Ashraf blasts Pakistan for 'embarrassing loss'
The repercussions of Pakistan's worst-ever defeat to India in the Kitply Cup came to light today with Nasim Ashraf, the board chairman, lashing out at the team management in the aftermath of an embarrassing 140-run loss on Tuesday.
In an email written to team manager Talat Ali, a copy of which was published in Dawn and various Urdu newspapers, Ashraf was especially severe on Shoaib Malik's captaincy and fitness, and picked out Kamran Akmal for "unsporting behaviour" after he claimed a catch that he hadn't taken cleanly.
"Last night's performance against India in which we lost by over 100 runs was embarrassing," Ashraf, who will fly to Dhaka on Saturday to have a meeting with the team management, wrote. "It is not a question of losing a match but our overall performance and the lack of resolve and commitment bothered me the most."
Ashraf has sent copies of the email to coach Lawson and Malik and asked the team management to respond in 24 hours "so that timely action can be taken before the next match against India [assuming the sides meet in the final]."
Among the many points he raised he questioned why an additional spinner was not included in the team, also inquiring about the fitness of Malik.
"The previous game against Bangladesh had clearly highlighted the characteristics of the track in Dhaka, that the spinners were going to play crucial role. The team selected for India game had four fast bowlers. Also, you [referring to Ali] clearly told me that Malik was 100% fit and therefore was the second spinner in the side. What happened to that? Why did Malik not bowl?"
Ashraf then turned his attention to the team's lethargic body language, saying that they looked "paralysed" in the field after the flying start made by India. "Nobody suggested to the captain that he must have a mini conference with the vice-captain and other players - junior or senior - and take corrective action. Even the commentators were talking as to the possibility of changing the bowling and bringing in Shahid Afridi at an early stage."
Akmal's place in the side looks to be in danger after Ashraf called for his ouster. "[The] wicketkeeping was pathetic, especially after Kamran Akmal dropped the catch and pretended that he had held on to it. This is unsporting behaviour but perhaps one has to give him the benefit of the doubt as he may not have realised that the ball had slipped out from his hand, which was picked up by the cameras.
"I do not want such behaviour from any Pakistani player. Please warn everyone. We ought to be looking at playing another 'keeper."
He said that fast bowlers should be advised not to "overextend themselves" referring to the 38 extras Pakistan conceded, a problem that has plagued them for a considerable period of time. "They should have been instructed to bowl strictly to a line and length and to contain especially when the batsmen were in such full cry. It seemed as if we were just continuing with tactics that were clearly not working. We need to be more proactive on the field.
"Except for a few on the field, the body language was not competitive. We were smiling and joking as if we were some junior team which was happy just to be given the privilege of playing a top team. This has to stop."
He directed the team management to conduct a fitness test on Malik "so as to determine clearly whether he can bowl full 10 overs." He also asked the touring management to decide on the playing XI for a probable summit clash with India, and, to request for an additional spinner if they needed one.
The publication of the email offset another chaotic day in Pakistan cricket, culminating in the sacking of Saleem Altaf, a former cricketer and senior board official, reportedly after allegations that he was leaking information to the press.
Ashraf later admitted to reporters at Gaddafi Stadium that he had sent the email. "Yes definitely I sent it. We discussed it and the team have to take corrective action. Hopefully the performance in the next game will be better."
The contents of the email are bound to raise questions as to why the chairman of the board is interfering to such a degree in what are essentially matters for the team management and selectors.
Click here for a full copy of Ashraf's email to the Pakistan team manager which is published in Dawn.