“When things are rock bottom, they can get only better” is something that unfortunately doesn’t apply to Pakistan cricket
There is one dictum that is coming to light in international sport: No matter how bad Pakistan cricket gets, it can still get worse.
Of late, it has been hurtling from one disaster to another, so much so that the world has got used to it.
The latest shocker is the Pakistan Cricket Board’s banning two former captains (Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf) indefinitely while five other players were either banned for smaller periods or fined or put on probation. The reasons cited were infighting and indiscipline on the recent tour to Australia.
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But this is not even the first trouble on an Australian tour.
In 2005, Shoaib Akhtar was sent home amid rumours of the same charges. He was subsequently involved in drug allegations and a brawl with fellow-pacer Mohammed Asif.
In 2006, there was the famous Oval forfeiture Test. Asif was also involved with a drug controversy and Younis Khan first declined captaincy at a press conference (he subsequently accepted).
In 2007, coach Bob Woolmer died under mysterious circumstances and Pakistan crashed early out of the World Cup.
In 2008, teams started calling off tours to Pakistan and in 2009 we witnessed the horrific terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team.
In 2010, even before this latest PCB move, we had already seen the IPL Pak player controversy and the Shahid Afridi ball tampering case.
But you have to ask the questions: What’s new? Why did the Pak board act in such a dictatorial manner now?
Infighting? What about the famous tussles we used to hear of the legendary Imran Khan and Javed Miandad? What about the procession of captains we had in the nineties?
At one stage, more than half the players of the Pakistan team were former captains. If the PCB kept banning players for “infighting and indiscipline” then the list would be mighty long. Such a stringent move could well be counter-productive.
There are also media reports that certain players were involved in match fixing. That’s another dangerous path, for you just can’t show that match fixing actually took place. How do you prove that a person deliberately threw his wicket away, deliberately slowed down the strike rate or deliberately refused to take wickets?
Even if you tried to make a case out of video footage, it would fall flat in the courts. It is best to quietly drop players who seem to throw away matches at inopportune moments. The high-profile Qayyum report also ended a few careers, but did nothing to stem the systemic rot. The Only Issue:
When one looks at the larger picture, then one sees that the problem is the PCB itself. There is only one thing wrong with Pakistan cricket. That is the way it is run. Is there anyone to take action against the PCB for all its misdemeanors?
“Infighting” is a vague concept, but discipline isn’t. Why does the PCB wait for things to get out of hand and come down very harshly? It should take a cue from the ICC which handles such matters in a much more structured and progressive manner.
First, a percentage of match fees is cut for a breach, which is hiked on further breaches. Then come the match bans and finally the life ban.
The ICC's harsh treatment of only repeat offenders makes sense and is the reason why we have hardly had any life bans. Veiled life bans and fines worth crores of rupees which come out of the blue make no sense. Pakistan’s Got Talent:
But one thing which has also emerged from all this is that Pakistan has been blessed with probably the greatest talent in world cricket. After Imran Khan left, Pakistan had Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. After their careers were cut short, Akhtar emerged as the fastest bowler in the world and Asif as their most accurate. In IPL1 Sohail Tanvir emerged as the most valuable bowler.
Yet Pakistan won the last T20 World Cup final with a bowling attack spearheaded by neither Akhtar, Asif or Tanvir, but Umar Gul.
Pakistan has probably had the best pool of batsmen and fast bowlers in recent times.
There's also one more thing that people don’t usually associate with Pakistan cricket. That’s resilience. No matter which controversy comes or goes, no matter which player comes or goes, Pakistan continues to be a competitive team.
Who can deny that there's still a chance it can get its act together and be a serious contender for the 2011 ODI World Cup.
If Pakistan cricket had been run in a much more professional manner, then the greatest challenge to World Champions Australia may not have come from South Africa or from India.