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Will the men in green succeed against Australia?

The team is sadly in it to just play along

Will the men in green succeed against Australia?

Before you answer that question, let’s think about the way our cricket is being run.

Pakistan is the only country in the world where the Test and ODI teams are captained by the same person, and the T20 team is skippered by another!

Now limited-overs format demands are different from that of Tests and that’s why boards around the world name one person in charge of the T20 and ODI teams, and another for the longer format. But not in Pakistan… for a country that hasn’t won a series since Mohsin Khan was unceremoniously sacked as coach despite a 3-0 clean sweep against England; a country where defensive captains like Intikhab Alam make important decisions after quitting the game nearly 40 years back and where all those who were never sure shot selections (Mohammad Akram, Wajahatullah Wasti and Shoaib Mohammad) are made selectors; anything is possible.

But is the same ‘anything is possible’ policy possible on the ground when Pakistan take on Australia tonight in Dubai in the tour-opening only T20 International?Maybe, since Pakistanis are playing in familiar surrounding unlike the Aussies who would have to battle Team Pakistan as well as the hot weather.

That doesn’t mean that the Aussie will be sitting ducks because they have played really well even in hot and humid conditions before.

The current Pakistani coach Waqar Younis might have to say something about this since it was under his captaincy that Pakistan team was bowled out for 59 and 53 in a Test match against Australia. That happened in October 2002, months before the World Cup in 2003 and the timings of the current tour is somewhat similar.

Before we talk about the youngsters, let’s discuss the ones who were youngsters when the current chief selector and manager Moin Khan and head coach Waqar Younis were at the helm as captains.

Why are Younis Khan, Taufeeq Umar, Faisal Iqbal and many others not happy with the way things are being run… are their allegations worthy of mention or do they suffer from ‘ouster paranoia’?

Why is that Moin Khan and Waqar Younis are perceived as villains by cricket followers despite their heroic performances as players?

One explanation seems that since seniors like Younis Khan and middle-aged cricketers like Taufeeq Umar and Faisal Iqbal are out of the side because the former captains might think that they didn’t give their 100% when they were given the chances under their captaincy.

That seems logical to some but not to those whose careers are at stake because of this childish thinking.

Now Faisal Iqbal is no more in the squad and should be labeled as the unluckiest Pakistani cricketer, since he was axed without getting a chance after successful domestic seasons. Same goes for Taufeeq Umar whose presence as the left-hander at the top of the order steadied the innings more than once, but since he is not getting any younger and is injury prone, he must go out.

As for Younis Khan, since the manager-coach can’t question his commitment, his performance and his fitness, they first try to insult him by keeping him in the B category of the Central Contract and later test his patience by axing him from the ODI squad.

The duo at the helm must realize that these players were playing against the mighty Australians and their dismal performance in the previous series wasn’t deliberate. If selection is done on the basis of ‘how they performed under me’, then they should have selected Hasan Raza who belted twin half centuries against the Australian in one of the losses in 2002!

Back to the million dollar question… will Pakistan win the battle against the Aussies in limited-overs internationals? Seems unlikely since the men in green are out of practice (don’t count the National T20 as practice, please!), most of the players must be demoralized as their salaries were deducted due to fitness issues, and they have no definite plan ahead of the mega event next year.

Australia, on the other hand, have world class players who have displayed their talents whenever given the chance.

At top of the order, they have David Warner who remains a threat for both pacers and spinners. There is Aaron Finch who has been promoted as the T20 skipper and has the ability to change the course of the match with his clean hitting (something Pakistan misses big time).

The middle-order in one-dayers includes Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Phil Hughes, George Bailey and Brad Haddin who have played in the region and have won matches for Australia, single handedly. With Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon and James Faulkner in their side, there is all the chance in the world that Michael Clarke and Shane Watson will not be missed. Aaron Finch will lead the side in T20s where he will have help in the form of most players from the ODI squad.

Yes, the Aussies lost the tri-series to South Africa, were defeated by Zimbabwe a few months back but those teams were in it to win it, not in it to just play along.

The men in green are sadly in it to just play along, name a team for the World Cup and apologize on live television when the team crashes out from the mega event. That’s what will happen if the management doesn’t wake up and take serious steps but that seems farfetched.

We live in a country where two of the paid selectors conveniently missed the crucial meeting where the squad for important series was to be discussed and such attitude is surely not going to get us the trophy we last won in 1992!

Omair Alavi

omair alavi
The author is a freelance journalist. He may be contacted at [email protected]

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