THE CORDON HOME

BLOGS ARCHIVES
SELECT BLOG
May 6, 2014

The Waqar silver lining

Hassan Cheema
Waqar Younis: the one who can pull Pakistan back up on to their feet  © AFP
Enlarge

Seemingly unbeknownst to the rest of the world, and even the casual fan in Pakistan, the cricket in the country has gone through quite the clusterfuffle over the past month. The T20 captain resigned before he was pushed; the coach of that team has been rewarded for his failure by landing two higher posts; the musical chairs in the PCB has resulted in Basit Ali and Mohammad Akram becoming the guardians of the future of Pakistan cricket (which is probably the least disagreeable part of this reorganisation); and there is the latest edition of the "Let's change the domestic structure before people get used to it" game.

Once the dust had settled somewhat, the head of the six-member selection committee (which is a slightly odd notion in Pakistan in the first place) said to the media that the position of the captain who had led his team to four bilateral series win in five needs to be reconsidered because, in his words, "the captain should be liked in the media and by the people as well". This was followed only hours later by the head of the PCB saying that there would be no change in captaincy. Meanwhile the TV network that had once employed (or still employs) these two disagreeing gentlemen found the time to have a two-hour Misbah bash-athon in between these two statements. So fond are Pakistanis of the "cornered tiger formula" that the board seems to be actively trying to make sure that the team starts by being pinned back in a corner.

I'll postpone a rant over this shambles to another day, because the silver lining to this cloud may have the most significant impact on the Pakistan team in the short-to-medium run: Waqar Younis has been appointed the head coach of the Pakistan team.

Like everything else in Pakistan, Waqar splits opinion - he was either the most destructive bowler in the country's history, or someone who had an extraordinary peak but an ordinary plateau. As a captain he was often considered far too conservative, considering the resources he had and the badge he was representing. That conservatism has been present in his coaching stints too, in addition to his belief that the coach has to have more power than he has traditionally been given in Pakistan.

But the stats speak for themselves. Over the past six months, with Junaid Khan going off the boil, and injuries to Mohammad Irfan, questions have been raised about the strength of Pakistani pace bowling. This is a problem Waqar has experience of solving. From 2003 to 2006, Pakistan's fast bowlers averaged 34.8 in Tests and 32.5 (at econ 4.9) in ODIs, despite the best efforts of Shoaib Akhtar. In March of 2006, Waqar was appointed the bowling coach, and under him those numbers fell to 32.3 and 28.8 (at econ 4.6), despite Shoaib not playing a single Test under him.

Over the next three years, the performances of Pakistani pacers fell yet again, though they spent most of 2008 bowling to substandard batting line-ups. Over those three years Pakistani pacers averaged 37.1 in Tests and 30.2 (at 5.1) in ODIs. Enter Waqar, a second time. In the 22 months that followed, the Test average dropped to 30.5, and although the ODI average went up to 34.1, that had a lot to do with the disastrous tour to Australia and the fact that his best two pacers were banned for most of his tenure.

All that makes him the ideal candidate for the Pakistan bowling coach's job - one he should be given for life if he were inclined that way and the PCB had any sense (both unlikely scenarios admittedly).

His bowling expertise alone supports his ascendancy to the head coach's position, but in addition to that, he did a damn fine job as head coach in his previous stint. Again, some would disagree with his methodology or thinking, particularly if they are fans of a certain captain Waqar often clashed with during that time. But again the stats, and the context, speak in his favour. He took over as head coach after Pakistan had finished a tour to Australia having lost all their matches, under a captain who had been placed there thanks to a mutiny, and a coach who called the players "mentally retarded". Unfortunately Pakistan didn't have a Kevin Pietersen to put all their blame on, so they had to rely on Waqar to bring them out of the abyss. And of course he did. Pakistan recovered enough to have decent showings in the World T20 and on the six-Test tour to England, where they competed despite not having a single batsman in any semblance of form, and after the new captain had abandoned ship only one Test into that mega tour. What followed was Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Amir and Zulqarnain Haider doing what made them famous, and Pakistan were back in the abyss. Twelve months after the Zulqarnain episode, Waqar did resign, having made Pakistan into a rather good Test side, and a pretty decent ODI outfit. As one Pakistani player so nearly put it, twice Waqar had encountered a team on its knees, and both times he had grabbed it by the collar and brought it back up to its feet.

It's not a Moyes-to-Manchester United type situation, where an impressive CV is destroyed by the situation the coach is walking into. Pakistan have lacked the bad cop over the last two years. Misbah and Dav Whatmore were more inclined toward being the good cop, which isn't the sort of thing that brings you success in isolation when it comes to Pakistanis. By all accounts Waqar is someone who is not only suited for the role of bad cop but in fact relishes it. Pakistani cricket is defined by the supposed carefree attitude it often has when on the field, but throughout its greatest years it has relied upon the young stars being deathly afraid of their leader - whether that be Abdul Kardar, Imran Khan, whoever. There's a reason why when Waqar confronted Amir after that no-ball, Amir froze, unable to respond, unable to defend himself to someone he respected and feared. (Of course, that situation was then "handled" by Salman Butt, who tried to assuage Waqar's suspicions.)

Thus when reunited with Misbah (or whoever Moin Khan decides to replace Misbah with), Waqar will be able to take on the most difficult role in the Pakistan dressing room. This may sound like the ramblings of a fan boy, but the truth is that his work in his two stints has shown he has earned the right to fail. Two decades on from sowing the seeds that meant his generation could never fulfill their potential, Waqar is ideally suited to make sure that history doesn't repeat itself.

RELATED LINKS

Hassan Cheema is a sports journalist, writer and commentator, and co-hosts the online cricket show Pace is Pace Yaar. He tweets here

RSS Feeds: Hassan Cheema

Keywords: Coaching, PCB

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by captainpermod on (May 9, 2014, 8:08 GMT)

There is no comparison of the thrill that Waqar used to create to audiences while bowling his inswinging banana yorkers. Only Lasith Malinga, on his peak, is comparable to his agression.

As far as winning is concerned, Waqar (with agressive approach) jelling with Misbah (extreme defensive approach) to form a winning combination is a possibility with a compromise at both ends. This has happened in the past.

But the uncontrolable agression which Afridi has is out matching the agression Waqar possess. So, this ought to be a very furious combination. The only thing which lacked and will be lacking that they both couldn't compromise in the past and more likely will not compromise in future also. The only looser is Pakistan Cricket.

Posted by Oxonion on (May 8, 2014, 18:41 GMT)

Waqar has an ego of the size of an elephant....good for being the fastest bowler in the world, but exactly opposite to what you need as a coach....Sorry setthi you are out of your depth in managing cricket

Posted by TheShaikh on (May 8, 2014, 6:51 GMT)

Spot on Cheema! Contrary to all thats been going on in PCB, this decision to get Waqar back is remarkably intelligent!

Posted by hiasad on (May 6, 2014, 15:56 GMT)

I am so Happy that this news does not have anything to do with "Bring back Cheema". Lol I read all the article thinking that Waqar wants to bring Shafqat cheema back for some odd reason :)

Back to the topic, I do think that Waqar is qualified to be the coach and one of the finest Pakistan has produced. All the best to him !

Posted by Speng on (May 6, 2014, 14:35 GMT)

Good for Pakistan, Waqar is one of their most respected personalities outside the country. Of course the view of someone outside the country is always different from the view of the person inside the country. There are so many well regarded ex-players from Pakistan that they should have no lack of potential coaches

Posted by   on (May 6, 2014, 14:28 GMT)

tge

the main problem is afridi get rid of him

Posted by hassaanster on (May 6, 2014, 13:01 GMT)

A lot of people wrongly gave credit to Mohsin Khan for the 3-0 win against England. Everyone failed to see that it was Waqar who had a big hand in lifting the side after the spot-fixing debacle. The months of hard work he and Misbah put in to instill confidence back into the team and to unite them had finally paid off during the England series. And I agree with Hassan Cheema that Waqar is the ideal guy for the role of 'the bad cop'. Hopefully with Waqar's return, Pakistan will once again play with the aggression needed to win consistently.

Posted by   on (May 6, 2014, 12:58 GMT)

well written article.....................

Comments have now been closed for this article

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hassan Cheema
Hassan Cheema is a sports journalist, writer and commentator. He writes on cricket and football for various publications and co-hosts the online cricket show Pace is Pace Yaar. He doesn't believe opinions other than his own are valid. @mediagag

All articles by this writer