Last Wednesday, Pakistan ended their otherwise disappointing tour of South Africa on a winning note when they trounced the Proteas in the Twenty20 dead rubber by 27 runs at Centurion. The result was in stark contrast with the rest of their African safari that saw Pakistanis getting thrashed 3-0 in the Test series and also losing both the One-day International and T20I series.
A day after Pakistan concluded their tour, Pakistan’s cricket chiefs met at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Lahore. For the members of the PCB Board of Governors, one of the main items on the agenda was Pakistan’s below-par showing in South Africa. One expected fireworks during the meeting which according to the PCB lasted for nearly six hours. But the eventual outcome was an announcement by the PCB chiefs that they believe all is well as far as the country’s under-performing national team is considered.
If details of the meeting shared by PCB with the media are to be believed then it seems that everything is hunky dory in Pakistan cricket.
Chief selectors Inzamam-ul-Haq, under fire over his team’s disappointing performance in South Africa, received the thumbs up from the Board which was hardly surprising considering that for reasons known to all Inzamam remains in Ehsan Mani’s good books despite all of the national team’s failures.
For those who haven’t read the details of the BoG meeting released by PCB, I would like to share some information.
According to PCB, the BoG had “a detailed and constructive discussion on the performance of the Pakistan cricket team and players’ selection criteria. Chief selector, Inzamam-ul-Haq, and selection committee member, Wasim Haider, attended the meeting on special invitation and shared their thoughts, strategy and analysis.
“Inzamam informed the BoG that the broader selection guidelines and principles included player performances, conditions in which the performances were recorded, judgement of the selectors and looking into the future. The chief selector admitted there was room for improvement in the team’s performance across all three formats, but emphasised that the side was heading in the right direction since his panel took over in 2016. He cited the examples of the teams’ past and present rankings, and assured the BoG that the youngsters were on the verge of establishing themselves as the cornerstone of Pakistan cricket’s future.
“It was unanimously agreed that more stadia with upgraded cricketing facilities that provide equal contest between the bat and the ball needed to be provided so that the cricketers can show their true mettle. It was also suggested that the scope of player education at the age-group level should be re-introduced and broadened so that the cricketers can play their role in improving and enhancing the image of Pakistan.
“There was consensus in maintaining the primacy of domestic cricket, revival and significance of junior cricket teams’ tours and reviewing the overall cricket scheduling to ensure the players’ workload was being better managed. The BoG also noted the Pakistan cricket team played 50 days of cricket in the past 123 days, including eight Tests, eight ODIs and nine T20Is with travel in between.
“The BoG also thanked and appreciated Inzamam-ul-Haq and Wasim Haider for their briefing and termed the interaction informative.
“It was a positive interaction in which the BoG members got an opportunity to get first-hand information on the team’s performance and selection process. A number of good suggestions were bounced off, which will be taken on board as part of our strategy to provide an environment to the Pakistan cricket team where they can produce their best performances.
“The BoG was satisfied with the briefing and thanked Inzamam-ul-Haq and Wasim Haider for providing their insight on the Pakistan cricket team. The BoG has reiterated its support for the Pakistan cricket team and wished them well in the upcoming assignments,” Mani was quoted as saying.
Mani and the BoG were also ‘satisfied’ with the progress that has been made in what is yet another attempt to restructure Pakistan’s domestic cricket structure.
“The Task Force for the domestic cricket structure made a presentation to the BoG on the proposed structure. The BoG expressed their satisfaction on the progress made and agreed that the under consideration structure was competitive and will produce high quality cricket.
“It was agreed that once the parameters and concept have been finalised and agreed, this will be presented to the BoG for approval before being rolled into Pakistan cricket.
“I want to commend the Task Force on the progress they have made in the newly proposed domestic cricket structure that focuses on quality over quantity, clarifies the role of the departments and, provides opportunities to improve and enhance the capabilities and capacities of the regions. The Task Force is making good progress and I think they will soon be able to present the best model designed for Pakistan cricket to the BoG for approval,” Mani was quoted as saying.
There was plenty more ‘good’ news shared during the BoG meeting.
The thing is just by saying all is well doesn’t mean that all will be well.
The Pakistan cricket team isn’t heading in the right direction ahead of World Cup 2019 which begins in England in May. Inzamam might have convinced BoG that the team will be ready for the World Cup but it isn’t. The Sarfraz Ahmed episode was just one reason why the Board should take things more seriously. It is pretty clear that Sarfraz is Pakistan’s Test and ODI captain just because they have no other player in the squad who can lead the team. Shoaib Malik is on his way out and even if he is here to stay the aging all-rounder is hardly the sort of captain Pakistan needs. Pakistan’s captaincy options end with Sarfraz and Malik.
Captaincy isn’t Pakistan’s only cause for concern. Their batting remains unimpressive while the bowlers have also largely been unable to play to their potential. The coach, Mickey Arthur and his support staff, too have failed to really make their presence felt. Arthur’s mantra isn’t too dissimilar from Inzamam’s. He too likes to pretend that his team is on the right path. He is talking about the same team that lost a home series against New Zealand and then was hammered by South Africa.
To overcome weakness, one has to admit that the weaknesses exist. Pakistan seem unwilling to do that. They feel happier burying their heads in the sand. Certainly not a good approach.
Khalid Hussain is Editor Sports of The News