|Player:||Misbah-ul-Haq, Shoaib Akhtar, Salman Butt, Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Yousuf, Younis Khan|
|Event:||South Africa in United Arab Emirates 2010/11|
DateLine: 22nd October 2010
When the question is asked, what would happen to Pakistan cricket in the future? On the evidence of what we have seen so far, the safest answer which can save us from more embarrassment in future is, "you never know with Pakistan cricket, anything can happen at any time".
While we're on the subject, it also worth mentioning that whenever almost every cricket commentator around the world was asked to describe the Pakistan team, they came up with a similar answer, reflective of Pakistan cricket's inconsistent nature and attitude towards the game. This impulsiveness is now commonly used as rhetoric to explain Pakistan cricket affairs.
On the other hand, our cricket board and the players seem to be trying their best to prove this rhetoric correct, rather than attempting to establish a sort of stable and reliable team or a competent organisation, about which Pakistanis could feel proud. After all, there is something called "pride of a nation", do they even imagine, with their daft actions time and time again, what sort of message is being sent out about Pakistan as a nation to the cricketing world.
Just a glance at the past one year's events involving the Pakistan cricket board or players, paints a stark and depressing picture of affairs; let us leave the spot fixing issue aside for a moment, as it is yet to be decided by the ICC, and yes, until then, Salman Butt, Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif do hold the right to be considered innocent, so leave them aside.
But what of the rest of the players to make the playing eleven over this period, like Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Kamran Akmal, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Naved-ul-Hassan, Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif (alleged to be guilty on other occasions) who have all been involved in controversies of a diverse nature, resulting in embarrassment for the nation and punishments for them by PCB, ranging from life bans to hefty cash fines.
As recently as 11th March 2011, PCB was so angry with the players, that they issued a press release, which stated: "Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan keeping in view their infighting which resulted in bringing down the whole team, their attitude has a trickledown effect which is a bad influence for the whole team should not be part of national team in any format".
And now, only six months later, all the warnings, fines, punishments and life bans imposed on the players listed above have gone in a puff without a trace of smoke, either been reduced or written off completely within a few months of imposition. The question comes to mind, does PCB not know what the words 'life ban' mean? One could be bold enough to suggest they better rephrase to 'notional ban'. The last player who is also now cleared to play for Pakistan once again is Younis Khan a player with an admirable Test average above 50 but an ODI average of 32.57.
It is indeed good news for Pakistan cricket supporters around the world that a quality cricketer is back in the fold, and people are happy about it. Yet it is perfectly logical to ask PCB how his selection can be justified to enter the team straightaway, considering that the South Africa series was perfect to further nurture upcoming and promising talent. Needless to say, the pitches in UAE are closer to the sub-continent pitches than any where else in the world and South Africa is reportedly in a vulnerable position, because their major bowlers are unfit for the series.
Let us be honest, Younis Khan has hardly managed to put up a decent score in any format of cricket during his absence from the national side, so it means he is out of form at present.
I suppose he and the board will tell us that he is now a reformed person and would never repeat mistakes of the recent past. In fact, going by recent press clippings, he has already released some statements reiterating these same promises.
So, are we supposed to believe what has been said in these statements? Or should we expect history to repeat itself in a few months time or perhaps, even in weeks, keeping in mind the volatile affairs of Pakistan cricket.
There is no doubt that Younis Khan is capable of producing great knocks when he is on song, but is he on song?
Just put his contributions during the T20 World Cup 2009 aside (which were great), his performance in ODI's has been very marginal for the last couple of years or so and his batting form in international as well as domestic matches has been very inconsistent. His scores during the last five ODI's he played against Australia were 46 (74b), 0 (3b), 12 (31b), 6 (9b) and 3 (22b) at an embarrassing average of 13.40, giving fans little reason for optimism.
One can only hope that he does far better in future matches. We also hope that he will sort out his issues with other players (main reason stated by PCB for censuring him), as only after this we will fans start thinking optimistically, hoping for a return of a Pakistan team playing like a passionate and united outfit we all yearn for and love to cheer. Once that happens, who knows, for Younis Khan may become Test captain too, perhaps sooner than anyone could even imagine a few weeks ago.
Aah, the lovely vagaries of Pakistan cricket!
Under this backdrop, the most insecure player in the Test team of the future is arguably the present skipper, Misbah-ul-Haq. If he repeats his recent average or below-average personal performances in the South Africa series, he may well find himself packing up his bags for good.
Don't forget, after all this is Pakistan cricket we are talking of, famous (dare I say 'infamous') around the world for being inexplicably unpredictable, so another twist in the tale won't surprise any one.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
Copyright © 2010 Ahmed Nadeem)