After the deluge

Published June 16, 2024

AS on many previous occasions, Pakistan needed other results going their way, and some divine intervention, to stay in the tournament. That did not happen this time.

On cricket’s newfound land, at the T20 World Cup in the US, Pakistan’s luck ran out. The rains and the accompanying flooding in Florida washed away the last vestiges of hope for Pakistan. The abandonment of the US-Ireland clash, without a ball being bowled on Friday, meant the hosts advanced to the Super Eights at the expense of Pakistan.

The US team’s shock Super Over victory over Babar Azam’s men propelled them into the next round of a World Cup of which they are a part only because they are hosting it alongside the West Indies. Pakistan, on the other hand, are regretting the fact that they did not make the most of their opportunities. This elimination, after playing just three matches, marks their earliest exit from a T20 World Cup and makes their final Group ‘A’ match against Ireland on Sunday a dead rubber.

Astonishingly, the disappointment has come after Pakistan had showed their mettle in the past two editions of the T20 World Cup, where they had finished as semi-finalists and runners-up respectively. This, therefore, is a swift regression and the post-World Cup ‘surgery’ promised by the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman should aim at revitalising the side.

The problems, however, are manifold. Critics, including several former greats, have pointed out several areas that need to be addressed. Talk of a rift within the team has been doing the rounds, and the PCB’s decision to replace Shaheen Shah Afridi with Babar as captain ahead of the tournament has backfired.

The lack of mental fortitude showed in the loss against India, where Pakistan failed to chase a 120-run target, sputtering out at 113, despite being well-placed for victory for most of the game. Against the US in their opener, the team lost all control, displaying, instead, a lack of cohesion and synergy. Questions have also been asked about the game’s domestic structure and the fact that the team could not perform despite most players having a singular focus on limited-overs cricket.

The World Cup flop show, however, does not come as a surprise. There was more hope than expectation after Pakistan had failed to inspire in any of the series preceding the tournament. The situation also shows how the standard of PCB’s prized asset, the Pakistan Super League, has declined.

PSL’s top performers called up to the national team have looked out of their depth. The rigorous training camp under the Pakistan Army did not work wonders in improving the players’ fitness levels. The question is whether the PCB is making the right decisions. A comprehensive inquiry is needed.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2024

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