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Saturday, February 22, 2020

World Cup 2019: All hell breaks loose in Pakistan

PCB is conducting a review, former players want heads to roll while talk of a rift within the team is rife.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Kolkata | Updated: June 20, 2019 11:55:16 am
All hell breaks loose in Pakistan The impending performance appraisal process apparently puts a question mark over Sarfraz Ahmed’s future as Pakistan captain. (File)

The Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) Board of Governors (BoG) meeting in Lahore on Wednesday took a dim view of Pakistan’s on-field travails and decided to carry out a “robust review” of the cricket team and its support staff’s performances across formats over the past three years.

Pakistan are placed ninth in the World Cup league standings at the moment, with three points from five matches. But they are mathematically still not out of the tournament. The public announcement of the team’s performance appraisal in the middle of the ICC event is believed to be a direct consequence of Pakistan’s virtual no-show against India at Old Trafford.

“The BoG had a discussion on the Pakistan cricket team’s recent performance across all formats. The members agreed the team’s performance in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 to date has been below expectation, but expressed faith, support and confidence in the side, and hoped they will utilise all their talent and potential in the remaining matches to bounce back strongly and finish on a high,” a PCB release stated following the BoG meeting.

It added: “It was agreed, and as previously stated, following the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019, the PCB will carry-out a robust review and analysis of the side’s and the team support personnel’s performances in the past three years and submit their recommendations to the Chairman and the BoG for their consideration.”

Over the past three seasons, Pakistan have played 24 Tests, winning eight and losing 15. Their ODI performance, however, has nose-dived since 2018. In that year, they won just eight ODIs – five against Zimbabwe, one against Hong Kong, one against Afghanistan and one against New Zealand – out of 18 they played. It has been worse this term. In 19 matches so far, Pakistan have won only three and lost 15, with the other one ended as a no-result.

The impending performance appraisal process apparently puts a question mark over Sarfaraz Ahmed’s future as Pakistan captain. Sarfaraz is copping a lot of flak after the loss against India, especially for his decision to field first.

Before the match, Pakistan’s World Cup-winning captain and current Prime Minister Imran Khan had given Sarfaraz some specific instructions with regards to the big game through a series of tweets. One of Imran’s tweets had said: “1. In order ro (to) have a winning offensive strategy Sarfaraz must go in with specialist batsmen and bowlers because “Raillu Kattas” rarely perform under pressure — especially the intense kind that will be generated today. 2. Unless pitch is damp, Sarfaraz must win the toss & bat”. Pakistan team management’s decision to ignore Imran’s advice, despite picking two spinners, didn’t go down well even with the likes of Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar. While Akram ripped into Pakistan’s first-class cricket structure, Akhtar called Sarfaraz “brainless”.

Head coach Mickey Arthur, too, will be part of the review, although his term expires at the end of the World Cup. The mood in Pakistan is in favour of a change. It is learnt that the performance of the Inzamam-ul-Haq-led selection committee will be reviewed as well.

Former Pakistan opener Shoaib Mohammad, however, is hopeful that with Imran Khan (chief patron, PCB) at the helm, corrective measures will be taken. “During previous PCB regimes, especially when Najam Sethi was in charge, Pakistan cricket has fallen from the highest level to the pits. Corrective measures must be taken,” Shoaib, the great Hanif Mohammad’s son, who played 45 Tests and 63 ODIs, said, speaking to The Indian Express.

Shoaib launched a broadside at the coaches, including Arthur, who are in charge at the moment across levels. He described them as “unmitigated failures” in their respective careers. Like many others, Shoaib was also surprised that the Pakistan team management chose to ignore Imran’s advice and batted against India.

Negative mindset

“Maybe, their mindset was that the pitch was damp, although it wasn’t visible, which was why they didn’t take the Prime Minister’s guidance. It’s a negative mindset, because the technical abilities of the current (Pakistan) players are not so great compared to previous Pakistan teams,” he told this paper, adding: “They (coaches) might be Level 1, 2 or 3-certified coaches, but unless you have international cricket experience, how would you know the pressure of playing in front of 100,000 fans? This is the reason why our cricket has dropped to ‘ground zero’ level.”

The ex-opener urged the Pakistan cricket authorities to take a leaf out of Australia and India’s books and appoint a former great as the team’s head coach. But he defended Sarfaraz. “I have heard a lot of rumours about conspiracy theories against Sarfaraz. If they select a new captain, it will leave the door open for more conspiracy. Sarfaraz should be given more authority instead. His body language shows he has been told off by somebody or the other.”

Leaked audio hints at palace intrigue

There is a talk in Pakistan that Malik has formed an anti-Sarfraz group.

Is Shoaib Malik plotting a revolt against Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed, with chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq abetting it? The question has come to fore after an audio clip of actor and former PCB functionary Raju Jamil, purportedly talking about factionalism in the Pakistan team, went viral.

The audio clip alleges that Malik has formed a “group against Sarfraz” comprising “Imad (Wasim), Babar Azam, Asif (Ali) and Imam (ul-Haq)” which is trying to unseat the current Pakistan captain. The audio clip describes the group as “shadow cabinet” that is looking to replace Sarfaraz with Imad. It alleges that Inzamam has “promised” to bring on the change. According to the clip, Jamil had confronted Malik during an ad shoot and asked the latter, what was his problem with Sarfraz. Jamil can be heard claiming that he told off Malik saying: “Your head is Inzamam-ul-Haq.” In the clip it has been alleged that Sarfraz’s removal has been sought because he is from Karachi. PCB, however, has brushed aside the claims made in the audio clip. It has also threatened legal action against Jamil for making “baseless accusations”.

Sania in twitter storm

# Sania Mirza and Pakistani actor Veena Malik got into an ugly Twitter spat after the latter criticised the Indian tennis player, who is married to Shoaib Malik, for allegedly taking their son to a sheesha bar.

# Re-tweeting a video of the tennis star, who was with Malik at a restaurant, Veena posted: “Sania, I am actually so worried for the kid. You guys took him to a sheesha place isn’t it Hazardous? Also as far as I know Archie’s is all about junk food which isn’t good for athletes/Boys. You must know well as you are mother and athlete yourself?”

# The video clip that went viral showed Sania, her husband and other Pakistani cricketers in a lounge. The players were accused of smoking sheesha before the match against India, although the Pakistan Cricket Board denied it.

# Taking strong exception to Veena’s tweet, Mirza posted: “Veena, I hav not taken my kid to a sheesha place. Not that it’s any of your or the rest of the world’s business cause I think I care bout my son a lot more than anyone else does :) secondly I am not Pakistan cricket team’s dietician nor am I their mother or principal or teacher”.

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