Although the start of a new year shouldn’t have a sorry feeling, nor one should talk about it, these days the topic of the sorry state of Pakistan cricket has been discussed all over the internet. So, I thought I should also write something on this subject and here I am to explain my views on it. Before we begin I would like to wish Happy New Year to all of them who are reading this blog from me.
I won’t be honest if I do not admit that Pakistan has always been on the list of my top three favorite teams. Obviously, Team India gets all of my love and affection but if it is not playing then Australia would come next, and then Pakistan. The reason why I always liked the Pakistan team is because of its nature of playing unpredictable cricket always.
Generations of Pakistani players have come and gone, but the unpredictable nature of the Pakistan cricket team still remains the same. If the biggest example of this ‘quality’ of the Pakistan cricket team is their winning of the 1992 ICC Cricket World Cup, then the latest example is their sudden entry into the finals of the recently concluded ICC World T20 or ICC T20 World Cup. This unpredictable swing in fortunes that they bring always excites me and made me glued to the TV sets when Pakistan is playing or if that is not possible then I would keep on looking for the updates of the match it is playing.
But, for the last year and as per the journalists, YouTubers, and the ‘well-wishers’ of Pakistan cricket it has been for the last two years the quality of Pakistan cricket is going down consistently in almost all three formats of the game. Two of the main culprits for this huge downfall have been named as former PCB chairman Ramiz Hasan Raja and the current captain Babar Azam. Raja has been blamed for poorly managing the cricket overall and Babar has been blamed for implementing favoritism.
I am a regular watcher of YouTubers from Pakistan like Sawera Pasha, Wasay Habib – Iffybhai, and Rizwan Haider – Mohsin Ali. Although I believe that most of the time most of these people go overboard while criticizing Pakistan cricket and especially Babar Azam and other Pakistani players, many times I find their analysis about the same people is absolutely correct. Maybe the way they present these facts is difficult to digest but at the same time, their bitter-sounding views are actually their pain to see this sorry state of Pakistan cricket in front of their eyes.
Ramiz Raja is past now but still, he must be blamed for allowing or ordering flat pitches for the home Test matches first against Australia then against England, and now in the first Test against New Zealand. The aim of Raja was to save Pakistan from defeat at home as foreign teams have started traveling the country after more than two decades and thus the local audience should not feel dejected if these foreign teams defeat Pakistanis on their home soil.
But this tactic of Ramiz Hasan Raza backfired and despite his defensive attempts, the Aussies defeated Pakistanis by 1-0 with two dull draws and England whitewashed the home team for the first time in their history. Even New Zealand in the just concluded Test match came near to scare Pakistanis. By placing flat and highway-like tracks the biggest disservice Ramiz Raja did to Pakistan cricket is to destroy his fast bowlers which once considered as the most lethal weapon even at home. Had the intention of Ramiz Raja been to play according to his team’s strength without fearing defeat, probably the results would have been different.
All the while when Pakistan was getting defeated and was almost on the verge of getting knocked out of the ICC T20 World Cup, Ramiz Raja used to troll BCCI for one or two poor performances on the day by Team India. The ‘million dollar cricket team’ jibe was Raja’s favorite whenever India received defeats in ICC tournaments or in multilateral tournaments. Such behavior was even criticized by local Pakistani journalists and YouTubers.
Now let’s come to Babar Azam who is also blamed for this sorry state of Pakistan Cricket for handling or not handling the team at all. He has been blamed for favoritism in selecting the team and also for doing injustice to his predecessor Sarfaraz Ahmed. People in Pakistan also blame Ramiz Raja to conspire with Babar in a plan to end Sarfaraz’s career. Muhammad Rizwan has always been a favorite of Babar and Rizwan was doing great when Babar took over.
But in the last many years, Rizwan is inconsistent and yet Babar favored him and kept him in the team for all three formats. Apart from this Babar’s obduracy to keep himself and Rizwan at the top order in T20Is has also been criticized heavily by Pakistani journos. We have also seen that apart from one or two games none of the two could give a great or a blazing start to Pakistan in T20Is. Babar especially became so slow in scoring runs that eventually, Pakistan suffered to score big and chase big or small targets.
Rizwan is just an example of Babar’s alleged favoritism, as per the Pakistani press there are many such examples like this that are still prevailing in the Pakistan team. Plus not handling Shaheen Shah Afridi prior to T20 World Cup and during the tournament also has also questioned the leadership qualities of Azam.
If these reasons are not enough the two of the biggest blunders Babar Azam made on the field are not only laughable but have made Pakistan cricket look extremely shameful on the world stage. These two blunders have come due to not having an understanding of basic cricketing rules. First, during the game against India in the T20 World cup at the MCG, when the umpires gave no ball to Virat Kohli, and on the next ball which was a free hit and Virat and Ashwin ran despite the former getting clean bowled, Babar lead the protest on the field.
The rule is clear that if the free hit has been applied and the batter gets bowled he or she can take runs. But because Babar had no clue about this rule his protest made him and Pakistan Cricket laughable in front of 80 thousand plus audience at the MCG and millions more sitting in front of their TV sets. Another such incident came during the first Test between Pakistan and New Zealand at Karachi earlier this week.
Babar for some reason went inside the dressing room and asked Rizwan the 12th man to take the field. Apparently, he told him to captain the side but being the senior player on the field after Babar, the wicketkeeper batter Sarfaraz was the captain by default. On one occasion when a review was needed both Sarfaraz and Rizwan made the signal to the umpire Aleem Dar that they want to take a review. Aleem Dar although obliged but later told Rizwan that as per the rules a 12th man cannot captain a side.
One can understand that in the first instance, in the heat of the match against India and as it was a desperate situation for both the teams Babar might have lost his control over understanding a rule. But asking the 12th man to captain the side in his absence, one can’t digest that despite being the captain for a long now Babar doesn’t know rules attached to such a situation.
All in all, with such a sorry state of Pakistan cricket it is losing that charm it has created over the years for being the most unpredictable team in the history of Cricket. By surrendering to fate just because of fear of losing Pakistani cricket is hitting a new low after playing every new game. One can only hope that after Najam Sethi has taken over the reins of PCB and Shahid Afridi has taken the charge of the selection committee (temporarily) things will be back to normal in Pakistan cricket soon.
Babar Azam without a single amount of doubt is a world-class batter, but he is not a good leader. We have seen many such examples in Indian cricket as well like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid being great batters of all time but very poor captains. BCCI accepted that fact and changed leaders in the past and now it’s time for the PCB to take the call and ask Babar Azam to leave the burden of captaincy and serve the nation with his batting genius only. I Hope, this most likely decision in the coming days will again put Team Pakistan back on course and will start entertaining the world with its unpredictable nature.
By the way, wishing you a Happy 2023 once again!
Till we meet next it’s Avjo from me.
1st January 2023, Sunday