Pakistan’s women cricket team may not be as experienced on the international stage as compared to the more popular men’s side — but their attitude and fighting spirit won many admirers at the recent World Twenty20.
The men’s side, on the other hand, appeared jaded and suffered an early exit after defeats to India, Australia and New Zealand.
And now Pakistan's bowling coach Azhar Mahmood has urged the men's team to tap into the same spirit as the women displayed throughout the event.
“The Pakistan women's team were an example to the men's team at the World Twenty20 as they played with passion and pride,” he said in an interview to Pakpassion.net.
The girls in green beat hosts India and Bangladesh in the group stage of the tournament but failed to qualify for the knockouts after they lost to an experienced English side.
However, the failure to qualify for the knockout stage did not bring the women’s side under-fire as they impressed with their energetic show in the field and displayed clear signs of improvement.
Slow-left-armer Anam Ameen also became the third-highest wicket-taker of the event, bagging seven scalps in four matches.
Azhar, 41, was hired by the Pakistan Cricket Board as a deputy to the then head-coach Waqar Younis ahead of the Asia Cup and World T20 campaigns, for which the board and the skipper Shahid Afridi had been preparing for more than a year.
The all-rounder last played for Pakistan in 2007, and since then has been playing in the English County and numerous top-level Twenty20 leagues around the world and therefore is aware of the modern methods of cricket which have made countries like England, Australia and South Africa as centers of excellence of the game.
According to Azhar, the Pakistan players have been ‘playing for themselves’.
“It hurts me to say this but the pride and passion of playing for your country is missing from some of the current Pakistani cricketers,” he said.
“You are representing your country, not your local club team.”
Azhar said that he cherished the opportunity to represent Pakistan as a coach and wear the national colours, but was disappointed when he did not see the same fire in the players.
“When I put the Pakistan shirt on recently for my coaching stint, I had goosebumps, but I don't see that in a lot of the current players.”
Azhar, who has represented Kings XI Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders at the Indian Premier League stage, cited the example of Indian star Virat Kohli and regarded his success as a result of his intense work ethic.
“We have talent, but you have to have the work ethic, as talent alone will not help you succeed. Again I use the example of Virat Kohli,” he said.
“He has talent, but look at his work ethic and the amount of hard work he does to supplement that talent.”
Azhar said the criticism aimed at the coaching staff and the PCB was uncalled for and blamed the players for not putting in enough effort.
“It's easy for the players to blame the coaches or the PCB, but at the end of the day it's how much they want it and how much hard work they put in, which will produce the results.”