Muhammad Asif Khan
Another World Cup, another ouster, another spell of outrage and yet another slogan of revamp, the follow-up of the 2015 World Cup is not different from the one after 1996, 1999, 2003, 2007 and even 2011, where Pakistan qualified for the semi-final of the mega event.
There are two questions
- Why Pakistan failed to finish at least in the top four?
- What should be done to avoid the recurrence?
The answer to the first question is very simple, the batting failed and failed consistently but did it happen for the first time that Pakistan batsmen had faltered? This steady inconsistency needed to be addressed once again, but how can it be done?
Before jumping to the ‘how’ part let’s add some other aspects which contributed to the below-par show in the world cup.
Nothing seems bright in Pakistan cricket horizon at the moment but now the anticlockwise movement is not possible therefore, yet again, we can only hope to utilise the next four years to the fullest to shape up a competitive outfit.
The team combination hampered badly with the absence of some key players, even before the World Cup, and then some seemingly bad decisions, by the management, hit the campaign. The late inclusion of Sarfraz Ahmed is the most talked about issue because of which the management was bitterly grilled as well, but the wicket-keeper batsman’s induction, to the team, wasn’t late enough as Pakistan did cross the first hurdle and qualified for the knock-out round where the tale was as sorry as it was in 1996, 1999 and 2011.
In the fielding department too, the players exhibited dismal technique and dropped over a dozen chances during the event.
Now come to the reason and the possible solution of the batting worries. The product (players) is manufactured at a factory called domestic cricket structure. Are we putting together the right raw material to shapeup quality product? The answer is ‘NO’, there are a number of short-comings which must be addressed.
- The current domestic structure is all about quantity where hundreds of players take part in a two-tier competition (Gold & Silver). This practice should be trimmed and less number of teams and players should be engaged. Let a player earn a first-class cap. At the moment it is relatively easy and as a result we have hundreds of first class players yet lacking competitiveness hence quality.
- It is said about India that their young players had improved a lot and IPL is one of the major reasons. This is indeed a fact but Pakistan, for an obvious reason, has not been able to stage such event however it can be done at Pakistan’s second home, the United Arab Emirates.
- This is the need of hour and the board should get it materialised soon. Meanwhile, in the domestic competitions as well a window could be created to include foreign players in local teams. Lastly make it mandatory for top players to participate in a certain number of domestic games to get the nod of the selectors for the national duty.
- During the domestic event, a vigilant scouting system should be established to identify young players. In the recent domestic competition in Karachi, the selection committee did announce to pick a number of young players and offered them training at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) but what happened afterwards is not known.
- A mechanism at the NCA should be put in place to rectify technical faults of the players before throwing them to the national side. A periodic report on fitness and potential should be prepared on this pool as well to keep it ready as a backup of the national side. At this level former players should be engaged to impart their expertise to the younger lot.
- The tours of the junior teams, such as Under-19 and ‘A’ outfits, should be a regular feature. The obsession of having foreign trainers and coaches should be limited to junior levels only where the fault rectification is relatively easier.
The World Cup is kind of a war, and every country wants to win it, but preparation of war is always done in peacetime. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) should draft a comprehensive strategy to uplift the standard of the game in the country for which ex-players and administrators should also be taken abroad.
All have been said and done in the past as well, but the implementation is the area we lacked consistently in. Yet again Pakistan cricket is at a juncture where it was after 2003 and 2007 but what we didn’t do then, should be done now to avoid the recurrence.
The writer is a sports journalist in Pakistan, heads the sports department at the News One TV & tweets @mak_asif