Both planning and effort were lacking at Peshawar
The humiliation that tracked our team reaching the apex, Sri Lanka wrapped up with absolute grace, the test series against Pakistan. A triumph immediately after the one-day series crown is a big honor won by the visitors. The test series that Pakistan could have survived with better planning and little dedication to the cause will remain a landmark in our cricket history. Those at the helm of affairs must realize that spell of gloom faced by the cricket lovers has prolonged rather too long.
It commenced four months back when our team was thrashed in the test series Down Under followed by the debacle in Carlton and United Series and then the shameful loss of one-day matches against Sri Lanka at home. The competition between the two teams having ended with Sri Lanka clinching the honors, the 3rd and final test at Karachi will be more of a consolation event, something like a trial of the skill of lambs to satisfy someone's obsession.
A traditional sentence that "We lost to a better side" uttered by the losing captains at the end of every match was somehow not heard, excuse me if missed it. Not taking away the credit that Sri Lanka deserves, the right compliment would be that, "Sri Lanka played better and outclassed us in all departments of the game". I suggest so with a firm belief that our team was no worse, it was only mishandled. Let us relish defeat at the hands of Australia considering that Pakistan was pitched against the strongest team of the world and that too on their soil. It was not so against Sri Lanka.
At the conclusion of the World Cup 99 not too far back, Pakistan emerged as Number-2 team of the world while Sri Lanka was eliminated from the competition much earlier. From their performance, Sri Lanka never appeared like the defending champions. The manner in which Sri Lanka has thrashed Pakistan on the pitches of our own choice, reflects the efforts put in by Sri Lanka's management to lift its team from the bay of depression and strengthen it further by choosing an outright aggressive approach to the game.
The statistics will show that while Sri Lanka has 9 of its 19 test matches including Jayasuriya's triumphs against Australia and Zimbabwe last year, Pakistan lost its fifth test in a row, the humiliation starting in Australia in November last year. With the latest streak of defeats, Pakistan has now lost its three last home series. The contrast shows how bravely Sri Lanka has risen from the ocean of defeats as against Pakistan, which has sunk, deeper and deeper.
Some experts have attributed the decline in Pakistan's prowess to frequent changes of the board, captains and coaches. I believe, such changes do have some psychological effect but do not diminish the strength of the team. Look at the Sri Lankan Cricket Board, which has been in crises since the World Cup and remains so till today, with disputes even going to the court of law. Still there was someone to protect the team from the internal wrangling and preparing it for international competitions. Why it is not so in the case of the Pakistan Cricket Board. A General now chairs the PCB. The army generals are usually quite capable of handling the crisis of any nature and magnitude. They posses the ability and determination to put the things right, provided the people around them think and act with maturity and wisdom and advise the boss correctly.
The generals have very successfully handled Pakistan's cricket in the past. Lt. Gen. Tauqir Zia appears to be a man of clear thoughts and bright ideas. We would not like him to fail for the follies of others. The game being more important than the personalities, he should better reconsider his faith on the ability and sincerity of the people who have their fingers deep in the game of cricket in general and the team in particular. A re-evaluation of the whole situation is essential.
It is an established fact that too many changes in the team don not only affect its strength and efficiency but also destroy its harmony. Still the squad chosen for the Peshawar test had four changes from the side that played at Rawalpindi. The doctrine of necessity having prevailed, some came into replace the unfit lot while the others were to take over from those who had disappointed in the earlier matches. The team was not selected in accordance with the conditions that prevailed at Peshawar. The Shahi Bagh Stadium presented a spinning track, which people remarked, was prepared for Muttiah Muralitharan, who with the magnificent haul of ten wickets led Sri Lanka's demolition squad.