Pakistan Cricket – Changes For The Better or Worse?
Pakistan cricket team is heading for a change that has come at the right time. The whole country is feeling better on the ouster of Misbah-ul-Haq than on the naming of Mohammad Hafeez as the captain of the Twenty20 side, but will that make things better or worse? Will Mohammad Hafeez be able to succeed where Misbah couldn’t? It’s a debate that is going around, and one feels that had the selectors did their bit honestly, the debate would have never happened.
My argument is simple – any team with former captain Shoaib Malik and Shahid Afridi in it will always have infightings, groupings and will be looked at with doubt. Shoaib Malik may be the most successful all-rounder in the domestic circuit but then he is also the most successful captain. Shouldn’t he have been the skipper since most of the players in the squad are from his Sialkot Stallions side? No. In fact he shouldn’t have been in the side as no team needs a player who has a political backing rather than merit to support his claims. He will always be an influence on the youngsters and that will affect the team collectively. One must remember that during the team’s tour to New Zealand a couple of years back, former test cricketer and commentator Ian Smith termed him as a cricketer who ‘can’t bowl, can’t field and can’t bat!’
As for Shahid Afridi, he may be popular in the media and in his fans but no captain would want him to influence the team in his usual bad way. In his autobiography Controversially Yours, Shoaib Akhtar names Afridi as the mole in the side, who leaks news to the media so that they can return the favour when he is in trouble. Be it chewing the cricket ball, tampering with the pitch or beating a fan who was miles away from his daughter, Afridi has always received benefit of the doubt from the media. He may be a good cricketer, but his influence is anything but good. He either needs to show that he has matured as a cricketer after 16 years or pave way to youngsters who are waiting for him to retire.
One must be happy that so many youngsters have been included in the Twenty20 squad, but there are a few who could have been avoided like Shakeel Ansar, the new wicket keeper in the side. The guy from Sialkot will turn 34 this November and has no prospect in any form of the game, yet he was named due to his recent performance. Fair enough. But then, Mohammad Sami managed to take just one wicket in the recent T20 domestic event, and his inclusion in the format is based on his performance in the Bangladesh Premier League. Interesting…
Cricket enthusiasts may criticize the return of Faisal Iqbal in the Test side but for me, he remains a better choice than Shoaib Malik. He is an excellent fielder and had a great season with the bat. In fact, when he was dropped from the side a couple of years back, he was in good nick and managed to score half centuries and scores in 40s Down Under in conditions that were alien to him. What stuns most of the cricket fraternity is the return of Imran Farhat who has been tried, tested and labelled as a failure. The only logic behind his inclusion is the fact that most of the selectors are friends of his father-in-law Mohammad Ilyas who was the predecessor of the current chief selector Iqbal Qasim!
On the whole, three separate Pakistan teams will depart for Sri Lanka later this month, a first in the history of Pakistan cricket. A few extra steps here and there would have ensured a winning combination, and one hopes that in the two Twenty20s Internationals, five ODIs and three Tests, Pakistan manages to emerge as a victorious side, rather than a troubled team.