Pakistan cricket seems always beset with troubles and more troubles. Hardly had its functionaries found a coach, who helped the team to a series-equalling victory at Old Trafford against England before guiding it to the NatWest Series final, the seat is yet again empty.
According to a news item, Richard Pybus has declined to continue with the job he had acquired just before the two-and-a-half month England tour.
Among the reasons quoted in media reports was his inability to move to Pakistan for the next 18 months leading to the WC 2003. Pybus, an Englishman who lives in South Africa, has also specified family problems as a reason for not coming to Pakistan on a long-term basis.
About his prospects of moving to Pakistan, Pybus said, "I won't be extending my work with Pakistan, so they will soon be in the marketplace for a new coach. I wasn't prepared to relocate to Pakistan for 18 months up to the World Cup."
For me, all this is not surprising. Pakistan has never been a first choice living place for most foreigners. That's probably why the Australian Greg Chappell and South African Barry Richards had already declined offers to coach Pakistan team.
However, on top of it all, I think, is his apprehension of being sacked for the third time.
For those who may not recall, Pybus was fired immediately after Pakistan suffered defeat in the WC'99 final, only to be appointed again, later that year. He took the team to Australia, not the easiest of opponents, for a three-match rubber. Pakistan lost all three matches and awarded the sack for the second time. His services were acquired for the third time in April but not before the PCB had laboured long, shopping the market for a considerable period.
It's interesting to note that neighbour India, also lost to Australia by an identical margin immediately after Pakistan's venture in 1999, but the Indian officials didn't make much fuss about that, at least not sack the coach.
Now the question is: who should be our next coach, a Pakistani or a foreigner?
As far as PCB is concerned, they seem obsessed with the idea that any Pakistani cannot remotely emulate what a foreign coach can do for the team.
Talking to the press, Brig Rana, PCB Director, revealed the Board had resumed its hunt for a foreign coach. He said, "As per Chairman PCB Lt Gen Tauqir Zia's policy we would go for a foreign coach but it's too early to say who he will be."
As big names, including Chappell and Richards, have already declined, the PCB is expected to sweat a lot before spotting a suitable coach while his actually accepting the job, is a later issue.
What I can't understand, however, is why our Board so bent upon hiring a foreigner at an exorbitant price, when there's a whole lot of able and talented former cricketers at home - the likes of Mushtaq Mohammed, Intikhab Alam, Javed Miandad, Mudassar Nazar, Zaheer Abbas, Imran Khan, Majid Khan, to name a few - some of whom have already been tried and rejected for reasons, I think, beyond their control. They have all been masters in their times and have as much technical know-how of the game as any Australian or English player of yore, if not more.
As for the question of coaching players on modern professional lines is concerned, it won't be a bad idea if the Board spent some time and money to get them better trained from a coaching academy (there are coaching academies in England and Australia and some other countries as well, where trainees are awarded degrees after qualifying certain courses) before handing over the team to one of them. I believe this won't be a bad bargain; the venture would be less costly than hiring a full-time foreign coach.
There are a number of other advantages of hiring a Pakistani national and resident for the job. Apart from him being used to the living conditions in Pakistan, he won't find it a problem to communicate with players. It is a fact, most of our players are not fluent in English and a communication barrier is bound to arise, not to mention a cultural gap, to cause additional problems with a foreign coach.
If Pakistan Board officials are following the example of their Asian neighbours (India has New Zealander John Wright and Sri Lanka has Australian Dav Whatmore at the helm of their coaching affairs), then they must know that those teams are not reckoned amongst the best in the world; they have been struggling in the international arena for some time.
On the other hand, Australia and South Africa, the top teams at the moment, seem to be more than satisfied with the performance of John Buchanan and Graham Ford, despite them being fully 'home-made'.
So I must remind PCB to pursue the policy of 'self-reliance' as fully endorsed by the Government too, and do away with the illusion that a foreign coach can deliver long-term benefits to Pakistan cricket.