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March 5, 2010

New age

Toecrusher and the Eagle

Kamran Abbasi

As a modern great Waqar will have some leeway to establish himself and his methods, although any presumption that he will still be in post at the end of 2011 is ill founded © Getty Images

These have been a particularly bewildering few weeks in the bewildering world of Pakistan cricket. And who knows what thunderbolt will strike next? Some issues are better put to one side until some evidence emerges. Match fixing is a prime example. Cricketers, like their fellow humans, are ever fallible and inconsistent, hence accusations about match fixing based solely on mistakes and decisions during a match are invariably impossible to prove.

My own brief inquiry into the latest flurry of claims revealed that, according to an ICC spokesman, no information has been passed by ICC to the PCB. In these circumstances, it would be helpful, nay obligatory on the PCB, to provide clarification about the true nature of any concerns.

Amid the machinations among players, administrators, and politicians, two important decisions have been taken. Waqar Younis is head coach and Mohsin Khan is chairman of selectors. A third, appointing Shahid Afridi as Pakistan’s new captain is more pressing and more needed.

A final decision, most important of all and incumbent upon the Patron of the Pakistan Cricket Board, is required to rid Pakistan cricket of the calamity of Ijaz Butt’s leadership. Mr Butt’s greatest triumph has been to make some of his more questionable predecessors look like highly skilled professionals.

That Pakistan cricket is in a mess is clear. But there is a way out and it lies through putting up a fight on the cricket pitch and climbing back up the cricket rankings. Without the cricket board operating in the right way, any hope of a consistent revival is a distant one. More the pity, as another World Twenty20 followed by a series against Australia and England offers ample opportunity for resuscitation.

Indeed, you might argue that Waqar the Toecrusher, Mohsin the Eagle, and Shahid the Ball-biter, if he is appointed, have been handed an impossible hand. How can these good men and true—we hope—lead their charges through the perpetual storm that is Pakistan cricket? Will any of them survive long enough to make a difference? We all know that contracts, guarantees of longevity, and utterances of support count for nothing.

As supporters of Pakistan cricket our duty is to wish these fellows well at the dawn of another day in the last chance saloon. None of them is perfect but they have all displayed heroism at some point in international colours.

Waqar was a champion bowler, a true great of the modern game. But for injury his record would have been even more earth shattering, his legend even larger. Much of Waqar’s career was a spectacle but I’ll never forget the way he once demolished Brian Lara in the desert heat of Sharjah. It only served to emphasise what world cricket lost when Waqar had to yield to injuries during his prime.

Unfortunately, Waqar did embroil himself in the player politics of his age, the post-Imran era that returned Pakistan cricket to divisions within the team. We can only hope that Waqar has learned that such behaviour is destructive and will impress as much upon his charges.

When the captaincy came his way, it was probably ill timed, his fast bowling powers were on the wane and many of his best players were ending their careers. At the beginning of the last decade, Pakistan were a team in decline and the Burewalla Express was unable to stop it.

Waqar’s biggest coaching break was to work under Bob Woolmer, Pakistan’s best ever coach. Confined to helping the bowlers, there was progress among Pakistan’s pace attack, with Umar Gul and Mohammad Asif beginning to establish themselves. But a lead coach has broader duties of management, tactics, and technique. Batting and fielding are Pakistan’s biggest concerns, areas in which Waqar never excelled nor acquired great experience.

These challenges will be tough for Waqar and his best strategy will be to employ experts in the areas where he is weak. At the very least if Waqar can revive Pakistan’s spirit and attacking brand of cricket, as well as forging a constructive relationship with the captain, half the battle will be won.

As a modern great Waqar will have some leeway to establish himself and his methods, although any presumption that he will still be in post at the end of 2011 is ill founded. Mohsin Khan, meanwhile, as a less modern and less great cricketer will have even less latitude. Yet, Mohsin was a dashing personality and flamboyant batsman at a time when Pakistan really began to establish itself as an international force. He also had the example of Imran Khan to help him understand the strong, no-nonsense approach that is required to get the best out of Pakistan cricket.

Mohsin’s biggest challenge will be managing the internal politics of the PCB and ensuring the integrity of his selection panel. A good start would be set clear rules of engagement with the PCB chairman, in other words the selection panel must be independent of the chairman and the other board members—in word and deed. In addition, a new chief selector should also mean change in the panel itself. Indeed, the selection panel requires more modern cricketers, not the long retired sycophants who live off the bounty of the board.

Unfortunately, Ijaz Butt has a habit of appointing friends or people he can control in positions of responsibility. The biggest question in my mind is whether or not Waqar and Mohsin can be their own men and do what is right for Pakistan cricket? In any senior leadership position it is better to fail by your own mistakes than fail because you compromised your vision, principles, or ideas.

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Posted by waterbuffalo on (March 16, 2010, 5:35 GMT)

Appoint Afridi as captain? First off, he told the PCB he didn't want to play Test cricket, secondly, the guy can't bat for 20 mins, let alone 2 hours, unlike a true batsman like Yousuf, thirdly, his bowling is very ordinary, unlike Imran, Waqar, Wasim, fourthly, he steps on balls and bites on balls to tamper it and gets caught all the time because he is stupid, and this is the guy you want as captain? You know the sign? "There Are No Words".

Posted by Raheel Masood on (March 9, 2010, 12:20 GMT)

I completely agree that the PCB Chairman's incompetence and erratic behaviour completely undermine any hope of resurrecting Pakistan's glory days. Waqar is a good person to lead the team, but will he be given the chance to actually work or asked to bow to pressure from those who want to control him?

Further, the report from the committee investigating the Aussie tour is on the horizon and the findings seem to belong in some strange science fiction movie! Somehow M. Yousuf is being listened to as well as Intikhab Alam. Virtually every real cricket expert and fan saw that Pakistan would have won something if it were not for the wimpy captaincy of M. Yousuf.

Let's take the rising talent of Umar Akmal and mess with it. After finally having found a captain who inspires players to fight till the last ball, lets find a way to bring him down. Granted, he ain't the brightest when it comes to ball biting, but he does make a difference on the field. Sigh, when will it end? Pakistan Zindabad!

Posted by addas khan on (March 9, 2010, 10:13 GMT)

Waqar is a legend and CAN be a great coach but this is doomed to fail!!!! Sorry Death of Pakistan Cricket its all over we are the new West Indies....possibly worse Imrans Boys have all departed the world of cricket!!!!!

Posted by Asif on (March 9, 2010, 5:02 GMT)

I don't understand the logic in ignoring afridi for captaincy.Since afridi admitted his mistake,apologised to the whole world & vowed not to repeat the mistake he should have been forgiven.His two match suspension which is the maximum as per icc rules is more than enough & the pcb should take the example of the australian cricket board which is backing johnson after the head butting incident.Atherton remained the captain after he tampered with the ball & there are numerous other instances where no action was taken by the authorities. The pcb never backs its players & now since icc is allowing afridi to play than why the pcb is reluctant to give him the captaincy.Ejaz butt should immediately appoint afridi captain for all the three formats of the game.

Posted by majid on (March 8, 2010, 23:16 GMT)

Wow! Afridi as captain. Pakistan really has sunk to the depths if the only person who is considered worthy of leading the nation in its national sport, being a role model for youngsters and an ambassador for the country is someone who has been blatantly shown to be a cheater not just once but twice! He has shown no ability to learn from his mistakes yet people on this forum conveniently seek to overlook them. This sums up Pakistan- blame everyone else, fail to take responsibility for their own issues and use Islam as a toy to play and discard at will. These people who start every sentence with 'in the name of god' yet carry out these actions bring disrepute on the country and the religion. better to lose with dignity then cheat.

Posted by MARLO on (March 8, 2010, 18:56 GMT)

We are in the worst ever cricket affairs management era of our country. A person not even smart enough to manage a club is doing it a one-man-show. Arround him are some of his yes men who dont speak their mind or act independently. I wonder if Waqar and Mohsen will do differently. A man who doesn't even know when to open his mouth to say some words or when to keep it shut, one who doesn't even manage to have dicipline in his own ranks asks for dicipline in the team... I don't expect some good from him. sorry kamran, but I see Mr. Misbah taking over the captaincy

Posted by Shahid on (March 8, 2010, 18:46 GMT)

Media repports suggest that inquiry committee has recommended imposing a fine on afridi for his ball bitting act and sources suggest Misbah or razaq could be named as captain.

I believe, inquiry committee's recommendations should be met. Those recommented to be banned or fined should have it as per suggested BUT its gonna be a grave mistake to not make afridi captain at this stage. Whole the nation or at least a vast majority of it wants afridi to be named as captain, common sense asks for it too as the state of our cricket needs a team leader who can believe in his own ideas and show aggresivity. It will be totally stupid to bring in some one who again stays for a single event. SO MIND YOU DECISION MR. BIG BUTT

Posted by khalil on (March 8, 2010, 16:47 GMT)

Pak just need good team leadership & a series vs India but not against Eng or Aus. Playing cricket against India always bring good results for our cricket. Our players must be sweating to play against India,the way the Indians are playing their cricket these days. All praise for the Indian cricket team.

Posted by Shahid on (March 8, 2010, 14:26 GMT)

I dont see anything changing. Imran Farhat and Faisal Iqbal will still be considered. Discarded players like Hafiz, Misbah and trouble makers like shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal will go on doing the same. Ejaz Butt will still be the one-man power behind all selection matters.

We need to get rid of Ejaz Butt, Bari, Miandad, Ilyas........We need to bring in Rashid Latif and Amer Sohail type honest people. We need to rebuild, try young players like Naved Yasin and a lot more.

For God sake drop these stupid names like Leopards, Wolves etc. Its Pakistan, call them only by city names otherwise it takes half an hour for every one to find out who is who.

Posted by Usman Zia on (March 8, 2010, 13:37 GMT)

You have got it spot on. The biggest decision will be to appoint Afridi to Captain. Ejaz Butt has to go if Pakistan Cricket ever has to come back up. Worst administrator ever. If he doesnt appoint Afridi Captain, then its going to be the worst day of Pakistan cricket. Something tells me that something is not right somewhere. They are planning to make Shoib Malik captain again. I read someone making a remark about Imran era. No matter what he was doing with the team, we were winning. we won in Windies, India, England and showed good fight in Australia. Since he has entered politics, a certain group just hates whatever he has done for the country. Can you please put politics aside from cricket?

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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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