Not Really Cricket

Pakistan needs those involved in its World Cup cricket team selection to keep the national interest before personal likes and dislikes. But then this is Pakistan where merit is a disqualifier both in sports and politics.

Posted on 03/11/15
By Ikram Sehgal | Via ViewsWeek
Pakistani batsman Haris Sohail returning to the pavilion after losing his wicket in the World Cup match against England. (Photo via video stream)
Pakistani batsman Haris Sohail returning to the pavilion after losing his wicket in the World Cup match against England. (Photo via video stream)

In Pakistan, whether in cricket or politics merit is a disqualifier.  Just before the ICC World Cup our regular opener Muhammad Hafeez sustained an injury, he could have stayed on, missing possibly one game only, but he was packed off post-haste so that Nasir Jamshed could be rushed in to take his place. In the runs years ago, the century Nasir Jamshed has made recently is the cumulative total of his last 15 ODIs. Lumbering around the field dropping catches and misfielding, Nasir Jamshed is way past his prime.  On his fielding alone he would find it difficult to get into any decent school eleven.

 

Condemning Waqar Younis for keeping Sarfraz out of the team because of a personal grievance is patently unfair, but when asked why Sarfraz was not being used as an opener Misbah’s sarcastic retort about playing fast bowler Irfan Khan as an opener instead was a cheap shot.  The whole exercise of sending Hafeez home and have talented batsman Umar Akmal as a makeshift wicket keeper put a strain on Akmal’s batting and made him unable to hold onto vital catches.

 

Saeed Ajmal was banned by the ICC for illegal deliveries. Saeed Ajmal worked his heart out to get the ban lifted, bowling over 12000 deliveries in three months, possibly more than he had in five years. When he was cleared he was not named in the side because “he was short of match practice”, according to Misbah.  Under pressure by Saeed Ajmal and/or Hafeez in the middle overs, it is not nuclear science batsmen tend to take chances against Afridi’s bowling. Without that pressure Afridi is presently hard put to take wickets.

 

Among those Pakistani cricketers scoring the maximum ODI runs in 2013 and 2014, Fawad Alam’s left arm spin gives the bowling attack additional variation. He seems to have fallen out of favour the moment Waqar Younis took over as coach. Has it anything to do with Waqar’s reported tenseness with Intikhab Alam, Fawad’s father, when he was the team coach? On the other hand there is no doubt that Waqar Younis has developed our present pace attack into a lethal force, we have seen that to amazing effect against Zimbabwe and the South Africans. Can you imagine what we would be with Muhammad Amir and Junaid Khan as options in the firing line alongwith the present battery?

 

Sami Aslam and Babar Azam can replace Misbah (40 plus) and Younis Khan (35 plus) any day. At what cost does Misbah anchor the Pakistan innings? The time “Tuk-Tuk” (the nickname the general public knows him by) takes to play himself in he uses up the critical overs where Pakistan have to keep the run rate moving. Those with any memory at all should remember our semi-final against India in the last ODI World Cup. Feeling the pressure of keeping the innings going, the other batsmen take chances and get out cheaply, Misbah than emerges as the “hero” for being Pakistan’s savior. Maybe our thick-skinned Captain will retire after the next World Cup.

 

Sarfraz gave a fitting reply to those who scoffed at his batting and also whether he could open the innings. For good measure he equaled the record for most catches in the ODI World Cup. If it was not really tragic it would be funny that while Sarfraz was being derided by his team management almost every knowledgeable Pakistani and foreign cricket expert (Gavaskar, McGrath, Chappell, Hadlee, Boycott, Rameez Raza, Miandad, etc) was asking why he was not in original line-up. Those who pilloried his abilities publicly should have enough shame and self-respect to fade away from the cricket scene.

 

Every cricket team needs balance but what is done is done, we cannot lament about not sending the best team. To get the right balance for the remaining matches, we may have to sacrifice talented youngster Sohaib Maqsood, who has not yet impressed in this World Cup and probably play Yasir Shah to pair with Afridi. Misbah can drop anchor but he must come much lower down the batting order. We have the talent, and as we have shown against Zimbabwe and South Africa, despite the shenanigans of the Selection Committee and the team management we have the courage and determination.  We need those involved in the team selection to keep the national interest before personal likes and dislikes. But then this is Pakistan where merit is a disqualifier.

 

Merit being a disqualifier is seen to good effect in the recent fraudulent indirect Senate elections, a consummate farce. Even though PPP was third in the number of popular votes in the 2012 elections, Zardari cleverly manipulated Raza Rabbani into the prized Senate Chairman’s post.  He may be thoroughly corrupt but Zardari intelligently uses the illegal money he has acquired by various means to play politics in an outstanding manner.  A very senior and respected lawyer says what most Pakistanis believe to be true, there is no credible description of the type of “democracy” that exists in Pakistan today.

 

 

Raza Rabbani’s nomination by the PPP was a pleasant surprise, after all we could have been saddled with Rahman Malik. Asif Zardari was only dissuaded from nominating Rahman Malik because of the openly negative reaction of the allied parties. There is no corruption attached to Rabbani’s name and he is known to be fairly independent but one certainly cannot subscribe to Rabbani’s blatantly anti-Army views.  It is a wonder how he has survived in a Party whose Chairman has not used the world “corruption” in any speech or conversation in living memory, Rabbani’s principles are therefore suspect in being selective about their application.

 

As a man of principles, Raza Rabbani must enquire into the farce that took place in the Senate elections on March 5, particularly in KPK.  This would somewhat restore the sanctity of the Senate as an institution. Pakistan has plenty of talent and expertise, whether in cricket or politics, unfortunately it is only used for personal motivated reasons. Politicians use their power get rich quick at the expense of the populace who voted them into power in the first place.  Whether it is in politics or cricket, etc, we tend to scoff at merit, favouring nepotism, the “principles” for wrongdoing remaining the same.

 

We believe we have to thank the Prime Minister M Mian Nawaz Sharif for directing the PCB Chairman that wicketkeeper Sarfraz play, the immediate reforms forced on the cricket team has yielded dividends.  Nawaz Sharif should now go one better and give Pakistan the vital electoral reforms that will bring real democracy to Pakistan.

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