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Pakistan Cricket and Competence Debate

To establish a competence and excellence based environment the methods need to be uniform and fair for everyone. The administrators and facilitators should also follow the same path to prominence as the players. Players and administrators are two wheels of the same cart and the cart can fly not when either of them performs at optimum level but only when both of them are in-tune and synchronized with each other. 

After every few years, Pakistan Cricket goes through structural and administrative changes. Almost nearly 20 years now, Pakistan Cricket has been going through such 'drastic' changes ranging from dissolution of board, removal of Chairman, ad hoc setups, captaincy musical chair, appointment of local stalwarts as coaches, induction of foreign coaches, early departures/ removal of coaches, musical chairs of Team Managers, shuffling, disbanding and reformation of selection committee etc etc.

All these changes were carried out with the objective of betterment of Pakistan Cricket but unfortunately, it has yielded everything except betterment of Pakistan Cricket. As a result, Pakistan Cricket has gone down and down with every passing day. In the early stage, it didn't seem to have effect on the performance of Pakistan Cricket, primarily, because the system still had enough supplies in the pipeline from the past that kept Pakistan Cricket afloat till mid 2000s, though not ideally but still with some degree of respectable performances. 

Since then, it has all been a downward slide. Its not that nothing has been tried. In fact, this is the period in which probably the most things have been tried and the least things have looked to work. As a consequence, Pakistan Cricket has found itself in yet another meeting with its close friend of last 20 years, that is, the need for change, revamp and corrections. 

Like always, the objective at this point is also looking to be the same, that is, to fix the issues at the superficial level not at the fundamental layer, change the wrapping not the quality of its content and bring 'drastic' and 'brave' changes to the faces of Pakistan Cricket rather than the system of Pakistan Cricket. 

Like always, the familiar debate has resurfaced. Who should be the coach of Pakistan? Who should be the selectors? Who should be the Chairman? etc. There are countless names going around who all seem to be more than willing to 'serve' the nation by getting hired at the top most level of Pakistan Cricket. That is not only resulting in more supply than demand but also in making the decision of appointment difficult and prone to be criticised by majority as all of the contenders can never be facilitated and as a result there will always be more disgruntled souls than the ones content with the process and result. More than the fans, the most of the noise is also coming from ex-Cricketers and ex-administrators of the game and there is no sign of it to go down in the near future. 

In theory, Chairman of the board, like head of any organization, should be the one to take the most of the responsibility for the performance of the organization he is leading - Pakistan Cricket, in this case - but as funny as it can get, not only the Chairman but the whole of the board administration has been seen to be taking the position that considering the challenges and situation at hand, the Chairman and the board did not only accomplished satisfactory but exemplary and praiseworthy job and its the players who failed not the board. 

Needless to say if such argument and excuse of top executives could have been accepted in any for-profit organization or corporate anywhere in the world. In case, the board administration is neither responsible nor accountable for the primary objective of the board, that is, the performance of the team then nothing worth understanding more than what the administration is responsible and accountable for? What is their mission statement? What are their short term and long term objectives and what is the KPI - Key Performance Indicator - to measure their progress against those objectives? 

Another interesting argument that keeps coming back to haunt Pakistan Cricket is that job related competence, expertise and experience is of least value when it comes to administration of Cricket. It means that the coaches don't necessarily need to have any coaching certification, the selectors don't need to have any experience of the job and to top it all, the Chairman and top officials don't need to be a Cricketer by themselves or need to have any prior experience of running Cricket at any level. In other words, there is no need for any criteria, pre-requisite or screening mechanism to assess the competence, expertise and experience of anyone for any job and anyone is capable of doing any job. 

As irrational and unconvincing as it may sound but let's accept it for a while. There might be some benefits of that. Let's accept for a while the usual argument as well that all over the world, it is not necessary for Cricketers to be the best administrators as playing is one specialised job while administration is another specialised job and the probability of someone specialising both in playing and administrating the game is very low. Let's accept all that for a while and move on.

The point is, if we are following the international standards and norms then why we are failing to deliver in comparison to the same standards? Keeping the on-field performances aside, why Pakistan Cricket administration is failing to groom the players to be the respectable ambassadors of Pakistan and why the administrations is failing to prevent Pakistan Cricket from the usual scandals, controversies and power-tussles within the team? It probably highlights that if you have to adopt the international standards and norms, it will not bring the fruits until it is done in pick and chose manner and we might have to adopt few more of standards and norms of International Cricket. 

First of such norms would be the setting up of a "Cricket Committee" comprising of the most experienced and successful Cricketers the country has produced. The objective of the committee should not be to run Cricket but to assist the administration in aligning their plans and its practicality with the realities of actual experience of playing Cricket at International level. It should serve as the advisory and monitoring body to assist the board in formulating and execution of its plans. 

Then, the next step should be to prohibit the induction of any individual directly at the board or national team level. All competent and interested individuals should come through a system that should start at the grass-root level - whether in Pakistan or outside. Be it the coach, selector, manager, support staff or even Chairman of the board or the administration team, they all must start at the grass-root level and make their way up to the top after spending ample time at every step of the ladder. Whether its progressing through to the top as a Cricketer or as a top professional in any organization, there is no short cut to the top and every individual has to go through a certain growth path and progression process. That's how top Cricketers and top professionals are produced instead of parachuting someone at the top. 

There should be no restriction on anyone to serve Pakistan Cricket in any capacity but to make a lasting impact, they should be asked to follow the same path as a Cricketer himself does. Anyone aspiring for the role of Head Coach of the National team or Chairman of the board should be encouraged by facilitating them to get associated with any of the Cricket administration at the level lower than Pakistan Cricket Team level. Pakistan Cricket Team should not be the test lab or learning project for anyone to experiment. Instead, it should only be given in the hands of people who have already experienced the lower level of Pakistan Cricket and have proved their performance and competence. 

If the objective is the performance and the target is competence then Pakistan Cricket has to follow the already established and successful methods of doing so that are in practice all over the world. But if the objective is just to use the International norms as a convenient excuse to justify and facilitate the incompetence and dominance of opportunists in Pakistan Cricket then it may continue to mark "All-OK" and go back to what they are doing for decades now. But then, the fans and supporters of Pakistan Cricket should not expect any difference of results in the decades to come either.

As they say, you reap what you sow and if you expect oranges from an apple tree, you only have yourself to blame for it. 

WT20 2016 - Pakistan's Campaign Review

1.   Team Combination

a.     In general, team selection didn’t look up to the mark. From selection of the squad to selection of playing eleven for the matches, there were many things that could have been done in a better way.

b.     Going to India with no big turner of the ball was a mistake. There were 4 spinners in the squad (Afridi, Malik, Imad and Nawaz) but none of them is known for big turn that could have caused difficulty to opponents.

c.      In the game against Bangladesh, going with 3 left arm pacers, 1 left arm spinner and 1 right arm leg spinner against a batting line that had 3 left handers in top 4, didn’t make much sense. Considering the over all composition of the bowling attack, Pakistan should have included a right arm pacer. Had the batting not scored heavily, it might have proved costly mistake against Bangladesh as well.

d.     In the game against India Hafeez batted at number 7 after Imad. If that was part of the plan then Imad should have played in place of Hafeez who could have also been the 3rd spinner on that pitch.

e.     In game against India, decision to drop Imad made no sense. Pitch reading is always a risk and anyone can make a mistake. Dhoni misread it as well but he didn't take the unnecessary risk by going with 4 pacers. To say the least, it was not a 4 pacers pitch by any means. It looked like Pakistan was hoping the pitch to be pacer friendly rather than reading it with caution. That mistake proved costly for our campaign.

f.       In the game against New Zealand, decision to drop Wahab Riaz instead of Irfan didn’t look right. It looked a slow-ish pitch with not much pace and bounce in it and Irfan’s natural bounce made it even easier for New Zealand batsman to score off him. With his slingy action and skiddy nature of his bowling, playing Wahab on that surface would have been better as it turned out in the game against Australia.

2.   Tactical decisions – batting and bowling orders

a.     Pakistan team planning was depending heavily on toss. Won the toss only against Bangladesh and won only that match. In other matches, they picked the team anticipating them to win the toss and as soon as the toss was lost, it looked like they lost the game and don’t have any plan B to handle the situation.

b.     In general, Pakistan team looked to have gone in with predetermined and predefined plans that lacked the flexibility to change according to the environment and match situation

c.      In the match against India, Sharjeel got out at 7.4 overs and by then, everyone had realized that the pitch is not as flat and it is not suitable for Afridi’s style of play. On that pitch batsmen who play spin well like Hafeez, Malik and Sarfaraz would have done better. Instead of Afridi promoting himself to one-down, Pakistan should have stuck with Hafeez at number 3 and if the innings needed an impetus, it should have been Sarfaraz who should have been promoted up the order. He is in form as well and he scored up the order in Asia Cup as well.  

d.     In the match against Australia, Shoaib Malik should have bowled at least a couple of overs instead of Sami. Sami bowled 2nd and 5th over and went for 21 runs in 2 overs and it was clear that he was struggling with his rhythm, line and length.
On the other hand Afridi himself gave away just 27 and Imad went for 31 off his 4. Considering the situation, Afridi should have slipped in a couple of overs from Malik to give him the flexibility of not bowling Sami any more. Pakistan lost by 21 runs and Sami gave away 32 runs in his last 2 overs. Better planning could have resulted in change of result as well.

e.     In the games against New Zealand and Australia where Pakistan was facing mainly left arm spinners and leg break bowlers and our Right Handed Batsmen were struggling to play freely, it might have been worth promoting Imad Wasim up the order to either make use of those angles or force the opposition alter their plans. 

3.   Team atmosphere and Management

Multiple controversies surfaced during the tournament that could have been avoided easily. Those incidents were bound to happen negative effect on the team atmosphere, unity overall moral and focus of the players. Those incidents included:

a)     Afridi’s controversial statement about getting more love in India. The intent looked right but the delivery was disastrous. If there was a diplomatic need for Afridi to use cordial words to ease out the security threats then he should have been briefed by media management team about which words to use. It was complete failure of media management team.

b)    Unnecessary press briefing and media talk of the chairman in the middle of the tournament, especially, talking about the future of the captain and the coach. It would have had only negative effect on the captain and the coach and might have forced them to think about their own future instead of team’s performance in the tournament. It would have served only to distract the focus of the coach and captain from the tournament.

c)     Turning of Imran Khan’s meeting with the team into a public event before the crucial match against India. There was already too much media attention about the match. It would have been in the best interest of the players and the team to stay away from excessive media attention before the match.
In case there were certain reasons and benefits of Imran Khan meeting the team before the match, it should have been kept low key in the media and it should have been done with certain level of privacy.
As it turned out, video leak of the conversation between Imran Khan and Umar Akmal worked as the seed for further media reports of infighting and conspiracies within the team. This could have been avoided.

d)    Waqar’s press conference after New Zealand match was inappropriate. Pakistan was still in the tournament and being the coach he should not have said all those things in public, especially, his taunting statement on Umar Akmal was inappropriate and linked to previous point as well.

e)     On return, team shouldn’t have split and Afridi being the captain of the team should have come with the team. The fact that different players landed in different cities and received different reception is not good for Pakistan Cricket overall. At Lahore airport, players were welcomed with “shame shame” while the captain of the team was welcomed in Karachi with “Zindabad”.
This approach is going to cause serious problems within the players and should have been avoided.

4.   Overall Performance of key players

Shahid Afridi

For some reason, Afridi looked completely lost. His usual confidence was not there and looked like he is just going through the motions not really thinking on his feet and not making decisions according to the situations. Most of the time, it looked like he was just following a predetermined plan and script that was given to him before the match. For example:

-         Playing 4 pacers in Kolkata against India. Pitch reading is always a risk and anyone can make a mistake. Dhoni misread it as well but he didn't take the unnecessary risk by going with 4 pacers. To say the least, it was not a 4 pacers pitch by any means. It looked like someone designed that plan more on weather conditions and even without looking at the pitch, gave the plan to Afridi and Afridi followed it as it is.

-         Then in the same game against India, the decision of Afridi coming to bat at one-down looked a pre-determined one as well that had not taken into account the pitch and match condition which was not suitable for Afridi’s style of batting.

-         In the same game, he did not utilize himself and Malik as the strike bowlers on that pitch. He used both of them as containing bowlers which was not the right approach on that pitch. On the pitch where Ashwin had caused all sorts of problems to Sharjeel right in the 2nd over of the match, no slip was given to Malik when he came on to bowl to Yuvraj and a catch went exactly through the slips. It was again a case of misreading the game situation.

-         Similarly, against Australia, Sami bowled 2nd and 5th over and went for 21 runs in 2 overs and it was clear that he was struggling with his rhythm, line and length. On the other hand Afridi gave away 27 himself and Imad went for 31 off his 4. Considering the situation, Afridi could have slipped in a couple of overs from Malik to give him the flexibility of not bowling Sami any more, but he didn't go to Malik for an over or two as backup plan. He followed the bowling order that looked more like decided before the game not according to the match situation.


Amir is struggling in the death overs. In the first two games where Pakistan bowled second, Amir had figures of 2/24 in 4 overs and 1/11 in 3 overs. In the last two games where Pakistan bowled first Amir had the figures of 0/41 and 0/39.

More alarming is how many runs he gave away in death overs. Against New Zealand he bowled 17th and 20th overs and gave away 11 and 16 runs respectively (2-0-27-0). In the game where Pakistan lost by 22 runs, those runs turned out to be decisive.

Similarly, in the game against Australia, he again bowled 17th and 20th overs and gave away 17 and 12 runs (+2 LB) respectively (2-0-29-0).
In the games where Pakistan lost with just 22 and 21 runs respectively, Amir leaking 16 and 14 runs in the last overs is a key area of improvement. He is struggling in death overs of first innings and this should be analyzed and addressed.


Sarfaraz has been under-utilized throughout the tournament especially in the game against India where the pitch and conditions suited his style of batting. He was in form and had good scores in Asia Cup, he could have been used better in the middle overs especially to rotate the strike rate and take singles and doubles.

Shoaib Malik

Shoaib Malik’s role in the team needs to be reviewed.

Although he is scoring runs but the lack of his utilization in bowling is causing serious problems with the balance of the team. Especially with M Hafeez not available to bowl, Pakistan needs to get one more all-rounder in Imad or Nawaz in the playing eleven to give it the balance, stability and flexibility.

Malik bowled only 4 overs in the tournament and didn’t bowl a single over against New Zealand and Australia.

Ahmad Shahzad

Ahmad Shahzad played a good comeback innings but he is still struggling to pace his innings.

In all four games, he threw his wicket away and more so because he looked to have run out of ideas to handle the situation.

Although he scored against Bangladesh but against India he had no clue how to deal with that pitch and bowling. Similarly, against New Zealand he played seriously strange innings where he failed to keep the momentum going even after Sharjeel’s start. Against Australia, he picked the wrong place and wrong shot.

It looks like he is either making wrong plans to pace his innings or the role he is being given or explained to him is not right. In either case, he needs to be worked upon.

From technique perspective, he got out to same shot in 2 matches, the new helicopter shot. He is playing it with wrong technique. He should be asked to stop playing it right away or improve it.  

TV, Radio and Web Shows

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