INSIGHT AND FORESIGHT

May 5, 2015

IS THIS CRICKET?

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 6:57 am

Fallacies of simplification are seldom true; in case of Pakistani cricket, it is. Any analyst or critic would agree with Shoaib Akhtar, the Rawalpindi Express that ‘what ails Pakistan ails cricket’. Poor cricket is a reflection of bad governance and mismanagement at large.

Post 1971, organisational structures in all spheres have been encroached by personalities, cults, self-interests, greed and power. Nepotism, jobbery, exploitation and gerrymandering for influential groups have taken a toll on the country’s constitution, political parties, governmental bodies and sports organisations. The culture of political bribery and gratification promoted insertion of handpicked goons to disrupt organisational behaviour and ethics and by implication performance. This is precisely what ails Pakistan down to the fields of sports and every activity. It can be argued by the same measure, that two very strong fighters by sheer force of personality in absence of organisational structures made Pakistan the world’s cricket champion in 1992.  Pakistan is dominated by personalities and individual whims rather than a systems approach based on ethical behaviour.

It is evident that cricket in Pakistan passed into the hands of individuals with doubtful credentials after 1992. Even in 1992, some individuals stood like a barrier against self-interest. Thereafter, cricket has never recovered from the perennial lows. Intrigues in the cricket associations, deliberately planted fault lines within teams, poor on field management, nepotism and dishonesty sustain a system of incompetence to promote unbridled power. To borrow from K W Craik in his Nature of Explanation, they form adaptations by narrowing and distorting environments until their conduct appears adequate rather than by altering their minds, capabilities and conduct while enlarging knowledge to cope with larger, changing and challenging environments. Hence with such lows of organisational and ethical behaviour, the miracles of 1992 cannot be expected too often. Cricket management in Pakistan is plagued by parasitic diseases that sustain lows for parasites to thrive.

World Cup 1992 will be best remembered for the bright purple patch Pakistan hit in the Round Robin match against Australia to successively defeat Sri Lanka and New Zealand. In the first five matches Pakistan only won a match against Zimbabwe and managed to scrap a point during a losing match against England lost to rain. Rejuvenated, Pakistan won successive three matches against Australia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand. An Australian win put West Indies out of contention and Pakistan edged passed Australia on a better run rate to qualify for semi-finals. Power hitting by a sick Inzamam ul Haq against New Zealand took Pakistan to the finals. In the finals it was an all-round performance led by a physically unfit captain and vice-captain. In the last two matches the trio of Imran, Miandad and Inzamam were on medications, played with sheer dedication, defied odds and won the cup. Aqib Javed with consistency gave the hope. Come 2015. There are no Imran Khan and Miandad. Hitters lack the class, technique and composure of Inzamam. Pinch hitting is a lost game. Bowlers are undiscovered.

An analogy and empiricism of how the rot set in is interesting.

In the 1996 world cup Waseem Akram the captain mysteriously sat out the quarterfinals while Waqar Younis conceded 40 runs in his last two overs to Ajay Jajeda. What followed were allegations of match fixing.

Pakistan had the best ever team in world cup 1999 led by Wasim Akram. They conceded an easy victory to Bangla Desh and played timidly against Australia in the finals. With the likes of Salim Malik, Saeed Anwar, Ijaz Ahmad, Muhammad Yousaf, Inzamam and the hard hitting Razzaq, Afridi and Moin Khan, this timidity still remains a mystery.

In 2003 world cup played in South Africa, Pakistan led by Waqar Younis was eliminated in the group stage. Chairman PCB revamped the entire structure to remake a new team with Rameez, Amer Sohail and Rashid Latif at the helm, only to be forced into a resignation. The vultures returned.

In 2007 world cup, apart from the mysterious death of Bob Woolmer there is not much to mention. Pakistan captained by Inzamam, was eliminated in the group stage.

In 2011, even before the match began, there were rumours that Pakistan would deliberately lose to India in the semi-finals. Corporate cricket was at its peak. A contentious LBW not out against Tendulkar and slow batting by Misbah sealed the fate of this match. The coach was Waqar Younis.

Ultimately, Saleem Malik, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Mushtaq Ahmad, Inzamam, Ata ur Rahman and Saeed Anwar were found guilty of varying degrees of complicity. But despite this cautious commission report, these names keep figuring as players, captains or management in Pakistan’s defeat in 1996, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011. History will repeat itself.

The victory in 1992 world cup remains a case study in which an unfit Imran Khan (brought out of retirement) teamed with an unfit vice-captain Javed Miandad to forge a team of small names into a world winning combination. It is amazing that this synergy was achieved in the course of the tournament. Pakistan was short of bowlers and inconspicuous names like Iqbal Sikander and Waseem Haider were drafted. Imran Khan accomplished a mission initially deemed lost to extract the best by the sheer weight of personality, leadership skills, self-example and astute use of limited resources. Had the notions of the present tour selection committee been in play, three crucial players who carved victories in the semi-finals and finals would never have made it into the team. They were Imran himself, Javed Miandad and Inzamam ul Haq. Yet these are the ones with flashes of brilliance from others that carried Pakistan through.

In the ongoing world cup, Misbah is no Imran Khan. He is a laid back captain who squanders more opportunities than he can create. His technique forbids him to change gears from grafting to big hitting. He has rivals within the team for captaincy. He is at odds with the support staff. So far Younis Khan has failed to play the role of Miandad. The master blasters like Ahmad Shazad and Afridi have heads bigger than their game. The selection committee has conceded initiative and ethics. The Chief selector was spotted red handed in the Harlem of gamblers; though I am convinced that at worst he was a mere foot soldier.

But then hopes can be kept alive. Who knows Misbah breaks out of his shell in the next four games; Younis Khan reinvents a Miandad; Rahat Ai becomes an Aqib Javed and wildcards like Harris, Shoaib Maqsood and Yasir Shah emerge as cricketers of the future. Some say cricket is by chance, others by gambling and mine by fate.

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