After a dismal performance and loss of the Third test in New Zealand the Pakistan cricket team did not get a rousing reception on its return. Cricket fans back home were distressed because they knew that despite some hair-raising changes, the team was still capable of winning the recent series. In addition to the depression caused by a poor show `down-under' and the cold public response, they had to face the trauma of a `fake' Manager's report undermining the player's conduct, floating in the press.
It was an unpleasant situation for the players as well as lovers of the game, especially when the impending Coca-Cola Cup at Pakistan's favorite hunting ground of Sharjah was staring them in the face. Coupled with an undefined `injury syndrome' faced by half a dozen players, it was more of a dilemma for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
Though PCB had to take some startling decisions, they faced the facts bravely and without mincing words and opinions, solved the problem at least for the time being. Their decision to use a butcher's knife, I feel, is justified when the situation so demands. Three top officials of the team had to be sliced to bring harmony in the side and the team has been re-shaped to face Sri Lanka, an inherently competent one-day side and the resurrected Black Caps, in the 3-nation day and night festival at Sharjah.
The giant that Javed Miandad is, has been relieved of his responsibility as the national coach and the team has flown off without him. We will discuss his capabilities and performance in the light of the controversies that crept up during his time in a later article. But one thing is sure that until a decade or so ago, many teams used to tour abroad without a coach. A touring coach was an innovation that came in later and success depending on the caliber of the coach. It would be a good trial for the team to endure the short tour without a coach.
With skipper Moin Khan injured or possibly under consideration for an honorable exit, the change of captaincy was inevitable. As I saw Inzamam ul Haq turning from a brilliant club cricketer to a super star, he is an excellent player capable of bringing the stars down. However, the burden of captaincy would certainly have affected his highly invaluable contribution to the side. Handing over the leadership to Waqar Younis was thus another good decision.
As for the change of manager, Faqir Aizazuddin was brought from the wilderness to manage the team to New Zealand, a tour that ended in disappointment. The change is for the better. Yawar Saeed, apart from being a former English county cricketer, has vast management experience. Having been a manager of Pakistan teams that had many more super stars than we have now, a lot is expected from him.
Apart from the management, the team that flew to Sharjah on April 5 is a blend of youth and experience. The youngsters who displayed their mettle in domestic cricket have been given the chance to be groomed further in a thrilling international environment. The stalwarts like Waqar Younis, Saeed Anwar, Inzamam ul Haq, Abdur Razaq, Shahid Afridi and Saqlain Mushtaq are there to take on most of the pressure and to guide the youngsters. How well they do perform, the forthcoming matches will soon show.