Twenty20 World Cup 2012 October 8, 2012

India and Pakistan: A system failure

We're a funny bunch. Some of us can't bat; the rest of us can't bowl. We're separated by a line drawn in deserts, fields and mountains; a line that doesn't separate race, caste or religion, which many innocents presume to be its purpose

We're a funny bunch. Some of us can't bat; the rest of us can't bowl. We're separated by a line drawn in deserts, fields and mountains; a line that doesn't separate race, caste or religion, which many innocents presume to be its purpose. No, the fateful line drawn by an Englishman born in India is something far more fundamental. It is the eternal partition between a horde of batsmen and a tribe of bowlers.

We stare enviously across the border, not at the grass--it is never greener--but at the mastery of cricketing skills that for decades have eluded us. It was once a joke that India doesn't produce quality fast bowlers and Pakistan struggles for high class batsmen. It is a joke no longer. Nor is it a mere hypothesis or theory. It is fact.

Take the respective campaigns of these estranged siblings in Sri Lanka's World T20. Forget the stats about India only losing one match and L Balaji's wicket taking. India's bowling attack carried the solitary threat of R Ashwin--a hapless formula to win any tournament. Meanwhile, Pakistan's batsmen floundered on cue in the Super Eights stage of the competition. When the pressure intensified, batting techniques and temperaments melted away. These are ancient laments with no sign of end. Issues both nations and their cricket boards have failed to remedy.

A World T20 requires young bucks to bowl and field. India's selectors backed warhorses. Pakistan have their own problems with old steeds, though less extreme than India's. Pakistan's warhorses are the chargers batting in the lower-middle order. It seems, as ever, that the greatest barriers to the success of both Indian and Pakistan cricket are the conflicted men of power who make small-minded decisions from behind their oversized desks, leaving coach and captain to manage huge expectations with inadequate resources.

Mohammad Hafeez, Pakistan's T20 captain, was as dynamic in the field against Australia and Sri Lanka as he had been lethargic against India. That India match was a perplexing collective failure. A defeat isn't the issue; it is the manner of defeat that hurts. The plan might have been to hold fire and keep wickets in hand but Pakistan's top order missed scoring opportunities with such regularity that it betrayed their apprehension and limitations. Imagine what Hafeez might have achieved with a squad of gun batsmen?

MS Dhoni remains an inspirational leader for India. Even in the death throes of India's World T20 challenge it was Dhoni who rallied his team to a total with an outside chance of qualification. When India defended 121 while South Africa chased 153, Dhoni set attacking fields--two slips even--despite his powder-puff pace attack. It was his country's only chance, other than an earlier and longer spell from Ashwin. When Dhoni pointed to his team's record of only one defeat in the tournament, he had a point though not the one he made. His bowling attack and fielding side would have been unlikely winners of this World T20 but imagine what Dhoni might have achieved with a younger, hungrier set of players?

An uncomfortable truth for Indian cricket is that the Indian Premier League isn't especially helping Team India's cause for world domination. Indians wedded to cricket's power politics or blinded by nationalism will never accept that analysis. But India has now failed to mount a serious challenge in three consecutive World T20s. Perhaps the IPL is too easy a competition, a cheap thrill to flatter the egos and averages of the performers? Perhaps the goldfish bowl of the IPL, of the whole filmy masala of Indian cricket, takes the edge off its top players? Pakistan, with plans for its own showy T20 premier league, be warned.

For a moment India were No. 1 in Tests, and then world one-day champions, but the brevity of that high suggests unstable foundations. An honest appraisal of Indian cricket would look further than financial success and consider chronic failures to progress in fast bowling and fielding. Indian cricket is a mighty success as a commercial enterprise but a mighty underachiever when cricket results are measured. If any of us had Virat Kohli's talent for batting we might cry too at elimination from a tournament that we had the potential to utterly dominate.

Precisely because cricket has become a batsman's game, bowlers matter. Even average international players now boss bowlers and thrash boundaries. Only excellent bowlers thrive--and they are the ones who tend to influence matches most. This dynamic works against India and in Pakistan's favour. It helps to explain why Pakistan, with its meagre resources, overachieves compared with its neighbour. Bowlers tend to be natural, self-taught artists. Batsmen require much more than natural skill and fast reflexes for longevity in international cricket. Refining batting technique in the modern age is dependent on facilities and technical advice and support.

Yet the tale of Pakistan's three consecutive world semi-final defeats tells a contradictory story. First, a narrative of success in defiance of the circumstances - a nation in conflict and a cricket system damaged by exile still competitive despite all predictions of rapid decline and doom. On the flip side is a recurring nightmare of how chronic neglect of the arts of batting can dash blossoming hope and ambition. Pakistan do emerge stronger from this T20 tournament with the impact of Nasir Jamshed and consolidation of Umar Akmal but neither batsman's further development is assured, which is precisely the problem.

No team or nation has a divine right to success. Results cannot be guaranteed or entirely predicted. Defeat comes to us all and we are able to accept it. Only fanatics, not supporters, would think otherwise. But an unpalatable taste of failure lingers. Somehow, by some means, we were undersold. Players who could have helped strengthen our weaknesses were unselected or improperly used.

There is the rub. We stare across the border and, although our cricketing challenges are poles apart, we share a common woe. We can see what's wrong, as can the world. We know that this isn't the best we had to offer. There was more to give but we couldn't show it. More than results we want the world to see our talents in their best and truest light. And we know that the men of power have other cares, of bank balances and status, of political gains and personal victories.

We're not so strange a bunch really, staring up at the stars. Enough of us can bat and plenty of us can bowl. We share a passion for cricket and enjoy the pride and pleasure it often bestows upon us. A line, a border, doesn't separate our failings; it unites and binds them--in cricket at least. There is no good reason why Pakistan hungers for batsmen and India is starved of fast bowlers other than the persistent oversight of the people who rule cricket in our countries. Years have become decades, decades will soon turn into a century. It is a system failure without a fix.

The people deserve better.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on December 29, 2012, 11:04 GMT

    If i am a cricketer I would not go to india for IPL since they discriminating our player, Look at english player they even dont think about IPL. And IPL is player killer game.I appeal to PCB please do not let our our player play at IPL. Indian are sick minded people and remain sick minded forever.

  • testli5504537 on November 9, 2012, 20:39 GMT

    I agree, Pakistan needs high class batsmen. And we have High class young players, but the PCB are not selecting them. We need to retain Younis Khan and promote Umar Akmal. Younus can act as a role model for the young guys and guide them in pressure situations for about 2 years, and then leave the ODI scene, and Umar Akmal has been playing for almost 4 years he should only focus on t20 cricket and when Younis leaves, he should take his place. Hafeez and Misbah should leave ODIs to make room for youngsters, and only focus on Test and T20 cricket. Misbah should be reinstated as t20 captain. So our new and strong ODI squad: 1.Nasir Jamshed 2. Azhar Ali 3. Younis Khan 4. Asad Shafiq 5. Fawad Alam 6. Kamran Akmal 7. Shahid Afridi 8. Umar Gul 9. Raza Hasan 10. Junaid Khan 11. Saeed Ajmal. Our new t20 squad: 1.Hafeez 2. Imran Farhat 3. Jamshed 4. Misbah-ul-haq 5. Umar Akmal 6. Kamran Akmal 7. Afridi 8. Razzaq 9. Umar Gul 10. Junaid/ Raza Hasan 11. Saeed Ajmal.

  • testli5504537 on October 17, 2012, 9:38 GMT

    I am a srilankan and i watch closely the team of Pakistan , I understood that selectors made a terrible mistake by dropping misbah from t20 capt ship because last year or so Pakistan won matches because of misbahs influence if he was their Pakistan will be the champions. truly, why PCB didn't realize.

  • testli5504537 on October 16, 2012, 20:22 GMT

    Re Azim,s post : Karachi has produced great cricketers . However , cricketers from Karachi have had a tough time getting selected since the Captaincy of Inzammam Ul Haque . Inzammam found conversing in Urdu a great strain . This Inzammam Ul Haque trait has continued with Misbah and Hafeez . The net result is that a number of cricketers from. karachi of the class of Saeed Anwar , Javed Miandad and Rashid Latif do not get the opportunity of proving themselves .

  • testli5504537 on October 16, 2012, 13:17 GMT

    If you want world-class batsmen then give chance to Karachi batsmen; that’s where Pakistan's batting secrete lays. Giving chance means giving support not just exposure as fill in the blanks.

  • testli5504537 on October 16, 2012, 6:43 GMT

    We have two different Boards. One Board is not allowing their players to play for their country continuously. Except Imran Khan many quality players were retired prematurely including Wasim and Waqar because of Board Politics. The talents of Azhar Mahmood and Saqlain Mushtaq have been wasted by the Board. On the contrary the other Board is allowing their players to play up to 40 years based on their old performances. Even though they are not performing after 35, they were allowed to play till 40, resulting in wasting of young talents. I do not know when the likes of Rahane, Dhawan, Badri, M.Tiwary, Manish Pandey will play for India?

  • testli5504537 on October 16, 2012, 1:44 GMT

    Surely the article isnt suggesting that india use pakistan talent and vice versa? India will get thier bowlers, but due to the situation in pakistan, although there will always be talent, the pakistan team will always be lacking. Politics and the home situation play a big part, the instability of pakistan the cricket team is a mirror image of pakistan the country. Simple. until the country changes the team will remain the same.

  • testli5504537 on October 15, 2012, 15:13 GMT


  • testli5504537 on October 15, 2012, 12:01 GMT

    Well looks like author stays in 1990 where Pakistani team dominated India for 4-5 years (thanks to Dawood and Azhar). Thats where the head to head margin difference arose. Now as far as bowling goes ,Pakistan has had edge but it not that they blew away India everytime. Similarly Indian bowlers though not as good Pakistan have always delivered when it matters & got Pakistani times all out on almost similar number of occasions.Besides as mentioned by Gatting ,Botham , Chappell , LLyod & many past stalwarts, winning a series in Pakistan with Pakistani umpires was impossible. If one looks at statistics , it is evident that win loss ratio of Pak in Pakistan was indeed higher during non neutral umpires. Moment neutral umpires came into picture the loss ratio increased. Besides with advent of better zoom cameras & HD , it is not surprising that reverse swing of Pakistani bowlers has decreased considerably. Also the fact that now days cold rinks have plastic caps may also be one other reason

  • testli5504537 on October 15, 2012, 11:18 GMT

    Don't agree. Fast bowlers are a rare breed and today it is only Dale Steyn who can be considered a great fast bowler. India's quicks - Ishant and Yadav are faster than any current Pakistani bowler. Pakistan also doesn't have anyone in the class of Zaheer when it comes to being a swing bowler. The only world class bowler Pakistan have is Saeed Ajmal and he too is not in the league of Warne or Murali both of whom hardly dented India ever.

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