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The T20 World Cup Catharsis

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Shahid_Afridi_Pakistan_cricketThe stock market can be very rewarding for some people, but it is a very risky business, especially for the uninitiated. No two days are the same.

One day you find that the buying price of a stock is rising steadily. You don’t understand why this is happening though, and you stay on the sidelines; tempted but skeptical. The price keeps on rising. You are further tempted. You wish you had bought the share at an earlier price. Still the price keeps on rising and you feel that a decision must be taken now. You can’t resist, and you invest!

Now you watch the stock price daily, session by session. The price rises occasionally, but not enough to make a reasonable profit. You wait for the right moment, but then the price ebbs just when you don’t want it to. This trend continues. Each session, your heart races, the calculator ever at hand to find the next ratio of investment needed to balance out the loss. You invest even more. Now neck deep in your investment, you can’t get out or spend further because you’ve exhausted your reserve. The only option left is to bear out the storm or pray that everything just magically falls into place.

 

Pakistan cricket is a lot like the stock market; high risk, but very rewarding when it finally pays off. It almost always looks in turmoil, but it can surprise you with magical phases of relief and joy with the team doing well when least expected.

This World Cup campaign - The ICC T20 World Cup 2016 - was not one of those magical moments. Nothing spectacular has come out of this visit. There is very little to show to the fans. No magical bowling spell to reminisce in the years to come, whose tales can be recounted to budding fast bowlers. No Gayle-like thunderstorm by any batsman. Most of the time, it was just poor fielding, orthodox batting and restrained bowling on display. It was bland and predictable. Granted, most realistic fans and cricket pundits did not have very high hopes of the team, but the Pakistan side has always had a trick or two up its sleeves. Not this time.

Strangely though, this campaign could have been a success. The bowling unit was reinforced with Mohammed Amir coming back and doing fairly well in the New Zealand series and the Asia Cup. The batting line up had batsmen who had been in the side for a number of years now, barring maybe Sharjeel Khan. Pre-tournament, it was assumed that the side will score big on Indian tracks. Similarly, Afridi had already declared that this World Cup was to be his swansong, so his motivation and commitment to his own cause, and consequentially the team’s, would have been at an all-time high. Waqar and the selectors also knew that this tour was going to be the deal breaker for them if the team didn’t perform. But the end is there for all to see. With Pakistan’s early ousting from this T20 World Cup, nothing looks right in the team or the PCB.

 

Many reasons for the poor display by the team management have been thrown about. Poor domestic structure, depreciation of talent at the local level, lack of international cricket at home and negative media speculation surrounding the team affairs are cited most often. All of these might be true to a great extent, but the timing of this expose by the coach and the captain is questionable. The results from a failed campaign cannot be merely deflected to structural issues.

This is the usual consolatory candy the fans are given after every failed World Cup campaign. There is the additional sprinkling of “We are preparing the side for the next World Cup” as well. This was said very recently right after the 50 overs World Cup in Australia as well. It might not work this time because this team management and the captain have been in place for enough years to develop existing talent and produce the results. If they have failed they must own up.

Past experience has also shown us that the team management sticks with those players, for at least a couple of years, whom it feels it wants in the team in the long run. Mohammed Hafeez is case in point. That he wasn’t international quality when he came onto the scene was not held against him. He was persisted with for a number of years till he became a vital cog in the side.

Pakistan’s strength over the years has been the future potential of its upcoming players. Rarely are they the finished product. When making the jump from domestic to the international circuit they need a couple of years to mature and become the quality product needed at the top level. Identification of the right talent and persisting with it is where both Afridi and Waqar Younis have failed.

Careful analysis will show that poor team selection and on field tactical decisions cost the team the most in this World Cup.

The side did not have enough spinners when required against India. On a pitch where anyone able to hold the ball in a spinner’s grip should have been given a try, we went in with four fast bowlers. Four fast bowlers bowling cutters don’t make up for a spinner. New Zealand, a non-Asian team, did a better job of reading the turf than those who have grown up playing on similar tracks.

The batting order was never consistent. It seemed as if every match the side was looking towards a separate match winner. On one occasion it was Afridi himself, on another it was Akmal and sometimes Malik and Latif. Everyone was given a shot except Sarfraz, despite his match winning credentials.

Bowling changes and field placements also did not reflect any creativity on the part of the captain. The existing talent pool was never utilized to its fullest potential.

Is it then a case of lack of talent and structural faults, or a lack of leadership and game awareness? Afridi has now himself said that he is not fit for captaincy. Sadly, he has realized this a bit too late in the day.

It seems as if the ordeal isn’t over just yet. There have been many rumours circulating in the side that all was not well in the camp during the tournament, despite the team management dismissing any such notions.

As the team lands back home, a major overhaul is expected. But will it be for the better or just the same stuff with new packaging? Only time will tell. Till then, betting on Pakistan Cricket will remain a very risky business, but just not equally rewarding.



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Raja is a Cricketer turned Engineer turned Cricket writer. Twitter handle: @raj_omer...

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