PAKISTAN’S woeful 89-run defeat to arch-rivals India in the ICC World Cup last Sunday has generated a frenzied, preposterously harsh campaign by the media, especially the gutter press, against the national cricket team.
Rumour mills have been working overtime amid a relentless barrage of lethal, though largely unfounded, allegations pertaining to rift in the team, player groupings, dressing room tantrums from skipper Sarfraz Ahmed and others, late night outings at the ‘shisha’ cafe, players flouting the hotel curfew, etc.
Everyone — from the hyper-charged channel hosts to ex-players to quacks, singers even mimics — have turned into critics of the gentleman’s game overnight, making impolitic remarks, prophecies and revelations through ‘inside’ team sources about something bizarre that has transpired within the hallowed environs of the Pakistan dressing room in the aftermath of the India thrashing.
While panelists on some half a dozen channels are busy making a mountain out of a molehill, the other half a dozen continue to gleefully dedicate their entire shows to half-baked tweets from a band of loud mouthed ex-players. In short, they have continued denigrating the Pakistan team with constant negative coverage.
Besides that, thousands have thronged the social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to express their emotions, trolling the team for its gutless show in the mega event.
The mysterious yet ‘overbearing’ presence of chief-selector Inzamam-ul-Haq in England has further fueled speculations of growing disagreement between him, captain Sarfraz and head coach Mickey Arthur that has allegedly earned the ire of the players.
The ubiquitous ex-skipper, no doubt, has stumped the experts and the knowledgeable fans with his audacity to step out of his selector’s role to inspect the pitches prior to key games, render pep talks to the players, be involved in animated discussions with captain and coach over playing elevens besides playing a perfect model for the national dress.
Inzamam’s extended stay in England has raised eyebrows and some very pertinent questions such as what purpose is the burly chief selector’s extended stay at the World Cup is serving or why is he interfering in matters beyond his purview and with whose permission?
Quite unsurprisingly, the damaging reports and rumours have triggered feelings of dejection, anger and shock among millions of perplexed fans who remain unsure about what to believe or what to make of this cricket conundrum that continues to snowball into an ugly controversy with each passing day.
Having said that, it is the nonchalance of the Pakistan Cricket Board in the prevailing situation that really boggles the mind. In what could justifiably be termed as a display of crass ignorance, the PCB’s top brass and the board’s large media contingent has not as much as moved a muscle to either diffuse or counter the nasty disinformation campaign in the media.
There has not been a single statement from the game’s governing body to refute the nasty allegations of rift and disharmony in the media or to clarify Inzamam’s conduct at the mega event.
This is a sad reflection on the Board’s current regime headed by former ICC president Ehsan Mani who in his near ten-month tenure in office has proved to be a weak, confused administrator who is keen to pass on his responsibilities to a newly appointed MD. The team’s dismal run of defeats, the ruckus over domestic cricket revamp, the nasty Board of Governors saga, the renewal of contracts of the tried and failed lot in PCB, among other things, have completely destroyed whatever credibility that the cricket board had enjoyed since that ICC Champions Trophy win in 2017 under ex-chairman Najam Sethi.
There is proof that instability in the PCB ranks in the past too had affected the players’ morale on several occasions and it is no different this time. If the same set of players — give or take a few — could beat England in England in Tests, beat Australia in tri-series ODI final in Zimbabwe, outplay Ireland in Ireland in one-off Test, win the Champions Trophy against all odds in England just about a year and a half ago, what could have suddenly gone wrong with them now?
Whether the Pakistan cricket team qualifies for the World Cup semifinals or not, it is imperative that the people at the helm at PCB, along with the national selectors and the bevy of coaches, are taken to task for the awful job done and be dispensed with at once to allow the light at the end of the tunnel to break through.
Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2019