Pakistan women’s cricket team recently had a very forgettable tour of South Africa where they lost both the ODI and T20 series. The ODI series was lost 0-3 while the T20 series was lost 1-2.
South Africa, on the other hand, consolidated their position in the ICC ODI ranking and is now at number four with 1713 points while in T-20 they stand at fifth position with 5978 points. In contrast Pakistan team did not gain anything and they are placed at number seven in both ODIs and T-20 rankings. with 927 ODI points and 5516 points in T20s.
Pakistan women cricket team’s performances are static and not showing any significant improvement during the past decade or so. Though several changes have been made during this period in the team management and in facilities and infrastructure, the women’s team have still not been able to come at par with the top ranked teams around the world.
The team still relies way too much on its senior players such as Bisma Maroof, Javeria Khan, Nida Dar, Aliya Riaz, Nahida Khan, Kainat Imtiaz and Diana Baig but even they are are not consistence in their performances which has hurt the team’s progress.
A qualified coach, David Hemp, was hired recently with high hopes. He has been with Melbourne Stars and Victoria in the Women’s Big Bash League between 2015 and 2020 and claimed that the Pakistan team has potential to improve their performances. South Africa tour was Hemp’s first international assignment with the team and the results have been awful, despite the fact that Pakistan team has beaten South Africa in the past.
I do consider David Hemp as a good coach with his cricket coaching credentials and experience. However, Pakistan women’s cricket has its own dimensions and ground realities which are quite complicated and need to be understood first, as I have observed during my one-year tenure as chief selector of Pakistan nation team (from Feb 2018 to Feb 2019).
One can’t view Pakistan women’s cricket like other international teams and according to standards there. Many typical factors need to be considered in assessing our women’s cricket including the country’s unique culture, involvement of PCB management, the politics that seniors play in the team, cricket structure here, the players pool available and finally the selection process.
I had the opportunity to watch the Pakistan women’s series in South Africa and it was disappointing to see that in the presence of a reputed coach, Pakistan team performed so poorly in all areas of the game, with only a few individual performances of note but which were not good enough to win matches.
In my personal opinion, Pakistan women players are good in cricketing skills (batting, bowling, and fielding) but what they lack is how to deliver their best on the pitch. It is the wisdom of head coach to get the maximum out of the players at his disposal. This is an art really and will work when you give the players confidence through clarity of mind and consistency in your decision making.
First you have to set team values as it develops the team culture which is basic requirement of any team’s success. I can assure you, this has definitely been missing in the Pakistan women’s team for a long time or may have never existed in our women’s cricket team set up.
Furthermore, I also observed that the Pakistan team was lacking specific players’ role in the team as well as definite game plan, such as employing a specific bowler for right hand and left hand batters. A few good performances came from Nida Dar, Aliya Riaz, Diana Baig and captain Javeria Khan, but they were not directly aligned towards the team goals and could not help them to win matches.
Among the primary things that need to be taught to the players is how an individual performance can be converted into overall success of the team. That relates to player attitude towards the game, based on accountability. Self excellence is the key element of team values and works wonders.
South Africa gained a lot from this series. They played as a unit that was evident by their body language and how they supported each other in the field. Their players gave their very best, especially when under pressure in one or two close matches. That is the time when a player is required to show his or her character. In a nutshell South Africa is rapidly developing as a top team in women cricket whilst moving forward in the right direction. This can be judged with their players being in the top 10 individual rankings - Laura Wolvaardt and Lizellee Lee in batting and Marizanne Kapp and Shabnim Ismail in bowling.
So what next for Pakistan women’s team? I believe that David Hemp has to redefine his coaching philosophy according to Pakistan culture and ground realities, which will help him to take strong decisions or out of the box decision to change the overall team culture. What I also suggest is this is the time to discard some senior players who have been around for such a long time but have never performed up to expectations. We must induct fresh, young talent in the team as a long term investment. It will be a big challenge for the head coach but one has to convince concerned people in the selection committee, the captain, the media, people in the PCB and above all you yourself that you are ready to work hard and achieve goals.
In this process your responsibilities will double in that you will be a team performance coach as well as development coach. I am of firm opinion that the young players in the team have potential to improve further and can be taken to the next level.
New young talent can be molded according to modern day cricket. If you as a head coach are not going to take difficult decisions, the team performances will continue on the same level and you could be removed pretty soon. We have seen what happened in the past with coaches who were attached with the Pakistan women’s team and we would not like to see a repeat of that. This is the key point which must be understood in order to make sound progress ahead.
The writer is a former Pakistan fast bowler, Level-IV Coach and ex-Chief Selector of Pakistan Women’s team. He is currently the USA Cricket South West Zone Selector.
Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2021