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August 21, 2010

2010: Summer of Pakistan

A demon banished

Kamran Abbasi
An action that sparked a furore: Darrell Hair signals five penalty runs in the Oval Test of 2006  © AFP
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The Oval had been a happy hunting ground for Pakistan cricket, right up to the moment in 2006 when Darrell Hair accused the Pakistan team of ball tampering. When Inzamam-ul Haq’s players refused to take the field after the interval, I rang one of the Pakistan management to find out what was going on. “Wait and see,” he bristled with pride, “you will witness something incredible. We are not standing for this any longer.” The Oval 2006 had become Pakistan cricket’s Spion Kop, Dunkirk, and Panipat all rolled into one.

The Pakistan management played their part in the controversy but in my view, and I’m sure you’d expect me to say this, it was Hair who was the primary reason that the cricket world was plunged into crisis. No evidence of ball tampering was discovered. Hair had seized upon an opportunity to vindicate his past actions, except that he misjudged the situation horribly. His subsequent behaviour, especially his demand for a pay-off, lost him much sympathy.

For Pakistan cricket the incident at The Oval and its aftermath initially felt like a triumph. But, ironically, those days marked the collapse of the last respectable era of Pakistan cricket. Up to that tour of England, Bob Woolmer had expertly guided Pakistan’s return as a force. Yes, there was some way to go to complete the Woolmer project but a middle order of Inzamam, Mohammad Yousuf, and Younis Khan spoke for itself. It was the bowling that required development, much resting on the rookie Mohammad Asif.

Woolmer was supported from above and below by stabilising forces. Sheharyar Khan was the last worthy chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, as wise as Woolmer in his own diplomatic realm. The third prong of the triad was Inzamam, Pakistan’s captain and spiritual leader. His leadership style attracted criticism but he had the merits of leading by example and galvanising his chosen forces.

Sadly, in cricketing terms, the last England tour began in hope and ended in much disappointment. From that point onwards Pakistan cricket declined almost to the point of disintegration. Two factors, aside from the political environment, determined that decline. First, Inzamam and Woolmer drifted apart during that tour, their relationship, once greater than the sum of its parts, became damaging. Second, The Oval controversy was a battle too far for Khan, and he was replaced as cricket board chairman. Hair lost the battle of The Oval but the wounds he inflicted on Pakistan cricket helped to cripple it for the next four years.

The first green shoots of Pakistan’s recovery were glimpsed in England last year, as Younis' team produced an unexpected and exhilarating T20 triumph. Now, after a year of being battered in Test cricket, Pakistan have engineered two tense, stuttering, but dramatic victories. On both occasions Salman Butt’s team were written off in a series; on both occasions they came back with a surprising win.

There is something in this team, something to offer hope that Pakistan cricket can build for the future—and it is the bowling attack. There is, of course, a long way to go and the batting and fielding are still major problem areas, especially the positions of opening batsmen and wicketkeeper. But the team at The Oval was a better use of resources, a formula that made the most of the available youth and experience. Pakistan could add more experience yet in the form of Younis if the players and the cricket board can overcome their differences for the betterment of Pakistan cricket.

Ultimately, though, safe-guarding harmony and the progression of the cricket team, even a green-shoots squad like this one, is the sole responsibility of the Pakistan Cricket Board. This Pakistan team are nowhere near world beaters yet but they should not be lunging so dramatically between triumph and disaster. The performance curve might be edging gradually upwards, and the variation in performance should become less dramatic as Pakistan muddle their way to a successful formula. Yet, even at this moment of success, it is important to be mindful that until the PCB sees a change in personnel at the top, green shoots will remain green shoots, sporadic and a long way from blossoming

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Posted by Mitcher on (August 30, 2010, 23:20 GMT)

What a shame. No 'evil' Aussie umpire to lay the blame on this time. See you back in world cricket in 2020.

Posted by Bosco Martyres on (August 30, 2010, 20:19 GMT)

I have read Mathew Hayden's comments regarding the scandal. He puts it down to Pakistani culture, and claims such a thing could never happen in Australia. Clearly Hayden is showing his red neck and also a touch of amnesia. Has he forgotten the Shane Warne incident in Sri Lanka that was quickly swept under the rug by the powers that be? Also I find it repugnant that this was clearly a sting operation by News of the World. Has such an operation been carried out on white teams? Clearly the old colonial mindset is still lurking in the background.

Posted by sajjad_logic@yahoo.com on (August 30, 2010, 17:07 GMT)

After the match fixing videotapes and so called impeccable character players of Pakistan shown to place selft above country....I guess Darell Hair was right...only thnig poor guy was alone and battled alone for the truth...I guess after the NOTW videtapes, Darell Hair deserves an apology

Posted by Muhammad Saidul Haque on (August 29, 2010, 8:52 GMT)

May I have your grand attention "IRFAN". Yes I would be shut up if the all former[ Wasim Akran, Ijaz Ahemd, Saqlain Mustaq & Salim Malik] & current seniors players could have confessed their the worst sinful activities[ Match fixing] had been done by them for much more years. IRFAN ---- you can't deny, escape away from the world cricket historic research with proven analysis of International press media to legal investigation about the miserable Pakistani players. Before blame & criticize me, please Irfan, come to the true world, be cooled down, because the real proven sinful truth is inside, maybe it will be demolished not to investigate properly for technical issues.

Posted by Judge Dread on (August 29, 2010, 6:21 GMT)

The Demon is back for sure. Kamran, you say "...it was Hair who was the primary reason that the cricket world was plunged into crisis. No evidence of ball tampering was discovered....." I suppose that is because there was no News of The World involved. Some real investigative journalism, and it is clear that it is the Pakistani team and their Indian bookmaker friends that are responsible this time. I suspect it was always the case, and Hair knew it. Match fixing and cheating all the way. He did what he could to stop it, but the power then and now lies with those who support the cheats politically because they are too embarrassed to face the problem.

Posted by Saiful Ansari, Leesburg VA USA on (August 29, 2010, 5:40 GMT)

The Demon is back and the team has quickly returned to its lack lustre way. Broad & Trott played a glorious knock, broke all records in the process and destroyed Pakistan's will to fight. Pak were bundled in the 1st innings of the 4th Test for 74. Facing follow on, they were reduced to 4 wickets. The most pathetic shot was played by the master class batsman M.Yousuf who went for a pull shot on the last ball of the day. Is their a Broad or Trott in this mentally weak Pakistan side who can concentrate, fight & restore some respect. The obvious difference between these two teams - England is an Army, while Pakistan is a rabble in disarray. On the top of that police is investigating the Pak players for Spot Fixing issues. If any player or players are found guilty, its time to place a life ban on the culprits & shunt them out of cricket.

Posted by Irfan on (August 29, 2010, 4:55 GMT)

Cripes!

Dude (Saidul Haque) be coherent or quit babbling. If You have no idea what to say then shut up. Hard to say what's happening right now. Thankfully this investigation is not headed by a Pakistani police team. So we will find out what the truth is, in the matter of days.

Posted by Muhammad Saidul Haque on (August 28, 2010, 18:33 GMT)

Brothers, don't blame each other. Don't get upset too about this so called updated performance by miserable conspired Pakistan cricket team. This country is now suffering the most disgusted situation especially like disaster flood attack. Pakistan Government needs relief fund and very greedy favorite damn money. And finally come to the point of sacrificing contract deal with ECB to donated more than million pounds for gift to surrender the final test very poorly/nakedly which is saving the flood affected people of Pakistan. It is clearly proven that Pakistan is very familiar tendency to play like historic Packed game by bookies.

Posted by Saiful Ansari, Leesburg VA USA on (August 25, 2010, 18:42 GMT)

The veteran Yousuf came back in the side for the 3rd test. He made a useful contribution leading up to a win. Rumors were ripe that Younis Khan will be recalled. Now that the team has been announced for ODI & T20 series, YK is missing. What has YK done wrong to be shunted out in this manner? Why is Mr.Butt & PCB not coming forward with a proper explanation? The fans have heard that the Captain's & Coaches of both the test&limited over teams had asked for YK, but Mohsin Khan mentioned to them that YK has discipilinary issues. What are these issues and why can't they be cleared? YK after being ignored for Test matches was included in the team only for the ODI series against the Aussies. Later charges were brought up against several players including YK. PCB finally dropped those charges and included most of offenders including the Akmals, Afridi, S.Malik, etc. Ultimately even Yousuf was back in Pak colors. So what is the nature of YK's crime, which has seen him banished from the side?

Posted by Abdullah Ahmed on (August 25, 2010, 5:39 GMT)

- These comments are middle part of my above two comments.

So to start with, Wahab got an opportunity ahead of Sami, Irfan and Tanvir and you can not 'prove' that none of these 3 guys can perform like Wahab did, infact, may be if they got a chance they performed even better than Wahab.

Secondly, I agree Ajmal bowled better than Kaneria in this Test, but what we object is the way a senior player like Kaneria is humiliated and sent back form a tour after bad performance. If this is PCB's criteria for non-performers, then why PCB is not sending Shoaib Malik back home same like Kaneria?

On Yassir Hameed … well my dear Mr. Rizvi Sahab, Yassir may have scored only 36, but even you will be surprised to note that Yassir have better Tests and ODIs averages then your favourite Imran Farhat, Shoaib Malik and also Salman Butt. Can you tell me why was Yassir ignored for more then 2 year while these players continued playing?

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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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