Unwanted emphasis on youngsters

Expressing his feelings of joy on Pakistan's glorious victory in the Coca-Cola Cup at Sharjah, Lt. Gen. Tauqir Zia, Chairman Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), praised the performance of youngsters in the team. He emphasized that the induction of young blood was part of his plan to prepare Pakistan team for the World Cup 2003. He thinks that since some senior members of the team will not last that long, it was the right time to introduce young and talented cricketers.

The act of inducting young players in the team is being overstressed as well as over-publicised by the present Board. The replacement of unfit, out of form or otherwise fading-out players by suitable youngsters has been a constant process since time immemorial. In the squad participating in the Cable & Wireless Limited Over Series in the Caribbean, there are at least 8 players who were introduced to international cricket during the last two years and before the arrival of the new chairman.

Must Pakistan be represented by a team of tiny tots in the World Cup 2003? Since there is no substitute for experience, the team must always be a suitable blend of youth and experience. The induction of too many youngsters in the team breaks its combination as well as jeopardises its strength and harmony.

On account of PCB's overwhelming emphasis on the inclusion of youngsters, the strength of Pakistan's contingent touring the West Indies has swelled to 19. Since the West Indies Cricket Board is supposed to provide hospitality for only 16 players, as per agreement, the additional players will remain with the team on PCB's expense. Leave aside the financial burden on PCB, the question remains, are these extra boys required?

The unwanted on the critics list are Naved Ashraf, an opener of limited caliber and utility, Irfan Fazil, an upcoming medium pacer, who has yet to find his length and direction and Shoaib Malik, an off-spinner who has no place in the team in the presence of spinners like Mushtaq Ahmed, Arshad Khan and Shahid Afridi.

Incidentally Shoaib Malik was member of the Pakistan squad that toured Australia even when the ace off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq was in the team. He was also part of the national team throughout Sri Lanka's tour of Pakistan followed by the visit to Sharjah, remaining a spectator all along. It is so because Lt. Gen. Tauqir Zia, Chairman PCB, believes that "the youngsters would gain experience and learn by touring with the seniors". By the way, what do the five players other than the playing XI do on the tour? Are not they gaining the experience and how many teams do we see carrying such super-numeries on tours abroad?

PCB looking for new coaches

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is looking for new coaches including foreign ones to streamline national team's inconsistent performance. According to plans three or four foreign coaches are being hired to work with local coaches both on national and grass roots level. Rameez Raja, a member of the PCB Advisory Council is on the manhunt.

According to Chairman PCB, "at the moment Javed Miandad is the best man for this job and he will look after the team till the end of July". The above statement indicates that the Board has no faith in Javed Miandad's ability as a coach and considers his appointment only as a stop gap arrangement. Let us examine what Abdul Qadir, a great leg-spinner of his times, has to say on the subject. He is of the opinion that the teams of international level do not require the services of a coach. In an interview to a local daily he said, "the system of sending a coach with the touring team is outdated and must be done away with. Instead, there should be an advisor-cum-manager to guide the team on all aspects of the game. Since good players do not need coaching, teams like Australia, South Africa and Pakistan can safely maintain their international rating without a coach". He flayed the PCB on the appointment of Tony Greig as Coordinator, ignoring Pakistan's great cricketers like Fazal Mahmood, Imran Khan and Hanif Muhammad.

There is a lot of meat in Abdul Qadir's statement. My personal views on the subject are almost identical. The players falling in the category of stars and super-stars and those having established themselves in the national teams are not left with any flexibility to change their style. They would not accept the advice of a coach. The upcoming youngsters, however, need regular coaching. In the case of Pakistan, the majority of budding young cricketers lack the knowledge and understanding of English language. They can thus be better coached and groomed by the local coaches than the foreigners. The PCB should, therefore, drop the idea of employing foreign coaches. The relationship between a coach and the players has to be very intent.

The wide "communication gap" between the Pakistan youngsters and the foreign coaches will only create confusion. The players will learn better from a Pakistani coach.

Wisden's top cricketers

The cricket lovers in Pakistan have been disappointed on not finding Javed Mianded's name in the list of 49 Cricketers of the Century released by Wisden. Half the names in the list are of such great cricketers who select themselves. No one would dare comment on their glorious performance and service to the game. There are some, who were just ordinary and certainly not above the caliber, skill and performance of Javed Miandad. Apart from the statistics, Miandad played such graceful strokes that it was a treat to watch his game. Possessing the courage and speed of a tiger he could punish hard, the best bowler in the game. In my opinion, he should have been placed below, Sir Donald Bradman, Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Jack Hobbs, Sir Vivian Richards and Dennis Compton.

The omission of Brian Lara and Courtney Walsh also indicates as if the records are made by fluke and not through the capability and efforts of players.