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March 18, 2007

World Cup 2007

Shamed by the shamrock: an open letter

Kamran Abbasi
Inzamam-ul-Haq and Bob Woolmer at a practice session, Colombo March 14 2006
 © Getty Images
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Dear Inzy, Bob, and the Doc,

There have been many bad days in the history of Pakistan cricket but 17th March was probably the worst. You have taken a group of players with ability and turned them into the most spineless, lethargic bunch in the world.

For two consecutive matches, every Pakistan batsman has died a coward's death. They have confirmed their status of flat-track bullies and low-intensity stars. Congratulations, of course, to Ireland who played out of their skins but they really should never have beaten Pakistan, green wicket or flat top.

The way this reality has been hammered home to Pakistan fans leaves us in shock and fills me with disbelief. I, like many other romantic fools, believed that the World Cup would bring the best out of you, that your players would fight to the death, and would prosper on West Indian tracks. Even now, I say that the only team this bunch of players should have found to be unbeatable in this tournament is Australia. The rest are evenly matched in ability but it seems your team is handicapped by its habit of shrinking to the occasion. The team's supporters have been horribly betrayed. You will understand the anger and it will come at you like a howling wind.

The Pakistan cricket team was once known for its fighting prowess but you have stripped these players of any spirit or steel. Your bowlers have retained some will, they performed admirably in both encounters. In truth, though, they too lacked the killer instinct, that extra 10%, that would have dismissed the West Indies more cheaply and knocked out Ireland. You have paid a heavy price for your inability to make best use of Waqar Younis, and people will ask what Mushtaq Ahmed achieved other than giving himself and you a bloody nose?

Your fielders wander the outfield like elephants, young men grown old and old men grown arthritic. They are a blot on international cricket, a sport that now requires fitness, energy, and speed, yet your players are like the noble unbending amateurs of some bygone era.

Only Pakistan cricket could do this because only Pakistan cricket could have a system that fails from A to Z. Only Pakistan cricket could have a system whose failures are protected by the patronage of the president of the country. Whatever the merits of the president's work elsewhere, he must take responsibility for being shamed by the shamrock. Because, ultimately, he appointed his pal, the good doctor, to rescue Pakistan's world cup chances. Instead of rescue, Doc, you have orchestrated a catalogue of disasters, embarrassments, and ill-conceived schemes and intrigues. For shame, Doc, move on. Look after human development in Pakistan, though on second thoughts if you are as unsuccessful in that as you have been in cricket administration perhaps you had better leave human development to somebody else.

Your combination has failed too, Inzy and Bob. Your choices, your strategies, your inspiration have brought us to this. Nobody should doubt that you both had the best of intentions but the best of intentions mean nothing when your team surrenders in a hurry. And it is not as if these failings are new. Unsettled openers, batsmen unable to negotiate swing or seam as they gift wickets like sweetmeats on Eid, and a general lethargy about the team that only disappears in moments of crisis. You have given the impression of men asleep on your watch, but Pakistan's cricket fans are some of the keenest observers of the game. And the majority don't like what they have seen this last six months. What they have seen most obviously is an absence of leadership, a confusion in strategy created by disunity of purpose, and persistent failure on the cricket field.

With all due respect, I believe that time is up on your partnership. The extent of this loss means that Pakistan cricket must build afresh, free of the shackles of the past. Many will say that it should have ended much earlier but I believe that up to last year's tour of England you both helped Pakistan regain much respectability in international cricket. But everything possible has gone wrong since then and Pakistan cricket now finds itself in a similar mess to the aftermath of the last World Cup. Overall, no progress then, a bad situation to be in.

But I hope you are not made the only scapegoats because the shit needs to pass upwards and cover you Doc and your man at the helm, Salim Altaf.

What to do? Well, Pakistan cricket will survive. There remains a passion for this sport like no other in the country's cities and villages. But Pakistan cricket requires a root and branch reform, a top-to-toe shake up. The PCB requires to be run by people appointed on the basis of merit not friendship or relationship. And the first job that meritocracy should do is sack its selection committee and replace it with some real champions of Pakistan cricket.

Shahid Afridi goes for a slog, Pakistan v India, 3rd ODI, Lahore, February 13, 2006
 © AFP
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Our new captain needs to be somebody with age on his side and fire in his belly. A leader who will lead by example and fill his charges with a passion to succeed. We know there is no perfect choice but what Pakistan cricket needs to rediscover most urgently is its attitude. These spineless capitulations sit uncomfortably with us emotive Pakistanis. There are only three candidates to my mind: Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik, and, I thought I'd never say this, Shahid Afridi. Something inside me says that after the lethargy of Inzamam, the passion of Afridi might be just the antidote we all need.

Finally, at this moment I can't help but think of the great players that made Pakistan a force in world cricket, the battles they fought to create a team for a whole nation to be proud of. I can't reconcile those images in my mind with the joke of a cricket team we have desperately supported over the last six months, batsmen unable to bat, bowlers unable to stay fit, with some fanciful notion that all would be well come the big day.

Inzy, Bob, and the Doc, you came, you saw, and you floundered. The best thing you can do for Pakistan cricket is to help it to rediscover the qualities that once made it great. You have sentenced us all to four years of painful memories. Failure, they say, is an orphan but this one has at least three fathers.

In the end, though, it just shows how important a skill great leadership is.

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

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Posted by acewings on (April 10, 2010, 22:23 GMT)

WOW!! First post after more than 3 years! I doubt anyone will ever read this, but yeah, Pak is just as messed up today as it was 3 years ago on that fateful day.

Posted by AMIN S. on (March 25, 2007, 17:53 GMT)

I fully agreed with the views of INZAMAM UL HAQ about the current set up of the world cup. If the set up was different like the one in 1992, both IND & PAK teams were still playing the WC. I think ICC's utmost goal was to see PAK & IND team kicked out at an early stage to make the way easy for their favourite white teams like AUS, SA & ENG/NZ. No matter how bad the Asian team plays they can still beat the best team on a given day. Asia Cricket should have more part in the leadership of the ICC. The current ICC leaders are totaly on the other side. The AUS/SA group was the easiest one so they do not have any problem in advancing whereas the PAK/IND groups were much tougher. I still do not understand why they put the PAK/IRL match on top green wicket whereas a better batting track was available on the side. This was probably the part of their (ICC) plan to kick out PAK team as we all know unfortunately we are not too good in playing green wickets. I hope the cricket administrations in IND/PAK should review all the facts and get tougher with ICC or do not take part in the future WC which ICC want to reserve it for white teams. Also our teams need to play without fear. The fear was the crucial factor in the match losses suffered by PAK and IND. Look the way both SA and AUS were playing. Of course they were awarded a flat clean batting wicket to enjoy which they do not provided on the PAK IRL match? Can ICC answer why?

Posted by Mark on (March 25, 2007, 15:25 GMT)

Did anyone ever question the Talebanisation of Pakistani Team. The recent reports in the media point out that there were some serious disciplinary issues in PCB. The board got away with ad hoc-ism. Even the head of the board had any control over the team members. Religious fundamentalism was never questioned. Open religious intolerance was practiced and displayed even when the team was on tour. The question is why this is being confessed by PCB's management. How come the head of PCB feels no shame when he explains it to the media that he checked his e-mail from Bob after four days. This explains his interests in management and his incompetency in dealing with the PCB affairs. ICC should suspend Pakistan's membership and Pakistan should be barred from all International games until they have 1) Full constitution 2) full investigation of Bob's Woolmer's killing 3) Suspension of all the players who have issues with authority 4) name all the bookies in the media 5)ban practice of religious fundamentalism in the team 6) Stop belligerent attitude towards international community 7) Improve the basic infra-structure within their country before getting permission to play cricket again. All international counties should ban all Pakistani players. They should immediately suspend contracts with Pakistani Talebans/Cricket Players.

Mark

Posted by Prof.dr.med.Kahn on (March 24, 2007, 12:25 GMT)

Prague 24 March 2007

Dear Mr.Abbasi:

Didn’t I predict before that they would be out of the tournament from the first round? Now, forget about Woolmer Institute. It can come later. They will be very lucky if they can just get out of the mess they are in now. Did Woolmer have any tangible evidence of a betting scam that could explain one of the most bizarre results of the tournament? They-the players, the management and the officials-have been doing this for long time. I am afraid that this time they will not be able to get away with it.

Thank you, Prof.Dr.Med Kahn

Posted by INZAMAM UL HAQ on (March 24, 2007, 3:45 GMT)

I think no one is to blame for all the events that have occured in the 2007 CWC, except the ICC. I entirely blame the ICC for changing the qualifying structure of this world cup. 4 teams / 4 groups and every group supposedly had a two sucker teams and two strong teams. But this is bizzare. If you look at Pakistan's World cup campaign in 1992 (the one they went on to win)...in that world cup they lost 2 of their 4 initial games with one "no result" game, thus winning only one game of the first 4. If the same structure had been used in the 1992 WC that is being used in the 2007 WC (for the first time)...Pakistan would not have qualified for the Super 8 (next stage)...BUT THEY WENT ON TO WIN IN 1992!!!! I think team performances progress and become stronger as the tournament proceeds and this structure ignores that. It rewards the minows for a lucky day (like Ireland vs Pak or Ind vs Bangladesh) and punishes the deserving teams for just one bad day. This is unfair and completely illogical....And now they are going to complain about huge fall in viewership of the WC because PAK and IND are out. Wellll!! Who's fault is it? ICC!!!!!!

Posted by imran on (March 22, 2007, 20:01 GMT)

i'd rather remember inzy for his goood works. thse things happen in cricket. dont blame inzi or bob.blame the system

Posted by Haider on (March 22, 2007, 19:11 GMT)

The problems lie not with players, Inzy or Bob but are symptomatic of our national cricketing structure. Poor regional cricket structure, poor pitches and outfields, poor national coaching methods. One only has to look at the PCB to see how shambolic our cricketing structure is. It beggars belief that our crickets can overcome such hurdles.

Posted by zaheer on (March 21, 2007, 22:43 GMT)

team played the final match today,played good but alas its too late. heartbreaking to see inzi go but imran nazirs innings has brought some joy to this broken heart. inzi, WE salute you! Thanks for all the memories pakistan zindaa baad

Posted by Vince Garvey on (March 21, 2007, 22:33 GMT)

Whats all the fuss about? It's only a game! People in the world are really being hurt and my Mum died of cancer! COME ON!! Pakistan cricket will be great again one day no doubt. Don't take it to heart too much but give Ireland credit.Although you don't think so at this moment but Irelands victory was not so much a victory for them but a victory for cricket!! Lets have more upsets and see great times

Posted by Nofil Barlas on (March 21, 2007, 20:58 GMT)

I feel bad for Inzamam and blaim him to some extent for the loss, but he is not the only one responsible for the defeat. The first mistake was to let Pervez Mushraf intertwine cricket with politics. That really messed things up. The wrong people were incharge of the selection and everything that goes along with it. Secondly, we dont have a 5-10 year plan when it comes to cricket. Aslong as we have good players we go along with it, but once these people leave we have no due process of putting equally capable players as replacements. Imran Khan was the only guy who not only thought about the team at the repesent time, but also looked ahead. After Wasim and Waqar were out we never got anyone good enough to replace them. Maybe we should look at Australia for example. Also Shoib Akhtar with his childish attitude not only brought the team performance down but also his own integrity (i.e. I am not refering to the World Cup). I think the only way to fix this mess is to start from scratch. Look at each player and PCB Board individually and try to choose people based on merit. Favoritism cannot play a part. Also, with all the argument about Mahajers not being selected into the team causes more problems for the team. If they are choosen on merit and there is not a single Mahajer, then I am ok with it. Atleast you can say that you put your best front forward.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamran Abbasi
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. @KamranAbbasi

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