Way Out Needed from the Mess Pakistan Cricket Is In

Khalid KhanCorrespondent ISeptember 2, 2009

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 31:  Pakistan Captain Younis Khan talks to the media during a press conference for the Twenty 20 World Cup at Lords on May 31, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

It pains Pakistani Cricket lovers so much when they see and ponder the plight of their cricketing heroes and administration.

Lack of discipline, responsibility, management, leadership and direction is pandemic. Blunders are made in board’s administration and team selection only to be repeated again and again on end without learning any lessons.

Nothing on the horizon suggests that corrective measures are coming. If any action has been taken previously, if at all, then it is to shove the dirt under the rug or at best merely a quick-fix to get out of current quagmire only to hand reigns over to the future administration to fall in the next one.

For all intents and purposes, it must be realized that there will be no fast or easy way out of this situation. Though calls for major shake-up/overhaul of PCB have been made, however justified, these should be carefully scrutinized before blindly forging ahead as such actions lack steadiness and thus have failed to yield anything substantial in the past.

Pakistan Cricket Board

The institution itself is core to the troubles that are plaguing Pakistani Cricket and is in a serious need of massive reformation. Since 1999 the PCB has been run on an ad-hoc basis (which has sadly been the case for most of its fractured history) instead of having a constitution-based system to govern its internal affairs.

PCB should also be independent of political control, i.e. Ministry of Sports and all its governing representatives should be elected and not nominated, a process which favors cronyism. But the Ministry does not want to make the PCB independent and intends to keep it under government control.

At present, President of Pakistan, Patron of PCB, appoints Chairman which takes out all the domestic structure from the equation as there is no provision for elections. District cricket associations should have electoral rights to elect the chairman in a democratic way.

There should be an accountability process for officials which should apply to paid officials but presently is not possible due to honorary appointees. There have been rules proposed to enable PCB to launch criminal and legal proceedings is case any misuse of power and money happens. One can only hope that this move materializes.

Selection Policy & Selection Committee

To prepare for the future or with a view to the ODI World Cup, teams start preparing years in advance. New blood is infused, non-performers are replaced and only useful of the old-guard is kept for the sake of experience. But here again there is no indication of a steady and stable selection policy to pick enough young talent and give experience by providing with playing opportunities.

Selection Committees and its officials are appointed and then replaced or resign with alarming frequency. Previously there used to be honorary selectors, then in the recent past came paid selectors. Again a reversal has been made to honorary selectors. Unfortunately this has been the story of almost every aspect of cricket in Pakistan.

Chief Selector and Pakistani leg-spin legend, Abdul Qadir, recently resigned because he was denied selection freedom among allegations of meddling in the selection process by chairman coach, captain and others in the middle of T20 World Cup in England.

Conversely, he had been criticized for ignoring young and potentially talented players like Abdur Rauf, Nasir Jamshed, and Khurram Manzoor in his tenure.

Iqbal Qasim, a former Test cricketer and an employee of National Bank, was appointed as Chief Selector in July this year. He is not a full-time, paid selector unlike his predecessors. However, other members are paid selectors. National media reports have suggested that he and other members will be honorary, rather than paid, selectors as began in April 2007 after ODI World Cup disaster.

Inconsistent Policies

As there is no stable governing structure is in place with consistent policies continuing over many tenures; internal chaos ensues whenever national team fails to perform, for various reasons of course.

People, especially former cricketers, are hired and fired then re-hired and re-fired on a regular basis which is a disgrace. Coaches come and go. Javed Miandad has been hired three different times in addition to other administrative positions. Mudassar Nazar has been coach two times.

When a local coach fails then calls are made for foreign coaches with better qualifications and when he fails then attention is drawn toward “experienced” locals.

Firing of COO Salim Altaf, a former cricketer, without any specific charges through Governing Board resolution, who also served in other positions in last five years, is a recent example. Altaf was nominated by PCB chairman Ijaz Butt and his further mismanagement can be evidenced from the fact that he appointed his close relative Muhammad Naeem as financial adviser (a post that does not exist in the structure of the PCB).

Player Powers

This has been an issue for many decades. Imran Khan wielded great power over team selection because of his stature, leadership, and strong personality and that set a dangerous precedent. Now captains want to have a say in who gets selected and starting XI.

Before Iqbal Qasim took control of the Selection Committee, captain and vice-captain were part of interim set-up. No matter how well-intentioned this will always breed favoritism and selection based on personal likes and dislikes instead of merit. Selection of starting XI has also been a source of contention among captain and the board.

Grouping, revolts, in-fighting and politics to gain control of the team have often hampered its on-the-field performance. Small issues are made a matter of honor, like when Younis Khan had to wait for ten minutes outside Shaharyar Khan’s office in 2006 when he was PCB’s chairman.

Younis considered it an intolerable insult and walked away without meeting the Chairman and from the captaincy.

Lack of Professionalism in Players and Enforcement of Discipline

Apart from ineptitude of PCB and Selection Committee, this is the other major contributor to the team’s downfall. This pervades everything from batting and bowling to fielding. As most of the players do not receive reasonable coaching before coming to the national team which further aggravates the matter.

Both “experienced” and young batsmen commit basic mistakes, don’t know how to build partnerships, and take responsibility upon themselves when required. Sometimes they play to save/solidify their place in the team while at other times appear to be out of their depth, especially against top teams like Australia and South Africa.

One need only look at the home and away statistics against top teams to get the picture.

There has also been in recent years a problem of psychological weakness and lack of confidence. It’s hard to put a finger on the cause of the problem but despite psychological assistance from experts, this curse still remains.

Fielding is one area that has never been good historically but that is no reason/excuse for it to stay that way and for team to continue to suffer collectively from such unprofessional behavior.

In major tournaments and bilateral series, the team always successfully does enough to get itself pinned against the wall before recognizing the gravity of the situation and elevate its performance toward the end.

After losing, excuses come aplenty from players and PCB alike.

When it comes to drug abuse and persistent indiscipline, PCB has failed miserably to put its foot down firmly and penalize the offenders strongly, which in turn would dissuade others from going down that path. Examples abound.

Muhammad Asif and Shoaib Akhtar had both been found guilty and banned for one and two years respectively for using performance enhancing drug Nandrolone in 2006 only to be overturned later on appeal by PCB Anti-Doping Committee. In addition to that Shoaib had been accused many times of smoking marijuana.

In June 2008 Asif was also arrested in Dubai for carrying drugs and later in July banned from IPL for using banned drugs and handed a one year suspension.

Style of play

Pakistani cricket has been about offensive, often undisciplined, games more oriented toward talent than tactics albeit with dramatic ups and downs that come with such a style.

But under Inzamam-ul-Haq, Shoaib Malik and Younis Khan it has acquired a defensive mentality. Reflexive fielding decisions are taken immediately when faced with offensive batting from the opposition. The captain often doesn’t seem to know what to do to at least make a fight out of the game.

Domestic Structure

Currently school and college cricket is virtually non-existent. In the domestic competitions, district cricket associations, banks, corporations, and government departments alone or combination thereof compete.

Again in this case there is nothing substantial achieved and opinions are mixed on how to shape the domestic set-up. Imran Khan has been stating for decades that unless and until domestic cricket is promoted at grass-root level through district associations, improvements are not going to come, while Javed Miandad supports departmental cricket.

Quick-fixes are always tempting and a choice of PCB. A short-term solution may be found if talented young players are nurtured into mature performers. But a steady long-term course seems to be the only option left.

It will take a solid foundation to be laid first, to be build upon through years of hard, dedicated and maybe unappreciated toil. But it will have to be done, otherwise it will be colossal disservice to the Pakistani people.

But again there is no such plan. PCB's development director and former Pakistan captain Aamer Sohail has resigned following differences with PCB, and criticized it saying:

"No one, from the board officials to the team management, seems to have a clear plan in mind."

That is a telling statement.


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