Feature Article 30/03/03
By Faisal Adeel
In typical Pakistan Cricket Board style, an early exit from the World Cup saw the face of the national team completely change. The PCB doesn’t do things by halves and they certainly didn’t this time.
First to go was Richard Pybus – The English born Pakistan coach, did not seek a contract renewal and he was not offered one, resulting in former Pakistan batting legend Javed Miandad, being re-appointed as coach of the national squad. Miandad’s previous stint ended after a falling out with senior players.
Shortly after the departure of Pybus, Captain Waqar Younis was sacked and promptly replaced by wicket -keeper Rashid Latif. Latif, who planned to retire after the World Cup was asked to take over, many believe, as a stop-gap captain for a younger man to take the reigns in the long term.
Pybus has tipped Younis Khan to take over as captain, once Latif makes way. Another player potentially being groomed for captaincy is Yousef Youhana. Youhana replaces Inzamam as vice captain, who stepped down on his own accord.
The PCB did not stop there; they promptly dismissed the entire selection committee bar one – Shafiq Ahmed. The new chief Selector is Aamir Sohail, another former Pakistan batsman and member of the 1992 World cup squad.
The first job for the outspoken left hander was to select the squad for the forthcoming Sharjah tournament and in typical Sohail fashion, he left many eyebrows raised.
Sohail, opted to leave out several ‘big guns’ for the tournament and although some of these players were officially ‘rested’, Sohail sent a clear message to the Pakistan old guard, that he will not be selecting teams based on personalities nor reputations. Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram, Saqlian Mushtaq, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Shahid Afridi and Saaed Anwar were a few of those to be axed.
Despite what can only be described as a minor revolution of the national set-up, the same underlying problems exist in Pakistani cricket, which the PCB have failed to address.
First-class cricket in Pakistan is non-existent. For the most part, the games will be played in empty grounds and will attract little or next to no media coverage. Former Pakistan captain Imran Khan, claims that one of the major reasons for the lack of interest is that the teams do not represent cities or towns – something the local fans could relate to, but instead represent national corporations like Pakistan International Airlines and Habib Bank.
Not surprisingly first-class teams in Pakistan have not yielded many international players.
Players are more often than not spotted playing for schools and local clubs and brought straight into the National squad. Waqar Younis, Shahid Afridi and Wasim Akram are a few of the players who barely played first-class cricket and became full internationals.
Without a long-term structure in place to develop the game at domestic level, Pakistan will have to continue relying on ‘talent-spotting’ at schools and at local club competitions – a very ‘hit and miss’ strategy.
Greater investment at grass roots level (i.e. youth academies, first-class teams and first-class coaches) may not reap rewards initially, but it will ensure that future players are given the best possible environment in which to nurture their talents.
Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that the issue of domestic development will take centre stage on the proverbial PCB round table as post World Cup assessments are made. They are well aware that short term sacrifices for long term success will not be acceptable to the impatient public of Pakistan.