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Comment: Pakistan cricket team – the way forward

Comment: Pakistan cricket team – the way forward

As is now customary after every World Cup debacle, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has expressed its commitment to take necessary steps to bring the national cricket team’s performances up to a respectable level.

In this connection, a new selection committee and a new captain have already been appointed and a new look team announced for the Bangladesh series has now landed in Dhaka.

The Pakistan cricket team — it seems — is set to start afresh.

There is no doubt that it is good to be hopeful and upbeat about the future. Similar promises of rebuilding the team were made by the PCB in the immediate aftermath of the previous World Cup as well; however, what we saw over the next 4 years was the continuous tug-of-war between individuals for the PCB Chairmanship, the inconsistent selection policies and continuous changes in the format of the domestic cricket tournaments rendering them irrelevant.

As a result of all this, Pakistan finds itself languishing at No. 7 in the International Cricket Council (ICC) ODI rankings — ahead only of West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

The constant failures of the national team have been dissected a great deal by the experts, analysts and fans alike. It is true that there are no quick fixes to the problems afflicting the country’s cricket; however, linking the team’s results to an overhaul of the country’s cricketing infrastructure involves the risk of losing followership of the game which has already been going down on a gradual basis.

Read | Azhar Ali the unanimous choice for captain: PCB Chairman

Fans do not have the patience to wait for half a decade before the team starts delivering on a consistent basis; this is assuming the repair work kicks off today which itself is extremely doubtful. This means that the strategy to bring the country’s cricket back on track has to be two-pronged; the initiatives at the structural level and the steps required for team’s success in the short-term have to be carried out in parallel.

In the short term, what the team needs most is selection based on merit and subsequently, a settled combination. If we monitor the team’s progress over the recent past, it becomes evident that despite playing regular limited-overs cricket, it has not been able to develop a settled combination. The selectors seem to have been focusing merely on developing a talented ‘pool’ of players rather than a well-coordinated functioning unit. The whole point of having a settled combination is to enable each player to understand his designated role and over time, become comfortable in that role.

In a cricketing sense, the more time players spend with each other, the more they start appreciating each other’s strengths, the communication gets better, all of which eventually benefits the team they are playing for.

Going forward, the most important thing for the PCB is to get its vision right. The stated objective should not only be to rebuild a team for the next World Cup; neither should it be success in the World Twenty20 Championship 2016. The single-minded aim has to be to climb up to No.1 in the ICC rankings in all 3 formats by winning on a sustained basis.

Bringing back topflight international cricket to Pakistan is not in PCB’s hands. The only thing the PCB can do is to direct its attention towards bringing wholesale changes in the country’s domestic cricket structure — a comprehensive topic in its own right — and ensure stability and consistency in all departments including the team selection.

It should be remembered that prior to winning the World Cup in 1992, Imran Khan’s team had already become the first team in the country’s history to have won a Test series against England in England and a Test series against India in India. It had drawn 3 back-to-back Test series against the mighty West Indians, had won two Australasia Cups and a mini Word Cup in India before going onto win the biggest prize. Victory in the World Cup was not a one-off success; it was only a culmination, a fitting reward for all the years of hard work that had been put in.

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Twitter: @MustafaFairplay

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2015

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