WHY are we so depressed over Pakistan’s recent drubbing Down Under? Seldom touring teams, particularly those from the Sub-continent, enjoy their time in Australia — where home team more often than not bring out their A-brand game.
If Pakistan’s past shows on Aussie soil is any yardstick then a rational cricket follower should in no way be surprised by the thrashing the brigade of Misbah-ul-Haq faced this time around. Don’t forget Pakistan last managed to win a Test in Australia back in 1995! Even the team of 1999-2000 — comprising the dynamic pace battery of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar — were swept clean by Steve Waugh’s world beaters. Irrespective of their obvious frailties in Asian conditions, the Aussies in their backyard are the hardest nut to crack, every sane mind will accept this.
So, instead of fretting over why we lost it badly in Australia, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) think-tank is better advised to adopt a look-forward approach, which — above everything — requires a clear vision.
Those who have a clear vision, always see the bigger picture. When they see the bigger, they think bigger, set themselves bigger targets. And needless to say, eyeing bigger aims necessitates some tough, fearless decision-making.
Change of captaincy is a matter of fundamental concern in cut-throat Test match contests, and after watching Misbah, the same Misbah whose side only a few months ago clinched the coveted top spot in Tests, struggle not just in Australia but also in New Zealand, a true and sincere well-wisher of this thorough gentleman, and that of Pakistan cricket, would like to see some change — tangible and futuristic.
International sport has its own ruthlessness: either you keep on producing favourable results or be gracious enough to leave the helm. At 42, Misbah, undoubtedly an upright and hardworking man to the core, it now seems, is losing the grip. No problem, everybody at some stage does. But losing six Tests on the trot (starting from the defeat to West Indies at Sharjah in October last year followed by Test series sweep in New Zealand and Australia) for a team which had reached the zenith only a while ago is no heartening omen — rather it explicitly indicates some yawning gaps and shortcomings.
Pakistan over the past few years have become masters at the UAE, their neutral venue since 2010; but outside the Emirates our team is exposed. Very few fortunetellers had predicted a 0-3 whitewash of Pakistan, who had squared a closely-fought series in England earlier this year, Down Under to the Steve Smith-led men who, prior to the Pakistan series, had been first drubbed in Sri Lanka and then surrendered a home three-Test rubber to mighty South Africa. But then the fact is: it happened, and led to Pakistan’s freefall to sixth spot while giving much-needed tonic to declining-cum-rebuilding Aussies.
In this scenario, the PCB above everything has to take up a clear line of action on the subject of national captaincy. Are personalities more important or Pakistan cricket? If Pakistan cricket carries more significance then it is high time the Board gets out of the status quo. Will the heavens fall if Misbah — purely for the sake of steering Pakistan cricket forward and giving it a fresh impetus — is replaced with a relatively inexperienced player as captain? Is Misbah, without taking anything away from him for his glorious services to Pakistan cricket during the last six years, irreplaceable as skipper? For how long will our think-tank remain in the denial mode that they are short of choice in naming the Test captain?
When the nasty spot-fixing saga emerged in 2010, had anybody in Pakistan imagined that the country’s Test cricket would rise, even survive, in those mighty tough times? So, if Misbah, a no-aggressive person, under ultra-chaotic circumstances can lead the team’s revival then why can’t any other person? In Pakistan, captains are not groomed, history shows; they appear and start the job. Some fail while others come out with flying colours and get their names written in history books. Imran Khan is the standout among them all.
The PCB, if it genuinely wants Pakistan cricket to get a move on, it needs to look forward. After all time changes and with it new challenges appear. In order to meet these challenges successfully, the Board must act prudently, of course, with courtesy, which Misbah richly deserves.
Every sportsperson has his highs and lows; the only difference is some realise it — at the right time — others take time. Skippers bear added burden: if their leadership is giving their team and nation gains, concrete, then they are all welcome to continue. But if not, it’s much better to end the journey with grace. One strongly hopes, Misbah, using all his stocks of awareness and dedication, makes the right call at the right time. The PCB’s facilitation role in this regard will be crucial.
Published in Dawn February 1st, 2017