The Pakistan Crisis Board


A week and a bit have gone by since Pakistans exit from the World Cup and life moves on. Another series beckons; this time in the Caribbean, where other than the dreadful 2007 World Cup, Pakistan has almost always given a good account of itself but somehow without winning a rubber in any format of the game. Maybe this time round, with a squad in which the accent is on youth, Pakistan will rectify that.

In that encounter at Mohali, when the dream of a World Cup triumph seemed so within its reach, Pakistan was found so terribly wanting against an India that was way sub-par. The distinctive occasion, the hysterical frenzy of the Indian media and its blind allegiance to MS Dhoni and his men and a gnawing lack of self-belief condemned Afridi and his charges to a defeat when a decent cameo or two may well have reduced a billion Indians to mourning.

That was not to be. There was an element of surprise in the teams warm reception on its comeback home. For a nation so partial to victory alone, it was indeed an aberration, albeit a welcome one. Was it that the combined affect of lurching from one unsavoury incident and controversy to another over the last five years was such that people had written their much beloved cricketers off, deliberately lowering the threshold of expectation so that a defeat in the semis was to them actually an accomplishment? Or is it that being a champion, a world champion at that, in public perception is something considered beyond our reach? Has our pride been so dented that we have forgotten how to dream about shining at the global stage and the pluck to go about it?

Some soul-searching would be in order.

That said it was good that for once our vanquished boys were not received with brickbats but bouquets. That is a positive sign, one of maturity, one of even relishing the game without victory-always, defeat-never mindset that is so unrealistic and ends up putting such unnecessary pressure on our athletes.

Instead of endlessly pondering over that encounter or the missed opportunity, what needs to be understood is that it was not a one-off reverse. The dispassionate analysis thus should be on: why despite possessing some of the most sublime talent that has graced a cricket field ever, our achievements do not match our potential in the post-Imran era? Why is it that more often than not we end up snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and seldom the other way round? What is it that stops our boys from having a sense of self-worth and gelling together instead of the usual in-fighting before they take on the opposition?

That the decade of the 1990s was such a horrendous waste was held in the context of Pakistans politics and governance. Pakistans cricket was no exception. And the first ten years of this new millennium have not been much of an improvement either. Our cricketers or their antics alone are not our bane. (For boys will be boys, if they are not kept on the straight and narrow, the Aussies and the Poms would be indulging themselves similarly). Our sorrows stem from how our cricket is managed.

For instance, in terms of the ICC rankings in both Test and ODIs, Pakistan languishes at the bottom half at six, on the top of it though. This is a most exact reflection of the quality of our Cricket Board. Though not in an identical sequence, the same five in both Test and overs-limited format India, South Africa, Sri Lanka, England and Australia are ahead of us. These five are not ahead of us because their bunch of boys is more talented than our own, but because their boys are better equipped owing to their system and the way their cricket is run.

And we will remain where we are if our cricket, like most things in our country, continues to be run in an inept, inefficient and unimaginative manner. The quality of leadership, its credibility and its decisions all have a bearing on the ultimate performance of the team, both on the field and off it.

While deep down we are still smarting from that setback in the semis (yes, we do, or most would not resort to insinuation or innuendo of some sort), our cricket and its development have been hurt beyond belief by our total isolation in the ICC board room a gift of the present dispensation that we could have done without. While India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh developed their domestic infrastructure and their stadia some of them rebuilt, some built anew but mostly state-of-the-art venues competing with the best in the world owing to being the hosts of global showpiece, we were fated to stare at the ugly, unfinished monstrosity of a stand at the far end at the Gaddafi Stadium that has eaten up Rs400 million and should not have been started in the first place.

One would have expected that in a democratic dispensation, the system of patronage and spoils would have been shunned, and the Cricket Board members duly elected in a transparent exercise. But in our power hungry society that is hoping for the moon.

The writer is Sports and Magazines Editor, Pakistan Today.