Pakistan cricket is feeling pretty ‘new’ these days. New head coach, selection committee, bowling coaches and fielding coach are in place.
Mudassar Nazar, the new National Cricket Academy (NCA) director, has termed “reviving the development cycle” of Pakistan cricket as his top task, however, reckons the country definitely requires some years to get back on the right track.
And though the last month’s launching of PCB biomechanics lab — after a painfully inordinate delay of eight years — is no ‘new’ development by any stretch of imagination, the operationalisation of the facility, it can be hoped, would help Pakistan avoid the loss of up-and-coming bowlers in future.
Amid all these ‘new’ developments on the personnel front, the Pakistan squad has embarked upon a demanding England tour which in all probability will test the nerves of the team on the field as well as off it.
Of course, the NCA under its new director and the functioning of the biomechanics lab will take time to bear fruit, the work of newly installed selection committee, head coach and other members of national team support staff will be under the scanner the moment Pakistan under Misbah-ul-Haq’s watchful leadership start the long campaign with the opening Test from July 14.
The era of Haroon Rasheed-led selection committee was riddled with many brazen wrong calls which led Pakistan’s ODI and Twenty20 teams to constant freefall.
Today, Pakistan cricket is devastated; the team loitering at ninth spot in ODI rankings — below Bangladesh and the West Indies — and seventh position in the T20 rankings.
Will the new body headed by a heavyweight figure like Inzamam-ul-Haq show consistent boldness and wisdom to make tough decisions purely based on merit and team’s requirements?
Will Umar Akmal’s ‘exclusive contribution’ in his 111 ODIs and 79 T20s allowed by previous selection committees plus frequent stories of his indiscipline deter Inzamam and company to keep him away from national duty?
The stories of previous coach Waqar Younis, ex-T20 skipper Shahid Afridi and Haroon not on the same page proved exceedingly detrimental for Pakistan.
Therefore, how Inzamam’s selection body synchronises with new coach Mickey Arthur and the three captains — Misbah, Azhar Ali and Sarfraz Ahmed — will be crucial in steering Pakistan cricket out of troubled waters.
Test captain Misbah, according to a recent report, has not agreed to Inzamam’s idea of having Azhar Ali as a back-up opener, as the captain feels promising young opener Sami Aslam — named by Inzamam and his selection members in the England-bound Test party — should get due chances on the tour if need arises.
Now, if this report carries substantiality, the query is: after all the consultations, whose exclusive domain is the selection of final XI? Should the chief selector — no matter what — be entering the sphere of captain’s authority?
Offering one’s opinion purely for consideration is somehow acceptable, but one hopes the 119-Test veteran like Inzamam given his much stronger stature and exceptional services to Pakistan cricket than many of his selection predecessors would surely not try to impose his ideas, directly or indirectly, and that too on a richly experienced, well-established and controversy-free gentleman like Misbah whose brigade have fared far better than their ODI and T20 counterparts.
Not long ago, Waqar departed unceremoniously in extreme crisis situation. How Arthur, a hard-taskmaster, can resurrect Pakistan’s fortunes by developing a fine working rapport with all the captains and their teams may well give all sorts of headaches to any analyst.
Imagine, how Arthur will react, if due to anyone’s negligence in the PCB or whatever his confidential report is leaked. Needless to say, the PCB top officialdom would require some serious shape-up if they are to avert recurrence of bloopers and are really earnest to rescue Pakistan cricket.
It would also be interesting to see the results bowling coaches Mushtaq Ahmed and Azhar Mahmood manage to produce during the tour of England. Having played significant cricket in England, the duo should not have any excuse if their plans flop.
Though Misbah and Younis Khan, the stalwarts, are bubbling with confidence that their third-ranked Test outfit — above fourth-placed England — would be no pushovers, only time will tell how the newly-resourced tourists fare in alien conditions against the likes of Alastair Cook, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, James Anderson and Stuart Broad — all sparkling with confidence after routing Sri Lanka.
The show will explode into action at Lord’s — the same venue where Pakistan cricket’s integrity was blemished six years ago. That Mohammad Amir’s conduct on and off the field plus his show with the leather will come under the microscope is an understatement. Intikhab Alam will have his job cut out.
Plus all the ‘new’ personnel of the PCB will need to prove, practically, that they have taken a ‘new’ start for Pakistan, specifically in limited-overs games.
Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2016