November 12, 2013

A time for defiance and flair

There was a time when Pakistan masked ordinariness with defiance and flair. Now they are humbled and demoralised

Is it time to let go of Mohammad Hafeez and a few others in this line-up? © AFP

Pakistan feel humbled, demolished by mighty South Africa. They challenged us without Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, or even Imran Tahir, a surprise star. But we were still demolished. And we are still humbled, as has become our custom.

Once, our teams made up for any lack of preparation, and the bumbling amateurism that bestrides Pakistan cricket, with a touch of flair and frequent flashes of defiance. This combination of defiance and flair carried them a long way. Yes, we possessed some brilliant players, but the more ordinary tended to mask their ordinariness with the aforementioned defiance and flair.

Now, we are a rump of humbled and demoralised cricketers. We don't have defiance or flair, and even if we do, we don't show it. We know it is the batsmen, those damned incompetents, who are to blame for this general demoralisation. They are so much to blame that even our once excellent bowlers are beginning to fray at the seams - and I don't mean ball-tampering. Their previous excellence is slowly succumbing to ordinariness. Who can blame them? Even the gods would be demoralised by the crapulence of our batsmen.

Bring back Aamer Sohail, all is forgiven. What we would give now for a player of such absolute ordinariness but bulldog defiance. Or his opening partner, Saeed Anwar, a man of uncertain defiance but godly flair. If you never lived through those times, I'm sorry, you missed a treat.

If you never saw Mohsin the Eagle, or Zed - not the Zed from Pulp Fiction - you missed a treat. If you never saw Javed Miandad, Queen to Imran's King, or even Saleem Malik - damned Saleem Malik - you missed a treat. If you missed the slashing wrists of Ijaz Ahmed, the forward thrust of Imran Khan, or the majesty of Majid Khan, you missed a treat. You might not have heard of Wasim Raja, the best of the Raja brothers, or Mushtaq Mohammad, the second-best of the Mohammad brothers, but you surely missed a treat. You don't need me to tell you about Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf.

Trust me, there were frustrating days as well in those past decades, but enough of the time your heart leapt to the tune of the defiance and flair on show. Now we are a rump of humbled and demoralised cricketers.

But Pakistan cricketers can bat. Verily we've always struggled to match the might of India or Australia. Truly we lack the faith, unity and discipline to be a batting machine, but we've always had something about us. Chutzpah, they would have called it when I started writing about cricket in the 1990s.

By my estimation only the selection of four players out of this sorry bunch should not be disputed: Saeed Ajmal, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan and Sohaib Maqsood. Only one of those is a batsman, and, as impressive as he looked, he is just starting out. The rest require their positions reconsidered, although after due reconsideration Misbah is the only viable captain in the short term. Equally, after the same reconsideration, there seems little worth to the international careers of Mohammad Hafeez, Shahid Afridi, Sohail Tanvir and the plague of Akmals. Go with grace but in the name of god, go.

Pakistan cricket needs to go back to the future to McFly, as it were; to rediscover a touch of flair and frequent flashes of defiance. Bring in some young players with these attributes to at least offer service as a batsman, allrounder and wicketkeeper. Haris Sohail, Hammad Azam and Mohammad Rizwan are popular cries. Let's take up these cries, for we need new heroes, and any aspiring hero must be tested. Look how Sohaib surprised us, and Shan Masood before him.

Let's end this circus of limp ordinariness that demoralises both bowlers and supporters. Let's stop feeling humbled. Our fans once carried placards boasting: "Demolition in progress." Now we are the subject of the demolition, almost each and every day. Pakistan, in sport and beyond, cannot be rebuilt in a day, but you begin by understanding how far you have fallen.

Let's build afresh; vow that our hearts will leap again, and no longer sink to the dread beat of falling wickets. The time is right for a cull, a cull to refresh, revive and rebuild. It is human nature to glorify the past, and the past wasn't perfect by any means. But let me assure you, it was often a treat, and if you haven't felt that thrill, I want you to feel it too. That thrill, that flair, that defiance, that is the magic of Pakistan cricket.

Give it back.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 14, 2013, 2:50 GMT

    Really funny to observe all these self pity and extreme disappointment at display by the Pakistani fans after the losses to South Africa.

    Cant understand what it is for. Considering that they won a Test Match against this South African side, actually they have over achieved in this series.

    Get Real, pakistani fans. Currently your team is the only thing worthy of comparing with Ishant Sharma's bowling. With that, they have won a Test against the Saffers.

    That is some achievement.

  • Dummy4 on November 13, 2013, 16:26 GMT

    Can someone tell me that why a team like Pakistan who has been eternally struggling with their batting, keep choosing to go into matches with one batsman short. They play 6 or 7 bowlers in ODIs and in today's T20 against SAF they are playing 8 bowlers.

    Who is doing this team selection. It seems the tour selectors have gone daft. Its quite frustrating really. No wonder we are losing against even Zim now.

  • Md Risalat on November 13, 2013, 12:19 GMT

    What they need to do here is, most definitely get rid of Hafeez, Amin, Shafiq permanently. Of course they need Shafiq in the Test side. They also need to make sure that Hafeez, Amin, Shoaib Malik, kamran Akmal never get back into any squad. Then persist with Jamshed, Shehzad, Umar Akmal and Maqsood for the top 4 spots, anyone can see that, this is simple common sense. Bring in Haris Sohail, Fawad Alam and Hamad Azam. Having Hafeez instead of a seam bowlling allrounder is damaging to the balance of the team. Having too many spinners is making lives a lot easier for the opposing teams. I don't understand Misbah's captaincy and team management. When you see Hafeez or any other batsman underperforming as ab opener with Shehzad, why not let Akmal or afridi bat up the order? Umar Akmal has been wasted down the order, he is under pressure from not performing that low down the order, why ruin a career like that? He needs to bat at no.3. To let Umar Amin come ahead of Akmal sums up Misbah well.

  • Azim on November 13, 2013, 8:12 GMT

    Problem is in the administration.they need to understand the requirement of the team The problem with Batsmen like hafeez,u.akmal,afridi,shafiq is they 1.don't have that many shots 2.don't have the ability to rotate the strike 3.don't have the ability to find the gaps 4.they are unable to play under pressure N finally throw away their wicket. find players with good potential n talent,give them enough support to become world-class players.

    For eg: Shohaib maqsood N.jamshed Shehzad H.azam Sami aslam They have the potential.administration need to groom them.send them to an academy in Australia n train them for a long period with the intention of improving their skills as well psychological training so that they'll value their wicket n not throw it away. hire some people like inzamam n waseem as coaches at any rate they are asking for n stick with the young trained batsmen even if they are out of form.

    If hafeez is getting such a long run why not a talented player like jamshed

  • Dummy4 on November 13, 2013, 7:00 GMT

    In the last ODI there was absolutely no motivation in the entire team to perform, it seemed the dead rubber had made in green, dead men walking.

  • Dummy4 on November 13, 2013, 6:32 GMT

    Shan Masood is not a good find, you are writing on cricket for 2 decades now and you still cannot see that his first inning in test cricket was full of chances, he wont survive long at the international level.

  • Karabo Obakeng on November 13, 2013, 6:21 GMT

    I don't claim to be an expert, but the biggest problem with Pakistan batsmen is not technique but rather application. They don't know how to build an innings. They play out far too many dot balls, try to score to many boundaries and the running between wickets is better off left unmentioned. Dhoni, AB and KP love between wickets yet they are some of the most destructive batsmen in the game. Oh, if Maqsood is as good as Inzi is said to have been then it's my loss that I never say Inzi in his prime. My loss indeed.

  • faiz on November 13, 2013, 6:10 GMT

    i think we all agree that an overhaul is needed . first the captain. I think if abdul razzak or shoaib malik are given a longer go one of them may be a good candidate. hafeez needs to be out of all formats for now. younus should come back to ODIs. open with khurram and shan masood. younus misbah asad malik razzak adnan keeper irfan junaid saeed abd rehman are my test side. captain younus/malik/razzak

  • Dummy4 on November 13, 2013, 3:07 GMT

    invest in young players,give them a run,even though they'll frustrate at times.this is what india did after 2007 world cup.they didnt become a very good side in 1'll take time.appoint a new young captain who can be a regular in the next 7-8 years,just as we did with dhoni btw,what happened to umar akmal?when he made his debut,he was supposed to be the next star.he has become a 20s/30s player now the obsession with afridi must stop.true,he is a superstar in pakistan,but he contributes almost nothing.playing both of hafeez and afridi disturbs the balance.i know you should stick to your natural style,but after 17 years,you expect maturity and respnsibility,and afridi has none

  • Mel on November 12, 2013, 21:04 GMT

    'Haris Sohail, Hammad Azam and Mohammad Rizwan are popular cries" what about Umar Amin? The fact is Umar Amin was being touted as replacement for Misbah a few day ago. But He has been failing constantly after one fluke slog in a T20, Umar Amin failed regularly. Another Youngster and new player who has simply lost all form is Nasir Jamshed. If you look at number of matches played upto 7 players in the squad have very few matches to their names unless you consider Ahmed Shehzad a Veteran. Pakistan is an unexperienced side. Harris Sohail like Umar Amin was Given chances but he failed and got out in Shahid Afridi style. we are lucky to find someone like Maqsood but having a different new set of youngsters every series will take Pakistan to a low-ness not exerienced yet.

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