zaheer Abbas.
What I can confirm is that after last week’s article I have received at least six phone calls asking me to promote the candidature of men ‘posthumously’ from the virtual ‘graveyard’ for appointment as PCB chief. Don’t get me wrong. I hold all of them in high esteem. But their time has gone. My point of view on this is crystal clear. There are plenty of young, vibrant, talented people out there, similar to the example I gave last week of Theo Epstein, the Boston Red Sox manager, to lead Pakistan cricket. Let it be their time at the crease. Unless Sethi nails it first!
The immediate comeback to the reply that the courts and the ICC appear, of late, to dictate the role is, “all will be managed; just put the name forward”. Wishful thinking or is there more to it than meets the eye? With Larkana and DG Khan having a placeon the table of national cricket, I guess it’s open season! But then there is supposedly judicial wrath. Or is that also only for the (adjective deleted) ‘few’?
Here comes the toe crusher! Sethi’s real chore is to hold an election within 90 days. The inability to hold an election regarded as having at least a semblance of propriety has historically been linked to the number of bogus clubs affiliated to regional, divisional and city associations. These phony clubs – the majority of which neither have a team nor participate in tournaments – are the electorate at that level. A number of feeble attempts to audit this in the past have been rendered unsuccessful – thwarted by the strong control of the mafia groups within the associations, in connivance with the former BCCP and now PCB crowd. These ‘elected’ associations form the PCB general body.
So in this muddied terrain, even the inclusion of two, as presently or perhaps more, virtually non-existent city associations into the PCB body is conveniently doable. As such, an election with this format is quite meaningless. In fact when, as ordered by the court, the government through the Inter Provincial Coordination (IPC) ministry or otherwise nominates names it violates the principle of the ICC ruling and disregards the democratic and independent process. The ICC ruling is clear, “no government interference” in cricket affairs. In a country where government is, or has been, for sixty-five years administering the game it’s like taking the lollipop away from a hysterical child. Damned difficult!
Sethi has already stated his perception that Pakistan cricket is, “at its lowest ebb”. I readily endorse this and know the majority of cricket fans will eagerly validate this statement. It’s an important fact that the adjudicating court needs to be made aware of and deliberate upon. Nothing can be lower than crumbling foundations and fundamentals. Therefore the benefits from a “within 90 days” election in the current scenario would, to put it mildly, be nothing more than desultory.
There is an option. Go back to the court, apprise it of the realities and seek guidance on whether it wishes to uphold its own decision or empowers the PCB or any other body to do a complete electoral audit prior to elections. Post audit, order elections at the level of the associations that will compose the electorate for the PCB. And subsequent to that hold independent elections based on the new constitution and in conformity with the ICC criteria.
The best advice would be to get time and embark upon the absolutely essential cleansing process. And during the time needed to complete the process, make a significant beginning by reinforcing the foundations and rebuild the fundamentals as discussed in my article last week.
A good start would have been to review the current squad for the West Indies tour, even on the eve of its departure. Multiple aspects need to be addressed. The cumulative ODI average of the top seven batsman of the side, excluding Umar Amin who has played an insignificant number, is 32.58. This average is only because Misbah and Nasir Jamshed average 43.50 and 40.50 respectively. Barring Umar Akmal, despite the erratic heroics, who averages 37.75, it is ludicrous that no other batsman averages over 30. Worthy of mention is that the self-proclaimed “star” Shahid Afridi has the lowest average of them all, 23.45. The T20squad’s cumulative average is 24.41, Afridi again the lowest at a pathetic 17.28. Misbah’sT20 average of 37.52, being a whopping 217 per cent higher than Afridi! And he is not even in the side. This is certainly no formidable batting side.
What are the defining statistics that bring Afridi in the team? It certainly can’t be merit, performance or inspirational talent. Can you, as a layman, think of anything other than emotional? So what is this ‘chamak’ that keeps players like him going long after the sell-by date? Is it the occasional flash in the pan or a word in the right ear?
Imran Khan was seriously lucky he won the World Cup at the age of 40, a shadow of his original self. Inzamam-ul-Haq plodded on, again an ungainly sight in comparison to yore. Sachin Tendulkar, possibly the greatest cricketer ever, now cashing in on glory to hang on and reach the as yet unattainable record. These are glaring examples; one can name a lot more. Yet they still want to carry on. It’s about managing expectations. Perhaps its time the PCB intervened and managed them for them. Quickly send them home bedecked in roses.
Pakistan’s bowlers have performed admirably under trying circumstances of late, bowled their hearts out in fact. We must salute their fervour and commitment. They’ve neither been given the runs to bowl at nor been provided support in the field. Fielding continues to be below par with only very occasional flashes of brilliance. There has to be a reason for this, because other teams are going from brilliant to the next level, India included. Someone at the helm needs to enlighten us.
A coach’s job is heartbreaking especially when his charge repeatedly under performs and incessantly makes the same error giving opponents the opportunity to shake the team’s core. Remember it’s the individual on the field who makes the shot not the coach. He needs to imbibe the tutoring and play the right shot. The coach can mentor only during training sessions and in the dressing room. So let us look at the natural limitations in the technique of individuals, not blame just coaching. Surrendering to the player mafia and making frequent “dismissals”of coaches has already created a poor impression. If a player does not absorb training and coaching and it is observed that he is not likely to be in the near future, there is only one option. Show him the exit! Do it enough times and the point will be hammered home real fast.
Here’s an opportunity to think out of the box. Muster the moral courage, grasp and run with it. Nothing is easy, there are obvious hurdles, but if the game can be built on similar lines as other successful cricketing nations and the current course altered, it will be an endeavour written in superlatives. Pakistan pioneered reverse swing and the Doosra. Here is the chance to really wield the bat. And the stick! Good luck.
The writer can be contacted at: [email protected]