Straight-shooting Pakistan all-rounder and Twenty20 captain Shahid Afridi said it was time authorities in the country stopped using the absence of international cricket at home as ‘excuse’ for the team's shortcomings and focus on revamping the domestic structure.
The 35-year-old sounded the alarm bells over the fate of cricket in Pakistan, saying that he was worried more about the rot at the domestic level than the return of international cricket in the country.
“I am more worried about Pakistan’s domestic cricket than international cricket,” Afridi told cricket.com.au in an interview when asked if he was worried about Pakistan potentially missing the 2017 Champions Trophy.
“If we improve our domestic cricket then international cricket will start improving as well.”
“The absence of international cricket at home shouldn’t be our excuse.”
Pakistan suffered an embarrassing ODI whitewash at the hands of Bangladesh on their April-May tour, which saw them slump to their lowest ever ranking in the ICC one-day international table of ninth.
The defeat put Pakistan's participation in 2017 Champions Trophy in England in doubt as only the top eight teams will compete. It followed a below-par performance in the 2015 World Cup, where they crashed out in the quarter-finals.
But Afridi, who completed a short stint with Northants in England's domestic T20 league and will also be one of the star attractions at the upcoming Caribbean Premier League, said stakeholders in Pakistan should address the situation at the grassroots level before doing a postmortem of international performances.
He suggested Pakistan should take the lead from South Africa who were suspended from international cricket for two decades.
“We have the example of South Africa in front of us.
“They did not play international cricket for a long time but they had extremely good domestic structure that is why they have a competitive team today.”
The mercurial all-rounder said Pakistan's domestic setup was just not at par with international standards.
“Pakistan need a strong domestic structure too. But the facilities given to domestic players should meet international standards.
“We need to bring professionalism in our domestic cricket.”
Afridi, who's retired from Test and ODIs, echoed the statement of legendary former captain Imran Khan who recently said ‘nepotism’ in the PCB and an outdated domestic setup had pushed Pakistan to the depths.
“I have been suggesting for last 30 years to revamp the system of cricket in Pakistan,” Khan, who led the team to their only World Cup triumph in 1992, said.
“The best batsman of Pakistan at the moment is Misbah-ul-Haq and he was given chance at the age of 34. Mohammad Irfan was selected at the age of 30. At these ages players are normally thinking about retirements.”
“It illustrates how poor the system of cricket has become in Pakistan. There is clearly a problem in the system.”
Pakistan will play three Tests, five one-day internationals and two T20s on their 53-day tour of Sri Lanka, with the aim of qualifying for the 2017 Champions Trophy in England.