Politics November 1, 2006

A call for stability and some leadership

In the wake of the Champions Trophy debacle, Pakistan cricket is besieged with cries for change

In the wake of the Champions Trophy debacle, Pakistan cricket is besieged with cries for change. Yes, change is essential but a knee-jerk reaction will further harm Pakistan's chances of winning the World Cup. There are calls for wholesale changes in the team, as well as calls from the head of the Karachi City Cricket Association for the sacking of Bob Woolmer. Rashid Latif has bizarrely blamed the failure of the Asian teams on the presence of foreign coaches.

The sense of crisis has been deepened by Nasim Ashraf calling for a seminar of senior cricketers to help turn round Pakistan's fortunes. As many readers of this blog will know, seminars of the kind proposed by the PCB are seldom any good for producing solutions or new ideas. The gathering of a gang of squabbling ex-cricketers, each believing he has a monopoly on the truth, sounds to me like an exercise in stakeholder management rather than a genuine way forward. Indeed, the solutions are pretty obvious and should reside within the heads of the team captain and coach. And, lest we forget, Pakistan's World Cup prospects were shining bright after the first three one-day internationals in England.

To my mind, it is too late to start talking of changing the coach and captain, it will be suicidally late after the West Indies series. Pakistan's best chance is to stick with the leadership combination that had lifted it to the top three in both forms of the game. One nuance might have been to appoint Younis Khan as one-day captain, indeed it is something I advocated, but after some wonky decisions before and during the one-day series coupled with a drop in form, it has to be best for Ashraf to sit down with Bob and Inzy and say: "You're the men for this important mission. You have my confidence. Tell me your plan and let's implement it." Younis's time will come.

Great leadership is all about appointing people with skill and trusting them to deliver for you. It isn't about undermininig their authority by running a pointless national roadshow on how those guys might do their jobs better, which is what it will inevitably turn out to be.

The PCB only has to read the views of fans to know what the solutions are, and they are not very different from the ones people like Imran Khan have been peddling for years. A competitive, regional domestic game. A properly functioning national academy (not one that is closed down almost before it has started). A professional, independent cricket board. And a mindset that says let's dump dead tracks and let's prepare some that are full of life and bounce. If they can be produced in Mohali there can be no excuse in Lahore.

And perhaps a novel idea: Let's put some faith in the ideas of the experts we have hired. Why not act on Bob Woolmer's calls for concrete pitches to prepare our batsmen against bouncy tracks? Why not act on proposals that the PCB has received for long term planning and development of Pakistan cricket? Why not support our players, captain, and coach in public (whatever the private reservations) rather than spreading silly stories about their nocturnal activities, religious orthodoxy, and holidays? When this is how the world of Pakistan cricket works it makes me conclude that some of the influential people running it (and I suspect they are still in post) would rather act out their own petty prejudices than create something of beauty that would bring joy to millions.

For let's be clear, the failure of Mohali, and Old trafford, and Perth, is not the failure of a player, captain, or coach. It is the failure of a whole system--and one that has always got away with it because of the talents of those players, captains, and coaches who have served it over the years. If Nasim Ashraf really wants to make a mark, he should stop the nurturers and the servents of that failed system from getting away with it any more. It's clear that the people that really matter, the fans, will not tolerate it any more.

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