“Tip of the Iceberg”?

February 12, 2017 | By

After the Pakistan Cricket Team’s assignments for the year 2016 and the beginning of 2017 which commenced with the New Year Test in Australia and the ODIs and the truncated (thanks to the ridiculous scheduling by the PCB) One Day Regional tournament in Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Karachi.

Because of the extremely cold and inclement weather in the north at least 10 of the “league” matches had to be abandoned without a ball being delivered. Sanity prevailed at last and the semi finals and final were shifted to the more balmy and salubrious climes of Karachi.

Briefly put it can be said that 2016 has been a goodish year for Pakistan Test Cricket. The series against England contrary to all predictions and expectations was a roaring success. Watched by full houses (it was an absolute delight and utter joy to watch almost 20000 to 25000 thousand spectators jamming the stands in the smallish English grounds) at all four venues it restored Pakistan’s image which had been badly mauled in 2010.

The players played brilliantly and behaved impeccably both on and off the field. There was not a single instance when a Pakistan player was “accused” of misconduct on the field under the strict ICC regulations. The referees had a relaxed time.

Off the field they behaved so well that the five strong Media Team led by the PCB Chairman were never put to test or into an embarrassing situation.  The series ended 2-2. England winning at Birmingham and Manchester and Pakistan winning in London on the north and south side of the River Thames at Lord’s and the Oval.

Pakistan squeezed past India to claim the Numero Uno position in the ICC test rankings and sometime later Misbah was presented the mace for this achievement. The team made every Pakistani proud. There was nothing but praise and admiration from the English media and public. It had been a good idea by the PCB to send the squad three weeks early to get acclimatized. This move did pay dividends.

West Indies, in spite of smarting under pressure of their board and other matters, at “home” in UAE offered resistance after the loss of the first two Tests. They hit back with a grand five wicket victory at Sharjah to really shake the confidence of the World No. 1 Test Team which Pakistan had become during their successes in England. Shaken and bruised by that defeat Pakistan made heavy weather of their tour of New Zealand.

It was difficult and taught some stiff lessons to our players when Willaimson and his Black Caps handed a 2-0 defeat to the Pakistani batsmen who did not have a clue of how to deal with the speed, swerve, seam and swing of Boult, Southee, Grandhomme, and Wagner. The bowlers were punished by debutant Rawal, Williamson, Latham and Taylor. This series defeat also dethroned them from No. 1 ranking with India winning match after match on their tailor made spinning pitches at home and regaining the top slot.

Pakistan flew across the Tasman Sea from a windy and cold New Zealand to the more balmy and salubrious climes of Australia. They arrived a week in advance of their only warm up match against a Cricket Australia XI  at Cairns which is in Northern Queensland about 1000 miles from Brisbane. They won without much effort by 201 runs. Taking nothing away from the win it must be mentioned that the Australian line up comprised unknown and untried players. The Brisbane Test is now part of history; it was one of those “could have been” but it was not to be – the “Great Chase” almost came off.  The Boxing Day at Melbourne and the “New Year” Sydney Test were surrendered meekly. The ODIs were lost 1-4.

Pakistan require to pull their socks up in the white ball formats both ODIs and T/20s in which their performances have continued on the slide; the longer 5 day versions also need to be looked at seriously as we have lost six test matches in a row. The captaincy as well as the team compositions have been a cause for concern. Misbah-ul-Haq who has now done a tenure of six years with great success though mainly “at home” in the UAE.

Misbah should have retired after the tour of England when he was still basking in the glory of success. But few do that, although Sangakarra, Jayawardene and now Alistair Cook  have all taken the correct decisions. Misbah on the other hand is influenced and confused by outside pressures including family and from the confused Chairman of the PCB who keeps “pleading” with him to continue; why? only he can answer this question.

PCB made the mistake which is criminal if made in the corporate world of not grooming successors. Misbah is mature, responsible and intelligent enough to make up his own mind. Otherwise I am afraid he will end up like a few others who were either removed unceremoniously or “bargained” a deal with the PCB.

Azhar Ali who, not only was not an automatic choice in the playing ODI team but was never captaincy material should also have gone after the drubbing by England. But he was misled by the results against the West Indians in the UAE. He and the PCB learnt their lesson after the Australians handed them a comprehensive 4-1 defeat. That one win saved them the ignominy of slipping to No 9 in the ICC rankings. Azhar resigned or was asked to resign from the ODI stewardship as well as the 2IC of the Tests. And Sarfaraz was named in his place as the ODI captain but not as the Test vice captain.

The much maligned domestic cricket of Pakistan continues to produce match winners and exciting cricketers as it has done since 1948. If you look up Pakistan’s cricket history it will be evident that most, in fact, all top Pakistan performers are home grown products. Initially they were basically from Lahore and Karachi but gradually as cricket became popular throughout the country brilliant cricketers came from far flung areas stretching from Karachi to Khyber.

There are some leading cricketers from the KPK, FATA, the smaller cities and towns of the Punjab who have donned the Pakistan colours and performed creditably. Those who went and played for English counties had first made their mark in domestic and international cricket for Pakistan.

Counties are not for coaching; they pick up players from foreign lands who have performances and talent and “polish” and “fine tune” them. We must cease criticizing our domestic cricket just to be fashionable. Domestic cricket is criticized by those who have not participated in, or contributed to, it.  There is nothing wrong with our domestic scene except the lack of interest by those who matter and the administration.

A cursory glance at the National Stadium Karachi or the Rawalpindi Stadium is heartbreaking. These are almost in ruins. The stands, the roofs, the seats, the gates, the facilities are fit to be handed over to the archives department. Soon they will compete with Mohenjo daro, Taxilla and Harappa.

As this piece is being written the second edition of the HBLPSL is in progress. The opening ceremony surpassed any other for such events including the Olympics. It must have cost “an arm and a leg”. The various other responsibilities are also outsourced – like catering, accommodation, transport, security, accreditation, ticket printing and sale, as well as broadcasting and telecasting.

I cannot swear for the veracity but it is said that there is heavy Indian involvement in all activities of HBLPSL. Who cares? After all it the Indian Premier League which HBLPSL Management are imitating and competing with.

The HBLPSL has been shaken and soured no sooner had it begun by “corruption” news and some half baked actions. It will be too early and unfair to comment unless and until more details are available and events unfold. I pray and hope that we have seen and heard the last of this. But I am afraid as reports continue to flow from across the Khaleej it appears that this is the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

This is an example of how Pakistan cricket can be run professionally, efficiently and smoothly. The PSL Marketing and Media Divisions are cracker jack units who do a magnificent job. That is why the PSL, we are informed, is cash rich with overflowing coffers, and satisfied stake holders. That is why it is a good idea to make it a separate corporate entity. If only their PCB counterparts could follow could emulate their PSL colleagues. A couple of examples should suffice.

During the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Final at Karachi there was no evidence of any effort in marketing or media fields by the PCB. As such there was no spectator, no advertising, not even the minimal security. No accreditation was required or any passes for vehicles. In any case the car park is in shambles.

No PCB official was in evidence except for the skeleton NSK staff. Let us put these things in order or are we also shifting the domestic cricket off shore, instead of bringing back international cricket to Pakistan? Identical was the case during the Regional One Day Tournament in Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Karachi.

Unlike this tournament Departmental One Day Tournament was not covered either by National Radio or Television. PCB should ensure that all domestic cricket is covered by the TV and Radio Channels. When signing the lucrative Broadcasting deals (be they with Indian controlled 10 Sports) PCB should – like the other Boards – make it compulsory for domestic cricket to be covered as well International events.

Chishty Mujahid

Chishty Mujahid is an author at ScoreLine and has written numerous articles published at ScoreLine.org.

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