With the World Cup less than seven weeks away the worst thing that could have happened to Pakistan cricket has happened. We dropped down a slot in the ICC ODI rankings. That it happened on ‘home’ grounds is further going to dent the confidence if it hasn’t already.
It doesn’t seem to have brought out any comment from the PCB top bosses — the Chairman too busy opening and closing ceremonies. ‘You win some, you lose some’ is a dictum that has long been applied to the vagaries of life and will be applied here. It has been the mantra of PCB for long, especially when it has to defend a plan (in itself a misnomer for them) gone awry. And with the neck-in-the-sand attitude of PCB Chairmen, past and present, this will remain another season that will not require a second look as to whether or not it went according to plan.
That plan of course was to win the Test and ODI series against New Zealand after the huge success against the Australians in Tests. Neither came to fruition and a draw in the Test series in what were home conditions in almost every way can be deemed a failure. The ODI result of course was ‘in your face’ and the closing two games said much about the weaknesses Pakistan still carry in the lead up to the World Cup.
There will be the usual excuses passed around of having no Saeed Ajmal and then Hafeez for the ODIs, Misbah being unavailable for the last three matches and most of the bowlers racking up niggling injuries.
New Zealand played the ODI series without their most destructive batsman, Brendon McCullum, and also did not benefit from his mental acumen, him being the original leader. They dropped even their senior players to give everyone a chance through the five games, especially the less experienced ones.
If injuries are a reason then PCB has to admit they’ve been sleeping on the job in developing viable substitutes at home. As I pointed out if the New Zealand batting can function strongly in four of five games without McCullum then our bowling should have been penetrative in those four games without Ajmal, Hafeez, Junaid Khan and Umar Gul.
Otherwise the PCB and the selectors have to admit that they have been shy of giving those players a good run who could have made a difference.
When they did that in the form of Haris Sohail they reaped the reward. But it has to be admitted that he had to perform from match number one; so often in the past the newcomers are dropped after a failure on their first appearance or two.
That has been the main reason we are stuck with senior players in ODIs who have lost it either in terms of fitness or form. Our rotation policy is that we keep recycling players like Sohail Tanvir and Nasir Jamshed who have seen their better days and have been found out by analysts of the opposing teams.
If Pakistan had to bring back players then they should have been Awais Zia, Sharjeel Khan or Imran Khan. Sharjeel disappointed over the year but so has Nasir Jamshed whenever he played at the international level over the past two years. And with Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Irfan already providing left arm pace, Imran Khan would have been a sound right arm-fast medium. In fact, he bowled admirably and economically in the Tests against Australia and had originally been picked on his performance in the national T20 tournament in September.
I was also surprised that once Hafeez was debarred Pakistan did not play a specialist second spinner in the ODIs and made do with Haris Sohail who nevertheless bowled superbly. Zulfiqar Babar got only the last game and Yasir Shah none. Shouldn’t questions be asked of the tour selection committee?
I say this because in all cricket boards there is a serious review and not just the formality of a manager’s report filed into oblivion. In PCB of course until the patron is unhappy or someone who is more powerful elbows out the PCB chairman from favour nothing matters.
An immediate review should be held to find why we were unable to win the Test and ODI series. These were home conditions for Pakistan and New Zealand do not possess any extraordinary cricketers. If our ODI performance is in this league on flat pitches and hot temperatures what can we possibly achieve on fast, bouncy tracks under more amenable climate for foreign teams in the coming World Cup?
The Chairman must call up Waqar and the other coaching staff and ask what went wrong. They must be made to realise that they got ample appreciation when they did well and we accept that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. The question is: why are we getting so poor in ODIs. New Zealand got the better of us in Tests simply because they had a more positive mindset than the Australians. And because they had more time to analyse our spin twins. But what went wrong after that?
The limited overs series should be bundled together by PCB and then investigated. When it comes to T20s we lost three and won one. In terms of ODIs we lost six and won two. And the losses were pretty comprehensive while one of the two victories was hard fought; the top order failed in both in fact.
Will there be the entire coaching staff present from now till the selection of the final squad for the World Cup, or have they gone to their respective homes outside Pakistan for rest and recreation? After all there is still a tournament scheduled to gauge the players one final time.
Having said that, with at least seven players on the ‘rest’ list and Shahid Afridi also having signaled that he might just join them, I do not see what purpose is being served with the pentangular one-day tournament. Is it fair that those players who have not signed up for fatigue leave can be dropped from the World Cup on the basis of their performance in this tournament, simply because their aching muscles do not allow them to perform?
Likewise, if some of the top players are not playing will the performances count? As always nobody cares or at least is scared to.