Media manager re-opens controversy April 7, 2007

Mir blasts overdose of religion in team

Cricinfo staff
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Mushtaq Ahmed leads the team in prayer © AFP

PJ Mir, Pakistan's media manager during the World Cup, has blamed the influence of religion in the dressing room for Pakistan's disastrous performance in the Caribbean.

Speaking to reporters after his appearance at the performance evaluation committee looking into Pakistan's shambolic display, Mir said, "I could not disclose this fact before, but today I inform the media that most of the members had no focus on cricket. Their fixation was on preaching, affecting the team's preparations."

Mir complained that the players devoted more time to praying and preaching than to the game itself. "The boys were up against the most challenging task of proving their skills in the prestigious tournament, but I am sorry to say they had no drive for the game and were much more active in preaching and praying."

Mir argued that the religious influence had gone "beyond limits. I told the committee that Pakistani players, rather than pray privately, tried to make it a public spectacle."

Mir added that he told the committee of incidents to highlight his point, highlighting instances where some players, led by former captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, even made it a point to pray in the galley of aircrafts on flights rather than privately in their seats. He said that there is video evidence to prove his point and is offering to pass it onto the PCB to assess the situation further.

Since the England tour last summer, criticism over what is perceived as the team's overt religiosity has steadily grown. In one of his first public statements after taking over as chairman of the board, Nasim Ashraf called on the team to dampen down 'public displays of religiosity' in a TV interview. The remark led to a sharp retort from Inzamam, since when the issue has simmered away under the public radar, a number of PCB officials privately echoing Ashraf's stance.

In a tense press conference last week, Inzamam dismissed speculation of religion taking priority within the team but Mir's comments have dragged the issue out into the open once again.

The evaluation committee began its work last week and has interviewed a number of players and officials, including Inzamam and Mushtaq Ahmed, Pakistan's assistant coach. They are due to meet former chairmen Tauqir Zia and Shaharyar Khan as well and are expected to hand in their report on Pakistan's debacle within a month.