Pakistan paid the price for waking up too late

Updated July 07, 2019

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HEAD coach credits captain Sarfraz Ahmed for Pakistan’s strong finish. — Reuters
HEAD coach credits captain Sarfraz Ahmed for Pakistan’s strong finish. — Reuters

LONDON: Every World Cup failure for Pakistan sparks a wave of reviews and sackings and the promise of a fresh approach — until the team wins again and all is forgotten.

The script is expected to be similar after Sarfraz Ahmed’s team failed to make the semi-finals in England and Wales despite a late charge.

Pakistan won four straight matches to finish level on 11 points with New Zealand, but they bowed out of the tournament due to an inferior net run-rate.

There have once again been calls for an overhaul of the system, changes in the team set-up and style of play, but 1992 World Cup winner Wasim Akram said there was no need to panic.

“Pakistan woke up late in the World Cup and when they gained momentum they won four straight games,” the former captain said. “It is not a bad finish and I don’t think we need to panic. There is no quick fix and the people running cricket need time and must keep the example of how England lifted their one-day cricket. I am ready to contribute towards that.”

England’s humiliating first-round exit in 2015 sparked a radical rethink and the host nation started this World Cup as the number one side in the world.

Another World Cup winner, Ramiz Raja, believes Pakistan have the ability to produce ‘magical’ cricket and says their exit is a loss to the tournament.

But he said every defeat was an opportunity to assess things and that ruthless decisions were required.

“I think every defeat gives an opportunity for introspection, so Pakistan need to do four or five things if they want to be a force in world cricket,” Ramiz said. “Pakistan have to correct their system, which can provide them with regular talent and then define and refine that talent.

“Look at Australia — they were losing against every team a year ago but since their system is strong they stood up. We need to take ruthless decisions in a review.”

The positions of head coach Mickey Arthur and captain Sarfraz — both of whom had contracts until the World Cup — will be looked at as part of the assessment.

Luckily for Pakistan, they have a crop of talented youngsters who can form the nucleus of the team for years to come.

“With an average age 24, we’re the youngest team by a long way in this competition, and that is something that we can be proud of, and I think that augurs well for the future of Pakistan cricket,” said Arthur, who wants to continue in the role of coach. “We’ve showcased a lot of our young talent, and I think the likes of Shaheen Shah Afridi, Babar Azam, Imam-ul-Haq, Shadab Khan, the list goes on and on.

And look, there’s going to be a review now, and we’ll see how that goes.

“Unfortunately it has always been this way for Pakistan — we don’t seem to be able to find that collective consistency. But my message, again, is ‘let’s stay positive’.”

Pakistan have hosted little international cricket since Sri Lanka’s team bus was attacked in 2009 in Lahore.

The situation has forced Pakistan to play at neutral venues in the United Arab Emirates, meaning the game is not so visible to the younger generation who need to be inspired to play the game.

The nation’s cricket board is striving to bring back international cricket to Pakistan in the hope that will provide a further catalyst for a revival in the team’s fortunes.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2019