When England crashed out of the pre-quarters at the 2015 World Cup in Australia-New Zealand, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) knew it was time for an overhaul.
It started with stepping down of Giles Clarke, the ECB’s Chairman of eight years, followed by the removal of Managing Director Paul Downton and Head Coach Peter Moores — the two officials seen as chiefly responsible for England’s catastrophic campaign at the mega event.
With the new Chairman Colin Graves now firmly in place, the ECB think-tank went about the challenging task of revamping England cricket in a highly professional manner. A lot of serious thought, strategy and planning went into the process. Catching a nerve with English cricket, the think-tank felt that everyone including the England captain, its players and the coaching staff ought to be made accountable to some authority — a vastly experienced, respected individual who possesses proven administrative and motivational skills.
Soon afterwards, a newly-created position of Director of Cricket saw ex-skipper Andrew Strauss taking charge. Described by ECB Chief Executive Tom Harrison as ‘an authoritative voice on the modern game with a wealth of experience in building successful teams’, Strauss in effect assumed the role of a high-performance manager — a concept borrowed in cricket from rugby over the years.
Ten months down the line, a mere glance at England’s impressive victory graph shows how brilliantly Strauss has performed in his job. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, England have shrugged off the World Cup disaster to become a feared rival for all opposition.
Starting May 2015 to date, England have beaten New Zealand and Australia in Tests at home and South Africa on their own turf. Besides, they have won eight ODIs and five T20 games against major outfits like New Zealand, Australia and, of course, Pakistan in rather unfavourable conditions in the UAE. Such achievements have almost completely erased the unpleasant memories of England’s World Cup ouster, re-establishing them as a top ranking side.
New Zealand, too, have gone about a similar revamp following their horrific tour of South Africa back in 2013 and today, their attacking brand of cricket has fetched them unprecedented success.
It is a pity, however, that the bosses in Pakistan cricket have neither the time nor the inclination to carry an overhaul or revamp of the game. Sitting pretty in their cushy jobs, handed to them in a platter by the Board’s patron, they are busy working on their own respective agendas which primarily relate to saving their own skin and seat or making good money at the expense of country’s cricket.
While Chairman Shaharyar Khan continues to live in a make-believe world of statements and counter-statements, Executive Committee Chairman Najam Sethi is too busy making a fool of everyone around him with his brand of tricks that have not earned anything substantial for Pakistan cricket in his astutely-prolonged tenure at the PCB.
As for chief selector Haroon Rasheed, the less said the better. The former batsman has made a mockery of his office by conceding his authority too readily to the team management, and more recently by jumping the bandwagon of coaches aspiring to sign up for the cash-rich Pakistan Super League.
Head coach Waqar Younis, meanwhile, has hopelessly failed to motivate the players in his second term as coach. As one of the greats of the game, one would have liked him to be a fatherly figure for the players who instilled in them the much-needed self-belief and confidence besides creating a congenial yet competitive environment in the dressing room.
Instead, Waqar has struggled to look beyond his ego, often getting into personality clashes with his players and destroying their morale with too much experimentation and reshuffle in the batting order.
In stark contrast, England’s Australian-born coach Trevor Bayliss and New Zealand’s Mike Hesson — who never got to represent their native countries at the international level — have literally transformed their units into world beaters from the craven sides they were. Their success stems from excellent man-management and inter-personal skills besides a mature approach at all times with a firm belief in the primacy of the captain and never letting their emotions ride the team decisions.
Hesson describes the current New Zealand team culture as far removed from 2013 when South Africa had rolled New Zealand for 45 in a Test innings two years ago. “The previous pattern of a top-order failure leading to an innings collapse has now been replaced by a culture where New Zealand believe they can beat any team and the image of a side filled with individual performances has been turned into a team effort culture,” he said in a recent interview.
What Hesson is stating is certainly no rocket science. However, given the sort of no-brainers Waqar, Mushtaq, and others have been coming up with after the team’s numerous defeats, it seems that even common sense eludes them at most times.
The fact of the matter is that the PCB and the team management have been looking at Pakistan cricket through the wrong end of the telescope. That’s the reason that while the T20 World Cup is barely five weeks away, we are a good five years behind and still playing catch-up, stuck possibly with the most unsettled ODI and T20 combination in world cricket.
The unfortunate aspect of it all is that no one in Pakistan cricket is answerable to anyone, no matter how big their sins. Everyone, from the PCB officials to the team management, the captains and the players love to have it their own way and get away with it too. It is only the media they fear and are somewhat accountable to and therefore it is imperative for the media to keep the grilling going.
The writer is Sports Editor, Dawn
Published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2016