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Crisis-hit Pakistan cricket needs support at all levels

Publication Date : 14-03-2014

 

Pakistan cricket is at the crossroads. In fact, it has been there for the last five years with the lack of international events in the country due to security concerns.

That crisis has deepened further with the "Gang of Three" — India, England and Australia — taking control of the game and thus undermining the status of the International Cricket Council (ICC) as the game’s governing body.

With the dust seemingly having settled on that matter and other boards having succumbed to the greed and joining hands with the afore-mentioned trio, Pakistan are on their own and their only choice is to align themselves with the "Big Three" and get the best out of it.

Najam Sethi may not be a cricketing genius, nor he claims to be and not many before him have been as chief of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) but at least he seems to be making positive moves in the right direction.

And hopefully at the next ICC meeting he will take a positive step for the benefit of the organisation he heads.

The appointments of Zaheer Abbas, Moin Khan, Shoaib Mohammad and Rashid Latif are no doubt positive steps along with his trust in Misbah-ul-Haq as the captain of the Test and ODI teams.

Sethi shouldn’t be distracted by the unwarranted lobbying for a new captain until after the 2015 World Cup and until a younger candidate emerges — one who can be groomed as a leader.

As a high-profile cricket-playing nation, Pakistan’s value cannot be ignored and their presence as one of the top teams in the world would remain as marketable as it always has been.

With the crises which have hit Pakistan cricket one after the other in the last five years, it is no less than a miracle that the team have been able to keep their profile intact — that too despite playing in foreign lands, alien conditions, being away from their homes for months, sustaining the pressures involved and living a nomadic life as a team.

If only people were to understand their problems and their plight of living the life of gypsies, only then they would realise how demanding it is on the players to maintain their form, fitness and most importantly their focus on the game.

That’s the reason why I sympathise when they suffer from injuries, underperform or complain and the way they are sometimes treated by their swooning fans, who in a flash turn their loyalties and adoration into condemnation and suspicion which the players and the officials don’t deserve at all.

Looking back at their performances last year, they are quite phenomenal barring a Test series in South Africa in early 2013.

Drawing a Test series against the Proteas in the UAE later in the year was a remarkable feat before Pakistan also beat them in an ODI series in their own backyard.

Pakistan displayed the same form against the Sri Lankans in their ‘home’ series in the UAE — winning the ODI series before pulling off a spectacular run chase on the third and final Test at Sharjah to level the series.

Their performance at the Asia Cup in Bangladesh further enhanced their profile despite losing the final to a deserving team — the Sri Lankans.

If only Mohammad Irfan wasn’t out injured and the rest of the pace battery had been more accurate, Misbah’s job would’ve been easier.

Nevertheless, in the circumstances faced by Pakistan, they did remarkably well to clinch thrilling victories against India and Bangladesh with Shahid Afridi dropping on them like a ton of bricks to turn both the games around.

Not everyone can emulate Afridi. He’s an entertainer of the highest class and should be respected for whatever ability he has with the ball and bat.

With the ICC World Twenty20 set to begin from March 16, it could be exciting to follow if the team is looked after well.

In Ahmed Shehzad — the most improved player in the squad, Sohaib Maqsood, Bilawal Bhatti, Anwar Ali, Umar Akmal and Sharjeel Khan there are many positives and Sami Aslam is also around the corner to fit in when the time comes.

The under-19 captain is the most talented batsman I’ve seen in recent years and needs to be taken under the wing sooner rather than later.

But most importantly, the predicament in which Pakistan cricket finds itself, the game, its players and the whole set-up that is responsible is given the full backing and support that they deserve rather than the heaps of uncalled for criticism they are showered upon.

 

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