A "nexus" of Sana Mir, the Pakistan captain, the team manager and a couple of senior players has been singled out to lay the blame for Pakistan's winless Women's World Cup campaign. In a damning report by the coach of the side, Sabih Azhar, Mir bears the brunt of his criticism, as Azhar accuses her of adopting a "negative approach" and of being completely self-obsessed. He also complains that Ayesha Ashar, the long-time team manager, paid most of her attention to senior players Mir, Javeria Khan and Nain Abidi, and was "cold" towards the younger players.
A 14-page report, a copy of which is obtained by ESPNcricinfo, acts also as an overview of Azhar's 10-week term as coach and reveals the "inner dimensions of the negatives and positives of the team". The report makes a number of recommendations, key among them that ageing players should be moved on and a new manager brought in.
"My humble view is if the set of these four - three players and manager - continue with the national team, there's absolutely no chance of players' growth in the team," Azhar wrote. "Juniors need confidence of the seniors, but if they are always criticised and face negative remarks, it would shake their confidence very badly and we should forget growth of women's cricket in Pakistan."
Much of the focus, however, fell on the leadership of Mir, who Azhar accused of being "self-centred, egotistical and being wrapped up in oneself". That assessment will come as a shock to many, in whose eyes Mir is among the most significant and successful figures in women's cricket in Pakistan. She made her ODI debut in 2005 and is the most experienced player in the squad, and has also led Pakistan in 72 of her 102 ODIs. In the 2017 World Cup, she scored 153 runs at an average of 30.60, and picked up six wickets.
"It became clear that the captain Sana Mir is self-centred or self-absorbed; typically she is the last to know it," the report read. "Her denial to accept self-centredness overshadows her good qualities of confidence and esteem.
"Too many of our so-called role models, don't give a hoot about anything except themselves. To them, the 'team' is nowhere near as important as the 'me'. 'What's in it for me? I want more playing time. I should be starting instead of them! My average, My stats, My salary, etc.' Similarly, Sana Mir's 'me-whining' affected the mindset of aspiring young players to understand how important teamwork really is to success and any team game is not about 'me', it's about 'we'!
"The captain was so much negative in her approach that she inculcated fear among other team members during team meetings on number of occasions. She used to praise opponent players a lot instead of backing her own players to do well. Eventually, the captain's negative approach did damage the confidence of our batters and bowlers and they couldn't play their natural game during matches.
"Similarly, the captain selfishly used to bowl herself at such a time during the match when she knew that the batters won't go after the bowling and her bowling figures won't be destroyed. She had a jealousy factor in her mind that what will happen if the other bowler takes a wicket or two and gets an extended spell of bowling."
Ashar, who has been the manager of the women's team for nine years, was criticised for her behaviour with the junior players in the squad.
"The manager was inclined towards three players and sometimes her behaviour with junior players was very cold," Azhar said in the report. "No doubt, maintaining discipline is something which is the foremost job of the manager, but I felt most of the junior players were uncomfortable with the attitude of the manager, who is with the national team for the last nine years."
Azhar wrote that Pakistan's pre-tournament preparation - a 30-day training camp in Abbottabad and a 15-day training camp in Leicester - left him feeling confident.
"We could have won our opening league match against South Africa before losing narrowly because the girls couldn't handle the pressure at crucial moments. In the second match against England, our bowlers gave too many runs - 377 - and the match was over before our batters went in.
"Against Sri Lanka and the West Indies, our team once again couldn't give the finishing touches and lost both games. Overall, I believe we could have won at least three league matches - against South Africa, India and Sri Lanka - but the team lacked finishing approach at crucial junctures which cost us the games."