Since the initial squad was announced, there have been more twists and turns in Pakistan’s team selection than a George RR Martin novel. A lot of the decisions made by the selection committee are based on media pressure rather than their actual research and opinion. And in rare cases they do take a stance and if those backfire, the selectors are never ready to own their decision. Instead they throw their players under the bus.
There is no point in blaming the selection of the team during the tournament but the lack of professionalism and accountability is beyond comprehension. This trait trickles down from top to bottom; you see it in the players as well. There is a clear lack of planning and everything is about evading culpability and shifting blame to someone else.
Umar Akmal accusing his lack of growth on the dearth of opportunities provided to him in the top order and Waqar Younis criticising Akmal for failing to deliver when he did get the chance (and all of this done publicly) is just another example of how everyone in the set-up plays the victim card.
Pakistan cricket team is like a stack of dominos, if one falls, all follow suit. Case in point; when Sharjeel Khan was taking the New Zealand bowlers to the cleaners, Ahmed Shehzad looked like a world beater with a strike rate of 137.5. Post Sharjeel’s dismissal, Shehzad’s strike rate plummeted to 79.1. Sharjeel got out in the 6th over and Pakistan only managed 3 fours and 1 six in the remaining 14.
Khalid Lateef, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik and Sarfraz Ahmed didn’t hit a single four or six between them in 54 deliveries. Apart from Shahid Afridi, it appeared as if no one else wanted to even try and play a shot in anger.
Rotation of strike in the middle overs has been Pakistan’s Achilles heel but Pakistan being Pakistan found a new weakness, despite playing one fewer dot ball than New Zealand between the 7th and 16th over, Afridi’s men scored 17 runs fewer in that period. Instead of taking the responsibility, Pakistan batsmen kept waiting for their partners at the other end to take the game to New Zealand and in the process displayed the personae of their management and selection committee.
The bowling was no different. On a day when Mohammad Amir wasn’t at his best and went at 10.25 per over, Mohammad Irfan and Afridi went at 11.50 and 10, respectively. Imad Wasim strangled the New Zealanders while Mohammad Sami bowled like he did during the PSL. Combined, the two gave away only 49 runs in their 8 overs and yet Pakistan had to chase a total in excess of 180.
Imad and Sami followed a more planned script, both stuck to their lines and lengths even when they were put under pressure by the Kiwi batsmen. Imad didn’t bowl a single variation delivery in his first three overs, while Sami was the most consistent out of the three fast bowlers in terms of length in his first three overs before going for Yorkers in his fourth.
Eventually Pakistan ended up losing by 22 runs and inevitably the blame games started. Kamran Akmal denied Umar Akmal asking him to go up the order and blamed the entire thing on Imran Khan after Waqar’s comments; Waqar blamed Shehzad and Umar for the defeat.
The coach didn’t stop there. Waqar claimed he had pointed out the issues in the team to the people in charge and will do so again if they listen; Afridi is again disappointed in his batsmen; the selection committee is about to be sacked but rest assured most of the members of this selection committee will be part of the board in one capacity or other.
Pakistan have made more changes to their limited-over squad than most teams over the last three years with no improvement, in fact the results have gone south. The players aren’t “the constant”, the management is, and the people who make these decisions are.
Yet the players will get all the denunciation while the likes of Intikhab Alam will come out of this unscathed in a month or two despite doing what no professional manager in the world would do, i.e. criticise his captain during a tournament and completely distance himself from any wrong decision made.
None of the leaders of this team, including the captain, has been able to soak up any criticism. Instead they shrug the responsibility off their shoulders and blame everything on everyone else. The eternal question surrounding Pakistan cricket is: if everyone is the victim then who is the culprit? Even the chairman of the cricket board has played the victim card, so make up your own mind.