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January 24, 2008

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Pakistan's selection sickness

Kamran Abbasi
Nasim Ashraf announces the suspension of player contracts to the gathered media at Lahore, March 31, 2007
 © AFP
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A bad process, a management consultant would tell you, usually produces a bad outcome. Little wonder, then, that Pakistan's selection "process" rarely pleases anybody. The current bickering between board and team management is just another variation on the theme of internal division that prevents the key players in Pakistan cricket from developing the team in a coherent, constructive, and successful fashion.

At the heart of the problem lies a tussle for control, a power struggle that is eternally unresolved. Captain, coach, chief of selectors, and chairman of the board are all potential rulers of the rabble--and it will remain a rabble as long as the hierarchy fluctuates with a frenzied frequency.

The last time Pakistan's selection process worked properly was when Imran Khan was in total control. That was a fortunate time for Pakistan cricket but an unfortunate lesson was learned. Imran's success suggested that the captain should be responsible for all selection matters, indeed it is an approach he has strongly advocated since.

But Imran's triumph rested on at least two foundations. First, Pakistan cricket was desperate for world recognition, a recognition that any era before Imran's captaincy had never achieved. Second, and most importantly, Imran had the personality and the ability to pull off his dictatorial strategy.

Many of his acolytes tried to follow. Wasim Akram came closest to emulating Imran's on-field success while Inzamam-ul Haq was nearest to total control. Yet none could match his leadership and determination, inevitably leaving a large hole for bureaucrats, selectors, and coaches to jump in to.

Who can now say what Pakistan's selection strategy and process is? In publicly acknowledging a "healthy debate" Dr Nasim Ashraf is hiding a fundamental disagreement. Everybody wants to rule but nobody is capable of it. It is in this situation that a good process can mask the inadequacies of individuals. No such process exists.

Pakistan fans look on with dismay as whims, fancies, and power fluctuations dictate selection of the national team. Merit looks to be an irrelevance. Selection decisions baffle, disappoint, and infuriate.

Might not the Zimbabwe series have been an ideal opportunity to give experience to Sarfraz Ahmed to mitigate the risk of Kamran Akmal's chronic bad form? Why did the selectors even bother with Samiullah Khan, a player I last saw lying on his back at a net practice ignoring Bob Woolmer, who was pleading with him to join the net session? What was the logic in leaving out Shoaib Akhtar when he was in desperate need of match fitness?

Readers of this blog will have questions of their own. Some people might argue, though, that healthy debates about selection are the essence of cricket's fascination. But the selection sickness in Pakistan cricket has become a terminal disease that requires urgent intervention.

In the absence of a modern day Imran Khan, Pakistan has the Australian model to follow. And this does not mean simply paying lip service to it but implementing it properly. A successful process requires three fundamentals: a high-quality selection committee of impeccable integrity, a captain and coach willing to acquiesce power and desperate to succeed with the selected team, and a cricket board chairman enlightened enough to delegate responsibility to the selection committee but take responsibility in the event of failure.

Sadly, Pakistan cricket has none of these three elements in place. Worse still, none of the individuals involved has shown the guts or the selflessness to make it happen. Millions upon millions of supporters are desperate for a process that will nurture success rather than turn their hopes into dust.

The selection process is sick but we are all sicker for having to endure it.

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

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Posted by Suhail on (February 9, 2008, 16:16 GMT)

I am totally disgusted by Ashrafs comment on punishing Keneria to express his discomfort regarding the central contract. Any player should be able to express their opinion about PCB decision without fear of persecution. PCB is not a private corporation, its decision are not holy words. They should be sued and should be fined from their personal account for bad decision they make. I believe Ashraf should be fired for this.

Posted by Haisum on (February 7, 2008, 19:40 GMT)

I totally agree with the fact that you have provided Kamran. Imran Khan wass surely a personality which will be admired in the history of the Pakistani Cricket. Untill we have someone to take charge of the team who will think about the future of the team. Like Imran Khan who provided & polished two of the greatest bowlers in the history of pakistani cricket; Wasim Akram & Waqar Younis which gave Pakistan a deadly bowling attack for nerly a decade. It is unfortunate that Imran Khan can't guide the team forward in the current circumstances

Posted by PAK FAN on (February 4, 2008, 17:25 GMT)

Just drop Akmal,S.Mallik,Kaneria & Co. Pakistani Spin departments is the weakest in the world. Search for best spin dept. and Wicketkeeper.

Then only,we diehard Fan of Pak will be glad

Posted by Bismillah Khan on (February 4, 2008, 16:46 GMT)

When the whole country and it's institutions are run on nepotism and favouritism, how can one expect cricket to be different? Everything is political in Pakistan, and one province has control all the resources, you know what I mean.

Posted by Faisal, Karachi on (February 4, 2008, 6:37 GMT)

From complete 'selection sickness', the posts are getting focused on captaincy alone (along with scoring points on each other...good banter anyway!) MALIK: We need to decide weather he deserves to be in the team first. If he does, then as what? There certainly are better specialist batsmen around. This is probably the reason that he has started bowling more(which he avoided in India and the T20 World cup) to assert his claim to be an allrounder. Lets see him do that against Aus or India. His insecurity is showing even to viewers without being privy to the onfield talk! An insecure Captain is dangerous for the team. And why is he so insecure with the PCB firmly behind him?? Is it "chor ki darrhi main tinka". Other selection matters: Sarfraz has kept brillinatly. Even a blind can see that. Can the Captain? I would also like to invite comments about the spin department. It is becomming evident that Danish is no Qadir or Warne. At best he is a support bowler. so we need to keep looking.

Posted by Hassan on (February 3, 2008, 21:18 GMT)

Awas, sorry to break this news to you that I do not know theosa or TTU, neither I am fan of Shoaib Malik.

Posted by Syed Shah Rizwan Hussain on (February 3, 2008, 18:43 GMT)

Final thoughts on the series: Selection committee did not test young players enough. Only Nasir played all matches. Abdur Rauf should have played all matches. Taking Kahlid Latif out after just one match when he was not even out is just ridiculous. Sohail Khan needs to be enrolled with Waqar to fix his runup. He is an asset and should not be rushed. On this account I agree with selectors. Here in north america they have depth chart of players on each position. PCB should do the same thing. My depth chart would be : 1st & 2nd (Openers): Nasir Jamshed, Khurram Manzoor, Salman Butt, Khalid Latif 3rd (One Down): Younis, Shoaib 4th: Yousuf, Misbah 5th: Misbah, Younis 6th (All rounder): Shoaib, Fawad 7th (All rounder): Fawad, Afridi 8th (WK): Sarfraz Ahmed, Kamran Akmal 9th (Bowler): Asif, Akhtar 10th (Bowler): Akhtar, Abdur Rauf 11th (Bowler): Gul, Tanvir

Posted by Hassan on (February 3, 2008, 15:34 GMT)

There was a guy in last U-19 world cup team Jamshed Ahmad, a left hander with decent pace who could move ball in for right handers, what happened to him?

Posted by TTU on (February 3, 2008, 14:11 GMT)

Omer Admani, you are very quick to point out that it is Malik who does not deserve his place in the team , but what has any of the other players done to deserve theres, bar Yousuf no one in that side deserves there place, not even Younus, who seems to only make 100s when were going for the draw in a test. you point out that he made his own personal 50s against SA, but you seem to forget the fact that in each of those 50s, he didnt have an able batting pertner at the other end, otherwise im sure he would have gone for the chase, but when ur 120-7 and have a partner who can get out at any time, would you go for the win or see out overs. As for zimbabawe, this was the whole reason for the series, to iron out the many flaws in maliks captaincy, at least he can make these mistakes against a weaker side and not get punished. when it comes to the real deal, hell hopefully have learnt his wroing doing. All i say is back the captain, he has been given the job because know else wants it.

Posted by Awas on (February 3, 2008, 11:59 GMT)

Forget about what JAVED A KHAN, MONTREAL, CANADA is doing or not doing but Hassan, theossa, Pittsburgh, U.S.A. and TTU are definitely the same personalities in different guises. One may or may not agree with Javed A Khan but at least he has the guts to speak his mind under his own name rather than the same person signing the same tune under three different names.

He is now talking about “bringing the new faces gradually”. Once I had a debate with him where he suggested that a lot of new faces should be introduced by Pakistan suddenly. I was opposed to this idea as a couple of new youngsters brought in the first two ODI’s were, I thought, the better strategy than wholesale changes. Having bagged the series, a lot more changes in the last ODI were more sensible than if it had been done from the first outing. India discarded a lot of their stars for the T20 and the result is for all to see. Hindsight is a very good thing that makes people smarter after the event.

Omar Admani makes a good point “I can't see what these supporters of Malik see in him”. He is indeed very unimaginative and a meek captain. There is nothing great about Malik at all but for continuity sake, perhaps we need to persevere with him. Someone who refuses captaincy all the time (Younus) is not a reliable option and someone who has asked for it (Yousaf) is even meeker. Some people are not just suitable to lead and Yousaf is perhaps one of them. The supporter of Malik, that you mention, is one person in different guises.

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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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