Champions Trophy October 27, 2006

A dismal end to a dismal time

Pakistan left the Champions Trophy with dishonour today

Pakistan left the Champions Trophy with dishonour today. While nobody expects Pakistan to win every game or every tournament, what is expected is that professional cricketers representing their country will show some spine. The Mohali pitch was an unfriendly Eid present from the local groundsman but it cannot entirely excuse the pitiful showing from Pakistan's batsmen. What is supposed to distinguish international cricketers from the rest of us is that they have the eye and the technique to handle even the most trying conditions. Pakistan's batsmen have shown again that unless they are playing on a straight up and down track they are the world's biggest bunnies.

This ineptitude has to end. On difficult, and particularly bouncy, pitches like Perth and this year's Old Trafford track Pakistan do not have the technique to hold out. Pakistan will inevitably blame the pitch, and they will have a case, but that does not escape the fact that because Pakistani batsmen crumble when the ball rumbles they remain some distance from conquering Australia and South Africa, destinations that are must wins on the road to world domination.

A miserable first tournament in charge was made worse by personal failure for Younis Khan. There were also some holes in his captaincy. It was mind boggling that on a pitch made for seam and South Africa reeling, Pakistan bowled so many overs of spin and Umar Gul and Yasir Arafat failed to bowl out. Admittedly, Yasir's first spell was too short but a wise and persuasive captain would have coaxed a second, fuller spell out of him. Gul, on the other hand, bowled only one bad ball--a ludicrously bad one--and there was no excuse for him not to complete his spell.

This Champions Trophy has confirmed two suspicions. First, Inzamam is as essential as ever to this Pakistani middle order, especially when the going gets tough. It will be a relief to see him back against West Indies. Second, if Pakistan are to have any chance of winning the World Cup they will require Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif--or at least one of them--to lead the bowling attack. Ethically you might imagine that there is no chance of that happening but the Pakistan Cricket Board isn't known for its ethical purity.

Ultimately, as mercurial as Pakistan are, the mayhem of the last few weeks was simply too much to overcome. Nobody wants Pakistan cricket to become sterile, the South Africa of South Asia. We still want the flair, the threat of something brilliant. But my conclusion, and the lesson of the last 14 years, is that for that flair and that brilliance to thrill us and produce results Pakistan's cricketers require stable and sensible administration, management, and leadership. Above all, they need to learn how to fight like their lives depend on it.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here