The winds of change are blowing through Pakistan cricket after the retirements of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan.
Its effects were there to see at Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where the first and second Tests were played against Sri Lanka. The bowling lineup was different. Three fast bowlers and the lone spinner as opposed to Misbah’s spin heavy lineup. A calm and calculated captain was replaced by one who panicked at key moments of the game.
There was a new slip cordon instead of a smiling Younis Khan at second slip gleefully accepting any edges heading his way. And there was a frustrated Asad Shafiq dropping almost every catch coming his way. Eventually, and for the very first time, Fortress Abu Dhabi was breached.
The stronghold laid down brick by brick under Misbah’s leadership was knocked down with full force.
This fall from fortune is not the first time this has happened in Pakistan cricket, and judging by past trends, it may not be the last. Every time an era of stability has ended, it has been replaced by a turbulent one, not only lacking in sense of direction but any sense at all. We have never had a succession plan in place, at least not a good one.
Without a doubt, Pakistan has played some of its best cricket during these turbulent eras.
But as Table 1 shows, eras of success were far and few after a legendary captain. It clearly demonstrates the inability of the game’s administrators to cope with change. They were not prepared for what was to follow once the captain decided to call it a day. The impact of their short-sightedness and poor decision-making abilities is clearly visible through the tables below.
Pakistan’s defeat in the UAE follows a particular trend: the man at the helm after a legendary one has faltered
The worst phases in terms of results have been those following the retirements of Abdul Hafeez Kardar, Hanif Mohammad and Inzamam-ul-Haq. Unsurprisingly, there were frequent changes in captaincy within short periods of time after these captains left.
Arguably, the post-Inzamam era was the worst, in which no series was won and five different captains appointed in a span of three years. Comparatively, the record is fairly good in the period following the retirement of Mushtaq Mohammad, or so it seems.
If the series victory at home against a lowly ranked Sri Lanka is excluded, we are left with a rather poor Win/Loss ratio of 0.40 during this phase.
The results in the post-Imran era, though, were indeed very impressive, in fact even better than those during Kardar, Hanif and Inzamam’s reigns. The issues here, however, were as complex as the results were good. Captains, players, coaches, selectors and administrators kept changing repeatedly during these 11 years, and the Golden Generation of Pakistan cricket was lost amid this chaos.
A generation worthy of ruling world cricket is now simply remembered for being enigmatic and unpredictable.
As the golden era was petering out, it coincided with the rise of one of the greatest teams to ever play the game, Steve Waugh’s Australia. To reach this pinnacle, Cricket Australia (formerly Australian Cricket Board) started laying the groundwork back in the 1980s during the Dark Ages of Australian cricket.
Among other major changes, Allan Border was appointed as captain in 1984 and Bob Simpson as coach. Together these two remained at the helm of the Australian cricket team for a whole decade.
When Border retired, Mark Taylor was appointed as captain, and led successfully for another 5 years. In 1999 the captaincy was finally handed over to Steve Waugh. It was a well thought out plan which was executed to perfection, and the results are etched in history for all eternity.
Expecting something similar to happen in Pakistan cricket would be naïve, foolish even. What we should expect though is a change from the history which has repeated itself time and again. This is after all the generation moulded by Misbah and Younis.
If they have indeed learned anything from the two great men, they might not disappoint. Hopefully this time, a change will come; a change worth remembering.
Published in Dawn, EOS, October 15th, 2017