July 6, 2013

How to ensure Pakistan are never boring

By always picking the shiny haired one

This week, the Big Cheeses and Grand Panjandrums of Pakistan cricket assembled to sort through the wreckage of their Champions Trophy campaign. It was the first gathering of the PCB's Big Fat Crisis Committee since the moderately controversial 2010 tour of England, and given the team's recent successes, many of the officials were out of practice.

For instance, the first draft of their Champions Trophy Review was entitled "I Dunno, It Wasn't That Bad Really, All Things Considered". Fortunately, they were roused during an afternoon tea and cake adjournment by a presentation from former Chairman Ijaz Butt (currently touring the country to promote his new DVD, How To Annoy Friends and Sack People). They renamed the Review, "What The Hell Was That!" and got down to business.

There was a lot to be angry about. For a start, there is a Karachi warehouse piled full of unsold "Pakistan Champions Trophy Winners 2013" t-shirts, which will be devilishly tricky to shift. One ingenious solution was for the players to seek redemption by unpicking the lettering, and then re-sewing each t-shirt by hand to read "Pakistan in West Indies Series Winners 2013", although this idea was sensibly put on hold, just in case.

As for what went wrong in England, there was wide agreement. The first problem was the team's fear of passing the number 170. Forty years ago, a score in the high 160s might have been considered a reckless, dangerous, sticking-your-head-out-of-the-window-of-a-speeding-car kind of a score. But these days, it's not so impressive, and the failure of the batsmen to cross that milestone severely affected their chances in the matter of winning.

The second problem, not unrelated to the first, was the fact that they lost all three matches. Whilst the committee acknowledged that it was possible for a team not win all its matches, yet still reach the semi-finals, it was agreed that not winning any matches at all made things much harder in that regard, and a PCB cricket statistician was on hand to confirm that in fact, no team that had lost all its matches had ever won the Champions Trophy.

The biggest problem, however, was selection. In picking their Champions Trophy squad, the Pakistan pin stickers committed the unforgivable sin of being a bit boring. It was a squad that an accountant might pick after consulting a "Cricket Loss Adjustment Variance" spreadsheet. I think we can all agree that the Pakistan cricket team can be many things, but it should never be boring, and if it is, then frankly they don't deserve to win.

Of course, one fail-safe way to make your team less boring is to pick Shahid Afridi, so for approximately the 47th time, he is back in the team, and he will be making things a little less dull in the West Indies, helped by the fact that the statute that made the selection of Shoaib Malik a legal requirement has now expired. They may lose in the Caribbean, but at least they won't be boring losers.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here