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On the Ball, Pakistan v Ireland, Jamaica
Knives are out and heads will roll
March 17, 2007
It's an uneasy period for Pakistan cricket and the team has disappointed the country and their fans
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Pakistan have been shunted out of this World Cup, courtesy of a brilliant Ireland on what was a truly magnificent day for them. Pakistan were caught on a green pitch and they are getting exposed quite consistently on this sort of track - it also happened to them in the Champions Trophy. They really need to do something, technically and also mentally, to make sure that they do not nosedive in big matches and in big tournaments.

Ireland, who won the toss, did the right thing by fielding first. They made the ball wobble around, they bowled a few wides and no-balls, but that didn't really offer anything to Pakistan because in between they would bowl in the business areas and get rid of the Pakistani batsmen. Once again, Pakistan's batting was technically faulty. They chased the wide deliveries, there was a bit of over confidence early on, especially the way Mohammad Yousuf played his shot and was dismissed caught at point. Then Inzamam-ul-Haq also perished very early and Younis Khan, who normally operates well in tough conditions, went playing loosely.

It was an extremely poor day for Pakistan, but credit goes to Ireland. As a result of this brilliant performance, they now have a very good chance of qualifying for the Super Eights. Pakistan, however, are down and out of this World Cup campaign and they should expect a bit of backlash from the home supporters. They are very emotional supporters; they wanted Pakistan to at least qualify for the Super Eights.

Even against West Indies they did not look like a happy unit. They just looked terrified of West Indies and of the stage. Today, the moment they looked at the pitch, they did not look comfortable. They were thinking of the green in the track, they were thinking of defeat. So much was expected of the big guns, but I think the pressure got the better of them.

The preparation really hit a snag before the World Cup started, both Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif were mysteriously left off the squad and that didn't really help the squad to concentrate on the job - to perform really well at the World Cup. Then Shahid Afridi was also missing from the action because of the four-match suspension. So they did not have his services and Inzamam openly admitted that he missed Afridi and Abdul Razzaq in the first game against West Indies.

They did not look too happy as a bunch for this World Cup. I think it was because of the controversies that surrounded the team and so the focus was off the jobs. Inzamam has an uneasy future, he was under so much pressure before the World Cup. I think knives will be out for Inzamam and also Bob Woolmer. Bob Woolmer contractually finishes his stint with Pakistan after the World Cup and it has come to an end prematurely. There was news that the Pakistan Cricket Board want him to continue, but I do not think that it will happen now because of this untimely exit.

There will be lot of pressure on the senior cricketers: Inzamam, Younis and Yousuf. Yousuf had a brilliant year with the bat in the Test matches but somehow he flattered to deceive in the World Cup. So, heads will roll and it's an uneasy period for Pakistan cricket. So much was expected of the big players, and they have disappointed the country and their fans and it's not going to be easy for Inzamam and company to breathe freely when they go back to Pakistan.

Looking ahead, Pakistan really needs to do something about their first-class structure. The performance at the top level mirrors the standard of first-class cricket and the first-class cricket in Pakistan is not good at all. They are making first-class cricket very cheap. The license to play first-class cricket is given for political reasons. This has to stop and strong decisions will have to be made by the present board to make sure that they offer quality. They need to do something about the two big nurseries - Karachi and Lahore - and get politics out of our system. Only then will our cricket survive, otherwise you can say goodbye to our chances of being world beaters.

Ramiz Raja is a former Pakistan batsman, former CEO of the Pakistan board, and currently a commentator and presenter

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