By Samiulllah Beigh
While the Pakistan cricket team makes an early exit from the group stage of T20 World Cup 2016 itself, a lot has been already said against the team as well as players. I humbly disagree with most of the criticism being shot at the team and individual players. To me it is like shooting the messenger. No doubt the bowling attack missed the experienced bowlers like Umar Gul in the death overs and crafty off-spinner Saeed Ajmal in the middle overs to choke the opposition. But the point is, were both of them fit and in form to make an impact?
I firmly believe Pakistan cricket has lost its charisma of the 90’s and early 2000’s century when players like Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis Saeed Anwar, Inzimamul Haq became household names due to their sheer brilliance. But while the world has moved on by creating all sorts of facilities at the grassroots level, Pakistan is still relying on the same natural talent to create magic without even an iota of support from the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
At this juncture, people should point their guns at the PCB rather than players and their families. We must recall that greats like Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram have been screaming since decades for PCB to restructure the domestic cricket setup, which as of now is in a state of apathy. How on earth is one supposed to get skilled cricketers when there is no basic academy or any other coaching facility available to the budding cricketers of Pakistan at school level, university level, club level or even state level?
Comparing the domestic cricketing structure of the two neighboring countries is like comparing chalk with cheese. Just to give an idea, Ranji trophy in India is divided into three groups A, B and C. From C to A the quality of cricket and level of competitiveness keeps increasing. Then comes the inter zonal event called Duleep trophy which requires the best of cricketers from each of the five zones viz East, West, North, South and Central zones to fight it out amongst themselves for the prestigious crown. The matches in Duleep trophy are as good as ‘international Test matches’ standard in terms of quality of cricket, and competitiveness.
We are still not done! The Irani trophy is another epic battle between the Ranji trophy champions and the rest of India players. In shorter format (50 over format) we have Vijay Hazare trophy and then Dheodhar trophy. In the shortest format, we have Mushtaq Ali trophy and then the world famous “Indian Premiere league.”
Compared to all these trophies what have we got in Pakistan cricket to speak about? Qaid-e-Azam trophy, where a few selected teams participate just for the sake of it. Pakistan super league is the only good thing that has happened to Pakistan cricket in decades, with no surety that it will last long enough to make an IPL type impact on Pakistan cricket.
On top of this, when you consider the fact that PCB is historically a more populist and political organisation than an independent and mature one like BCCI, it is no secret that PCB appoints coaches, captains, selectors, chairman etc more based on the political recommendations and public fame rather than their actual abilities in respective fields.
Under these pathetic circumstances one shouldn’t feel shocked when greats like Wasim Akram feel Pakistan cricket lags behind 10 years to current international standards. I relate to this statement as I have always said that J&K cricket is 50 years behind the standard of cricket of other states of India in terms of infrastructure, facilities and mental setup.
It won’t be out of place to discuss the recent rise of Pakistan in test cricket. But more than anything else that can be attributed to the experience and high skill levels of the likes of legendary Younis khan and Misbah-ul-haq. The question for PCB to answer is, what next? Apart from requesting these two legendary cricketers to keep playing what have they planned on their replacements as and when they hang their boots? Which surely isn’t far either.
All said and done, PCB needs to start from scratch and start developing cricket at the grassroot level without waiting for their cricket to reach its lowest. True, no international cricket in Pakistan has had an adverse effect but, what about apathy in domestic setup. What about setting up academies with coaching facilities in all major and minor cities. Gone are the days when raw talent would win you matches and tournaments. In this day and age, even a small weakness in your technique is exploited to the fullest by the opposition teams. There is no escape! You are found out if you are even slightly weak in any department of cricket.
With the onset of separate bowling coaches, batting coaches, fielding coaches, video analysts, etc, the professionalism at the international level has reached such levels that raw talent, brute force, extreme pace, or unorthodox spin do not create much problems to teams like Australia, India, and South Africa.
The need of the hour for the PCB is to finally wake and use all its resources in developing cricket at the grassroots level and, indeed, restructuring the domestic cricket setup for the good of Pakistan and its worldwide supporters.
—The writer is a first class cricketer from J&K.