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How will PCB arrest this decline?

Pakistan sports took a hammering Saturday in the most humiliating fashion when sons of the soil betrayed the nation's faith in them by losing to Australia in cricket and, for the first time , the hockey team failed to win an Asian Games medal.

Waqar Younis' men were given the beating of their lives on a featherbed Sharjah Cricket Stadium pitch as Steve Waugh's Australians cantered to pocket the three-match series by notching up a remarkable two-day victory.

If Friday's capitulation, when Pakistan were shot out 59 in their first innings, was not enough, Waqar's team hit new low by achieving one of Test cricket's most dubious records. Their second innings score of 53 prompted a lot of questions.

Where did it go wrong? How a team that played so well in the previous Test in Colombo perform in such a disgraceful way? What happened to PCB's chief pep talk to the lads some days before the series got under way?

One of the greats of Pakistan cricket, the legendary Hanif Mohammad summed up thus when he told Dawn Saturday:

"Youngsters were over confident after their good showing in the first Test. The inexperienced batting line-up could not stand up to the pressure applied by the Australians, who are the top side in the world.

"Personally I am very disappointed and hurt in the manner the team lost," said Hanif, who led Pakistan in the late 1960s.

Zaheer Abbas, who heads the junior selection committee, attributed the downfall of the team to the non-availability of some of the seniors.

"You can't really blame the young lot because they were short on experience, especially when pitted against the world's best side. They are our future and we must bank on them.

"But about the seniors? How could they skip out of the series on pretext of taking rest? These senior players instead chose to prefer non-serious events ahead of country. This is simply not on," the former Test captain quipped.

Javed Miandad, arguably the greatest batsman Pakistan has produced, first refused to make any comment but said:

"The only thing I can say since this is a young team it will obviously take time to get used to playing someone like Australia."

"After all, these youngsters performed exceptionally well in the first Test. However, the double-paced pitch in Sharjah required application, like the Australians batsmen grafted. Our young side failed on that front," remarked the ex-captain, who was also coach of the national team in the past.

The latest debacle has definitely hurt the game's ardent fans in this country.

"Pakistan should stop playing cricket after so many poor results in quick successions," commented a student in reference to the demoralizing defeats in Morocco and the Champions Trophy.

What is the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) doing to arrest the decline? Spending a lot of money on the infrastructure of the game and hiring of foreigners are not going to solve anything.

Why hold coach responsible for the team's failings? Mudassar Nazar followed in the footsteps of his predecessor Miandad when he was unceremoniously axed midway through the Champions Trophy tournament in Colombo last month.

As one former Test star rightly pointed out that the youngsters have been thrown in the lion's den. They should have been groomed under someone like Miandad. The PCB should have concentrated more on junior series, like the Under-19s and 'A' teams, by sending young players on regular tours.

By asking the young players to face world champions Australia head on without being battle-hardened and experienced, the PCB has done a great disservice to them.

But the PCB has a different way of looking at things. Some people in the board are just interested in what they achieve for themselves. They are least bothered about enhancing Pakistan's image on world front.