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June 22, 2008

New age

A cup that suddenly matters

Kamran Abbasi





'Pakistan can show they are a re-emerging force by consistently succeeding against Sri Lanka and India over the next few weeks' © AFP
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When the 2008 edition of the Asia Cup was scheduled it ranked amongst the most meaningless tournaments in an increasingly meaningless schedule of 50-over cricket. By a series of increasingly mind-bending twists of fortune, the Asia Cup has assumed an unprecedented importance for Pakistan cricket.

Pakistan's surprise victory in the Kitply Cup brought a shallow sigh of relief and a brief inhalation of oxygen. Angry emails, drug scandals, and terrorist threats have all, however, hinted at further suffocation for Pakistan cricket.

While the world kicks on to a Twenty20 Nirvana, Pakistan cricket is struggling for quality, allies, and a seat at the Champions League table. The cricketers and their fans need a break from misfortune and the Asia Cup offers a perfect opportunity, even though it is timed for the murderous heat of Pakistan's summer

Today's statement that Pakistan may take England's place in the tournament typically serves to confuse as much as it clarifies. The Pakistan Cricket Board chairman has been claiming that Pakistan has a certain spot in the Champions League but today's announcement suggests significant uncertainty. It is hard to understand how Pakistan has come to be disenfranchised when it had been one of the countries initially pencilled in to participate in the Champions League?

The reality that faces Pakistan cricket is that to be desirable on the international stage you need to be either a high-quality team or an attractive place to tour, preferably both. Currently, Pakistan cricket can boast neither of these offerings, which is why the Asia Cup has bizarrely become a pivotal tournament in the history of Pakistan cricket. Karachi's prominence as a venue offers extra significance.

Pakistan can show they are a re-emerging force by consistently succeeding against Sri Lanka and India over the next few weeks. This will be difficult as both are accomplished one-day teams and Pakistan will have some of their best pace bowlers missing. Yet success--as unlikely as it seems at this point--will lend some legitimacy to the partnership of Malik and Geoff Lawson.

More importantly, a smooth, well supported, and trouble free tournament will confirm Pakistan's right to stage the Champions Trophy. This has to be the major strategic objective for the Pakistan Cricket Board, because the many sceptics in the international cricket community will be looking for any hint of trouble to urge relocation of the tournament.

The summer heat will be fierce but no less fierce than the pressure on Pakistan cricket during this low-rating, needlessly long tournament. On such trivialities can fortunes, careers, and reputations be made and lost.

Can Pakistan cricket pass its nadir?

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

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Posted by Arsalan Iqtidar on (August 7, 2008, 14:18 GMT)

Hi,

I certainly belive that atleast playing 11 must be selected by the captain. I have no idea when will these issues be resolved in Pak Cricket.

Posted by tony afzal on (July 5, 2008, 13:47 GMT)

I think it's time Shahid Afridi's popular worldwide nicknamed be changed to "phuss-phuss Afridi"

Posted by Ali Dada on (June 30, 2008, 18:34 GMT)

Years of mismanagment is finally bearing its fruit.

Pakistan, I suspect, has abundance of talent. However, star players are 'overly' pampered by the PCB.

Why is India successful? The reason is because they don't care whether a player in their squad is a new comer or as experienced as Tendulkar. If that player performs, they get rewarded else they are discarded promptly.

There are so many players in Pakistan who are not getting their chance to play. Kick out poor performing players and replace them with better performing ones.

All this central contract thing is screwing player's mind. The player feels false sense of job security and if he is a star player, he starts feeling irreplaceable and that is where the problem lies.

Also, I am not a big time cricket follower but from whatever I have watched, it seems that Shoaib Malik is a good player but not a good captain - I always see Afridi and Misbah talking to players, but Shoaib Malik is not that involved.

Posted by AJAX on (June 30, 2008, 16:43 GMT)

Guess what Rauf, the only thing thats "loose" is your pathetic attempt at a defense. My beloved Indians? Nice to see Pakistanis quickly assume anyone that makes fun of them is an Indian, makes me feel well, less vulnerable. BOOM! Ooops looks like I spoke to soon! BWAHAHAHAHA I did a bit of research, apparently India has a better record than Pakistan in ODIs over the last six years (16-15). So much for consistency. It gets even worse for Pakistan, in the last 15 matches India won 10! whoa, what happened to Pakistan's last hope for consistency! You guys can't even beat India consistently. As for your other argument, every country could say that. Guess what, PAKISTAN ISN'T SPECIAL!!! BOOM!!! oops (hides under embankment) Except for inconsistency. What about Pakistan's crowds at the Asia Cup matches? Any point in hosting the Champion's Trophy in Pakistan if the only spectators are law officials? Guess the Asia Cup suddenly doesn't matter, better sack Lawson... his fault alone!

Posted by Rauf on (June 30, 2008, 11:36 GMT)

To AJAX

You win a single match if you play better then your opponent and kitply cup was won by Pakistan because Pakistan played better than India in the final match. To do it consistently will mean that you get into the same league as the Aussies and no team within the last 10 years have been able to match that including your beloved Indians. How can India win by 140 runs and then loose to the same team within few days in Kitply cup? If you call this consistency then you need to get your head examined.

Pakistan has mostly played better than India in head-to-head matches. At least Pak (loosers as you put it) is consistent in that. If PCB keeps loosing quality players to nonsense ICL bans and mis-management (Shoaib and Asif) then this can turn around very quickly.

Posted by waterbuffalo on (June 30, 2008, 4:30 GMT)

The selectors picking the final XI for an international match is an insult in this day and age, has Pakistan never learned from Imran Khan? Yes, perhaps, they feel it is their turn now, since Inzamam's retirement, but the fact is any schoolboy can tell you that a bunch of selectors cannot pick an XI by committee. You need a strong , intelligent man who is loyal to Pakistan, not to his province, class or tribe. And Younis Khan is as big a coward as there ever has been, so don't bother throwing his name about when talking about future captains. Pick someone to be a captain, and let him pick the team, any other way is infantile and senseless. Pakistan is now a joke world wide as is in no way recognizable to the teams that reached two World Cup Finals in the 90's, both times under the captaincy of bowlers, I might add, not batsmen and part-timers.

Posted by AJAX on (June 29, 2008, 16:49 GMT)

Oh look at us, we're the greatest, we won the Kitply Cup, and now we're going to win the a cup that suddenly matters... not unless you are a mindless patriotic fanatic! What fantastic hosts Pakistan turned out to be, how many matches were sold out again? As Dhoni said, the cricketers were playing for policemen... Face it losers, your team is as consistent as your "star" Shahid Afridi... sometimes flashy but mostly disappointing. They do not deserve to play in any finals that include teams other than Zimbabwe and Bangladesh and do not deserve to host the Champions Trophy.

Posted by Balajee Asokan on (June 29, 2008, 8:26 GMT)

I was really surprised when Pakistan won their kitply cup... And at the start of this Asia cup, my first thought was that Pak can also be a serious title contendor...

Much to my dissapoinment was pakistani performance even against Hong kong... I think some serious work is needed to be done by team mgmt.. Someone as shrewd as Younis Khan would be a great leader...

Posted by PakFan on (June 28, 2008, 2:07 GMT)

Until unless we get political stability and delete ethnic based violence in Pakistan, our prospect of being host of any major event is bleak.

On separate issue ie the loss to India in Asia Cup - suprised no blog from Kamran on that. Anyways, once again bowling was a let down. Think we should continue to play Asif + Shoaib coz we simply don't have reliable alternate.

Once again, what in the world is Iftekhar Rao doing in the team.

On second thought, maybe we should play with 10 batsmen - so that we can put up non chaseable total or chase any total coz our bowling is simply uselesss -

Disappointed esp how early India managed to chase the total. Recogn even a 450 that night would have been chased.

Posted by JAS on (June 27, 2008, 0:39 GMT)

Pakistan should not be looking at the present team to improve. That is not going to happen for the simple reason that Shoaib is not of captain material. PCB (Pakistan not Punjab Cricket Board) as some of the prejudiced fellows have mentioned above, should start looking at grooming at least 6-7 players and have the future captain mentor with Ponting or Dhoni. Sometimes you have to step back and reinvent yourself. Think about India in middle to late 80's and 90's when Pakistan could beat them at any venue in any match. PCB needs to just think 3 years from now and work on preparing the world cup squad. We do not have a batsman/all rounder of Miandad, Imran, Zaheer Abbas or Inzamam's calibre. We also do not have a bowler of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younus or Abdul Qadir's class. PCB, please bring in the deserved talent and not the talent that diminishes after a couple of matches. Naseem Ashraf, if you have a little courage, just go. Good luck Pakistan!

A sad and disappointed Pakistani fan

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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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