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April 14, 2008

New age

Superficial stars of a failed system

Kamran Abbasi
A dejected Younis Khan walks back to the pavilion, Pakistan v Bangladesh, 1st ODI, Lahore, April 8, 2008
 © AFP
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Today, a reader sent me a message arguing that it is my social responsibility to start a new thread on Younis Khan, as cricket fans are poised to comment on his extraordinary withdrawal from the current series. An excuse of fatigue is hard to believe. A fit of pique (at the visit by the anti-corruption unit) would be more in character. A statement explaining that he is tired of playing the world's less challenging teams might be understandable. An expression of irritation at Shoaib Malik's captaincy would play to the gallery.

You decide.

Instead, I'm using Younis Khan to highlight a different point. An observation that is reinforced by the presence of two Pakistan XIs in action simultaneously. It is further emphasised by the enigma of Shoaib Akhtar. Once upon a time, Pakistan cricket had more big time players than little piddling ones. Since Inzamam's retirement, Mohammad Yousuf is the only player that will genuinely merit comparison with the top players of the past.

Younis is an erratic and temperamental talent. Shoaib Akhtar and Shahid Afridi could be described in the same way. The rest are a talented bunch yet to cut it when it really matters or show enough depth to be deemed irreplaceable. And there are so many of these superficial stars that we now have two teams of them: one battering Bangladesh and the other humbled by lightweight Indias and World XIs.

Look across these two teams and tell me how many players can be judged to have had satisfying international careers? Yet you will not disagree that therein lie buckets of talent, possibly even thimbles of genius, a catalogue of might-have-beens and what-ifs. Mohammad Asif is the one exception, but injury and injudicious supplement taking have ruined the honeymoon. The rest are superficial stars, promising much delivering sporadically. This is what Pakistan cricket has become, and the breadth of the failure implies the failure of a system.

Now, some readers would like me to move off this theme and start talking up the state of Pakistan cricket and its cricketers. Applaud the PCB for its wonderful stewardship of what was once a national treasure. But what can you really say about comprehensive victories over Bangladesh on flat tracks? Should we hail Salman Butt as the next Saeed Anwar, Shoaib Malik as the new Imran Khan, and Kamran Akmal as the inheritor of Adam Gilchrist? Should we congratulate Dr Ashraf for ensuring the boys get some cricket and win a few games?

All we can really say is that the malaise in Pakistan cricket is a chronic one. It began when the team was at its strongest in the 1990s and has only intermittently been reversed since, such as briefly inspirational spells in the long rule of Wasim Akram and the short period of unity between Inzamam and Bob Woolmer.

New administrations talk long-term strategies and walk quick fixes. The current administration is no different. Only two years ago, Inzy and The Bob had engineered Pakistan into a fight for the second spot in world cricket. Since then, the decline has been quick and distasteful.

What to do with a system that has consistently failed? There is little point in sweating blood to make it work better. It won't. The answer lies in a new system, a whole new approach. And for that the politicians in Pakistan must cut the cricket board free of political rule, appoint an interim administration of independent professionals to revamp the governance and operations of the cricket board, and then appoint a new cricket board of individuals benchmarked against the skills and experience of administrators in the best run cricket boards.

It will take high-quality people, protected by robust governance, to restore the fortunes of Pakistan cricket. The process has to begin now and the change in government offers an ideal opportunity. Pakistan cricket needs to decide if it is happy to continue with its quick-fix production line of superficial stars or whether it is willing to commit to a fundamental rethink of its cricket administration so that it can begin to invest in a more meaningful future?

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

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Posted by Ghazanfar on (September 25, 2008, 21:22 GMT)

People... Not saying this cause I am a big fan of Afridi's but because Im a big fan of the sport. I don't know how many of you will agree to what I say. But there is always so much expected from Shahid Afridi. You guys might be saying that he needs to learn how to play patiently or that he doesn't have team ethics. But his fans watch him for what he does best. He's not called Boom boom for nothing now is he? Secondly the way he is demoralized after each and every match he doesn't perform in. Its all about for guys. I know its been quite some time since Afridi has been in form. But we have to keep giving him the chances cause we can't just get rid of him. Cricket is all about entertainment people. Without Afridi in the team quite honestly, I don't think there is much to see in our team as it is. Especially when magically some great players get disappeared. I think its high time we stop criticizing the way Afridi plays. Its not like no one has ever told him to play sensibly.

Posted by Omer Admani on (April 18, 2008, 21:56 GMT)

I disagree, though, that Younis is a superficial star. Younis is the only player who has actually improved in the last 4,5 years and is the second-best batsman in the team. Just look at the rubbish statements of Malik's nowadays.

Posted by JAVED A KHAN, MONTREAL, CANADA on (April 18, 2008, 21:08 GMT)

The Superficial Star-cum-Actor who never really got the chance to put up a real show, neither in cricket world nor in the movie world, is now talking like a cheap bimbo and is busy in mudslinging over those who supported him. I am talking about Show-Aib Actor, a blighter who wasted his career in bad mouthing against everyone and now he is oozing out venom against Javed Miandad and Younus Khan. The irony is Javed Miandad has recently supported Shoaib Akhtar on his recent ban and criticized the PCB. Whereas, Shoaib during a recent TV interview questioned, "why was Javed Miandad not punished when he raised his bat against Denis Lillee?" He was trying to justify his act of hitting Asif with his bat. The difference between him and Miandad's act is, Denis Lille was the culprit who not only elbowed Miandad but, also kicked him on his thigh. Miandad only threatened him, if he wanted to hit him, he would have and no one would have stopped him. Lillee was fined $17 for the boisterous, blatant and shameless act and the penalty he got was like a slap on the wrist. Shoiab Akhtar prior to this interview claimed that Younus Khan is his friend and in the TV interview he tried to justify his visits to Bollywood and asked the TV person, why did the PCB not object to Younus Khan when he went to Mumbai on a private visit? It shows how petty and low he can be, I am sure Miandad or YK would never stoop so low. I am against the ban that the PCB has imposed on Shoaib but, Shoaib is a pathetic case and it is not his fault it is that Chaudhry Wadehra mentality that is imbued in his psyche which Zakir Khan Saheb Chaudhary is preaching, propagating and trying to justify in his pseudo intellectualism by adding a dum chulla of Khan to his Chaudhrahat and giving a sermon to everyone here.

Posted by Omer Admani on (April 18, 2008, 19:31 GMT)

Exactly my thoughts. I bet you are hoping that Malik and doctor are relieved of their respective duties, too. But Pak didn't lose to Bang on flat wickets, and now 11 straight wins means Malik indeed is one of the mre successful captains. Now he can lose 5 times to Aus and 5 to SA, yet his win/loss ratio will be positive. He has a lost of statistics to support him and so does DNA.

Posted by Rauf on (April 18, 2008, 14:31 GMT)

To Karan

"Did not wish to comment until I read someone give the stats between India v Pak"

You should have read my whole post. I braught the stats in reluctantly because some of your fellow Indians always like to drag Pak/India comparison no matter what the topic is. Read some of the posts.

If you forget the past successes/failures then you don't have anything to measure against. If you don't like the fact that Pak dominated Indian cricket for well over three decades then that is your load of bricks to carry. As for me, I would like to mention this fact whenever some Indians get carried away with their analysis.

The way IPL/BCCI bosses are behaving so arrogantly towards media and ICL, I hope this "goolie danda + bollywood fest" ends up as WSC so that we can enjoy some "real" cricket.

Posted by Ali Kuli Khan on (April 18, 2008, 2:14 GMT)

Philip John Joseph, in first few mails you posed as an Indian. I am glad that veneer has slipped. You are a partisan paki who has nothing sensible to say except indulge in India bashing.

Posted by Zakir Khan Saheb Chaudhary, on (April 18, 2008, 2:11 GMT)

Khan saheb you are surely jealous of my longer name but let me explain few things to you. Only person who thinks Javed Bhai is somehow 'respectable' is you. So why dont you shut up and go away to your farm.

Posted by faisal....from south pole on (April 17, 2008, 19:20 GMT)

Give the charge to Imran Khan then you will see that all the problems are gone...that all i gota say

Posted by M. Y. Kasim. Houston. Tx. on (April 17, 2008, 19:10 GMT)

If I understand correctly, the article by Mr. Abbasi was about the mis-management of cricket and the un-profesional manner of Pakistani players. It had nothing to do with Indo-Pak comparision. It was only a passing remark to emphasis a point. If you ca'nt comprehend this, you better keep your analysis and comments to yourselves instead of showing your ignorance!!

When Pakistan was challenging Australia and West Indies at the height of their dominance, India were struggling against England and New Zealand!!

Time changes. Pakistan still has plenty of talents. All it needs is, proper handling and grooming by competent management. And thats what Mr abbasi and most well-wishers are calling for.

Posted by khansahab786@gmail.com on (April 17, 2008, 18:39 GMT)

The system has undeniably failed and the players are undeniably talented. This is the revelation we keep waking up with every now and then. A new system and an altogether new approach is definitely needed. For whatever reason we will have to come to terms with the fact that Shoaib Malik, Younis Khan, Shoaib Akhtar and Kamran Akmal have not fulfilled their promise and are unreliable players. Salman Butt who has some diehard supporters behind him, is only a flat track bully. I feel like proposing a new plan of action and recommending a new and fresh team under the leadership of Shahid Afridi. The only other player who deserves to be in this fresh team is Mohammad Yousuf. But no matter which players play, unless the Board is free of corruption, lack of accountability and mismanagement, the problems will continue to arise.

Zakir Khan Saheb Chaudhary,

Last time I checked this was a cricket blog. So please discuss cricket and don't come here to satisfy your personal vendetta against individuals more popular, respected and accomplished than yourself.

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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 international editor of the British Medical Journal. @KamranAbbasi

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