'The lowest point in our international history' - Ramiz
Former Pakistan captain Ramiz Raja has described the national team as a "rudderless ship" after they were whitewashed 0-3 in the ODI series and beaten convicingly in the only T20I on their ongoing tour of Bangladesh. Speaking to ESPNcricinfo, Ramiz said he was disappointed by the "lack of direction" and the lack of "fresh ideas" from the PCB.
"They have gone to the players who have put a mute button on Pakistan cricket for a long time," Ramiz said. "There's no freshness of ideas or direction. It's the same old logic to keep wickets in hand and then go hard in the last 10 overs. This is a throwback to the 80's and 90's stuff. I was hoping that the situation would improve but there is hardly any new direction given by the new coaching staff."
Ramiz, who is currently in India as a commentator for the IPL, believes Pakistan need to urgently set up a T20 league on similar lines as that "environment will help the players understand the game better."
"That (a T20 league) will really help them to concentrate on the game and play the game in the way that it should be played," he said. "I hope the Pakistan Cricket Board works on it and somehow makes it happen. If not in Pakistan, then in the middle east. It's not about money, it's about the environment that Pakistan cricket so badly needs to share that experience and to learn from the greats of the game."
Describing the series in Bangladesh as "embarrassing" and the "lowest point in our international history", Ramiz said the outcome was the culmination "of a badly thought out strategy." According to him, Pakistan are no longer producing the same assembly line of talent as they did in the past, and even the players coming through are not being "used properly" by the team management.
"I'm deeply concerned because I was hoping that some of the younger players would step up but they weren't good enough," Ramiz said. "Timid is the right word, boxed in mentality, which is not expanding your range in T20 or 50-overs cricket. It's the way they're brought up.
"They have technical and mental issues. They don't know how to construct a knock; those who know it don't have the technical know-how. Some of them are suppressed by the environment because they are not sure whether they'll play the next game. The overall strategy needs to improve. The coaching staff has to come to their rescue because gone are the days when Pakistan would have a well rounded and talented side."
The lone bright spark for Pakistan in the one-day series was newly appointed captain Azhar Ali, who scored a hundred and a fifty in his three innings to emerge as the team's top-run getter. While complimenting Azhar on his solid start, Ramiz, who had advocated Wahab Riaz for the captaincy after Pakistan's World Cup exit, believes the door should be kept open on that option.
"I believe that Pakistan cricket needs a tonic of aggression," Ramiz insisted. "What I saw of Wahab Riaz convinced me that he has got the potential and arsenal to give Pakistan that all important positive direction. He could lead them into action because against Australia and throughout the World Cup he was the go-to guy. He would make things happen and that is the kind of individual I was hoping Pakistan would pin its hopes on. He was not even made the vice captain which is strange."
Ramiz was also not surprised by the ineffectiveness of Saeed Ajmal, who returned to the Pakistan squad after remodeling his action. Ajmal, who missed the World Cup, was able to pick up just one wicket in the first two one-dayers and went wicketless in the T20I. Ramiz believes it will be difficult for Ajmal be equally threatening as he felt his doosra has been neutralised by the new action.
"Pakistan will be severely hit as both Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez were extremely good with the straighter ball which now they can't bowl," he said. "I fear the worst for Saeed Ajmal. He's not pausing and firing them in. It's not spinning for him. He is clearly a bit uneasy and uncomfortable, lacks confidence. It will be difficult for him to bowl at the level he was bowling for Pakistan a year back."
The teams now face off in a two-Test series starting on April 28 in Khulna where Misbah-ul-Haq will return as captain alongside senior batsman Younis Khan to shore up the middle order. Ramiz, however, expects Bangladesh to have a "huge advantage" going into the series as Pakistan are "hurt mentally and technically."
"I think Bangladesh should be relentless as this a golden chance for them to create history," he said. "The pressure is on Pakistan to redefine themselves and find the magic to keep Bangladesh at a distance. It's going to be difficult as things can't change dramatically as the coaching staff is the same; most of the players are same. Pakistan have been hit by losses and injuries and it's going to be a real challenge."
Gaurav Kalra is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo. @gauravkalra75