When an airliner crashes, the first thing that the accident investigators do is to search for the 'black box' and the cockpit voice recorder which might provide clues about the likely cause for the crash. No such 'black box' or cockpit voice recorder is available to explain what might have happened to the Pakistan team in Sharjah that it should have been battered in cricket's desert storm.
I stared at a blank sheet of paper for a long time to find an appropriate 'intro' to this column and agonized whether I should give vent to my feelings which would have been to call Pakistan's performance as 'spineless' or 'shameful' or both. But that would have been an emotional and an unthinking response and we would have been none the wiser about what went wrong.
It would be convenient to say, if one was making apologies that it was an inexperienced team that just got 'blitzed' by the world's best team. But this same inexperienced team had given the Australians the fright of its life in the first Test match at Colombo and had gone into the last day of the Test in the strong position of winning it, if it had held its nerve. The Australians had been rattled. What went wrong between Colombo and Sharjah? Why did the young lions revert to becoming cubs? I wish I knew.
What I do know is that the Australians went back to the drawing-board, examined every detail of that Test and came up with a new game-plan or a modified one. They did not sit on their haunches. They had been stung by the closeness of that Test and came into the second, fully prepared.
Though Steve Waugh lost the toss, the body-language of the Australians suggested that this was no big deal. They took the field, in the sweltering heat, in a positive frame of mind, as if, they had no intention of staying in the heat too long.
From the first ball of the Test, Australia looked in control. Cricket is a mind-game and Australia won its hands down. I think the Pakistan team-management is as much to blame as the inexperience of the young players.
By no stretch of imagination can the PCB Chairman, Lt-Gen Tauqir Zia be held responsible. He did the honourable thing by resigning, accepting the responsibility and I sincerely hope that President Pervez Musharraf will not accept the resignation. Honourable it might have been but it seems to have been a spur of the moment reaction, unwise and untimely.
It is unthinkable that there should be a change in the PCB with the World Cup being less than five months away. But that's not the only reason why he should stay. There is more to cricket than just fielding the national team. There is the game itself that has to be promoted at various levels.
The PCB has done an outstanding job in the infrastructure development. Against this, the defeat at Sharjah pales into insignificance. I have known most of those who have headed the Pakistan Cricket Board. In their own way, they did the best they could. But Tauqir is someone who feels for Pakistan cricket, his spirits rise when the team wins, he worries when it loses. He is a friend of mine and I know from personal chats and discussions that I have had with him that his commitment to Pakistan cricket is total. His resignation itself is proof of that. Rather than blame the players and the team management, he has deflected criticism away from them preferring instead to all on his own sword.
Pakistan are without Inzamamul-Haq, Yousuf Youhana. Some senior players opted to rest Waqar Younis himself passed a fitness test on the morning of the match and Rashid Latif did his hamstring or was done by a pinched nerve almost immediately when he came into bat and had a runner in both the innings. He did not keep wickets and young Taufiq Umar was inducted to do the job.
As if, this was not enough, Abdul Razzaq got injured and will be out of cricket for six weeks. Pakistan's troubles came in battalions. True that the Australians were simply magnificent but there is still a Test to be played and plenty to cricket after that. We just can't put the shutters up.
We need to come back and re-discover our self-belief. The ball is in the court of the players, not the cricket board. I think too that Waqar and Richard Pybus should stop harping on the inexperience of the young players and instead provide some leadership and pick up this young team. Raise its morale.
If anyone should be discouraged it should be me. I have been associated with Pakistan cricket since 1954 and have seen most of the highs and lows. I am disappointed but not shattered and I still think that Pakistan is a serious contender for the World Cup. Patience and shuffle the cards is the wisdom of a Spanish saying. That would be the way to go.
I hope that President Musharraf will ask Tauqir to carry on and the PCB chairman will do so with renewed vigour. He should have got over his disappointment by now. He has done a fine job but there's still a lot to do. The news of his resignation was received with shock. That should convince him that the cricket public in Pakistan has confidence in him.