The Waqar Doublespeak by Sohaib Alvi
Waqar Younis was quietly assertive on Sarfraz Ahmed as he sat in the commentary box at The National Stadium on the eve of the team’s announcement for the T20 & ODI series against Australia. “I don’t want to say this but I believe I have played a role in his transformation as a batsman in Sri Lanka,” he told a group of us after looking over his shoulder to see where Moin Khan was. (Moin was the one who, when he was manager-chief selector and Whatmore the coach, had walked up to the press box a few months earlier when Pakistan was preparing to chase that 300-plus target set by Sri Lanka on the last day at the Sharjah Test and said: “We’ll get this total and we will promote Sarfraz in the batting order to use his attacking strokeplay to build the momentum early on.” Sarfraz had come in at No.5 and got 48 off 46 balls.)
Waqar then went on to elaborate on how he had taken aside Sarfraz Ahmed in Sri Lanka and told him that if he can score runs in the domestic circuit he can score runs at the international level by simply batting the same way. He should just believe in himself and play with a free spirit. He must not worry about failure.
Now we have a Waqar Younis who is vary of Sarfraz’s batting skills hiding behind his pretentiousness of securing Pakistan’s asset for the future. Where is his self proclaimed call of not fearing failure? Where is the mentor and motivator he claims to be? Are we to now take his credit seriously for reinventing Sarfraz in Sri Lanka?
He is now daft enough to offer naivety of Sarfraz’s skills as an opening batsman. In the media briefing after the UAE game he says Sarfraz bats at No.6 or 7 forgetting that under him Sarfraz opened in the three ODIs against Australia back in October and fetched scores of 34 off 41 balls, 65 off 72 balls and in the third 32 off 39. The drop down pitches in this World Cup are all batting friendly so take away that as causing too much of a variable factor. Sarfraz was not played as opener in the pre-World Cup warm up games either, just given two casual games and an ODI as opener in New Zealand conditions where Pakistan lost all their games due to complete failure of batting.
Why is Waqar doing this, defying all logic and this own claims on how he got Sarfraz going as a batsman? This is not normal. Something is grossly wrong. Is he not seeing that the other option is an overweight and underfit left hander who couldn’t catch a train if it was stalled at a platform.
As such his press briefing after the UAE game contained an extraordinary declaration of why he is persisting with Nasir Jamshed when he said: “After the departure of Hafeez we don’t have a third opener”. That shows a totally befuddled mind. Since Hafeez was swapped for another opener, does that mean that if he hadn’t been sent back, Waqar entered the World Cup with no reserve opener??!! And he accepted that team without commenting on this humongous oversight by the selectors, other than the fact that he has to answer why he kept quiet about this considering he was consulted all through. Is it that Moin Khan is being readied for being a scapegoat for the team’s failure at the top, with Waqar eventually citing his helplessness to replace Nasir Jamshed when he submits his report saying he had no other choice? Not even Shahid Afridi?
But then what is to be made of Moin’s assertion at the National Stadium that Sarfraz Ahmed would be the third opener when the team was announced?
There is now the need for an assessment of what is really going on. If Moin was the chairman of the tour selection committee till the time he was in Australia-New Zealand he had to take responsibility as well for being quiet on the opening front but now that he is not there the manager Naved Akram Cheema is purely a figurehead in the tour selection committee and will not dare to overrule Waqar. The responsibility now rests with Waqar and Misbah. If we take away the fact that Misbah is retiring from ODIs after this tournament and we have only Waqar going through in the ODI set up, is he now worried for his job? And beginning to cast away the blame for what has been a completely warped selection so far in the World Cup games with Yasir Shah not being played against West Indies and Zimbabwe against which sides South Africa leggie Imran Tahir did so well?
Going by his briefing after the UAE game it has to be asked: Have the defeats and narrow escape against Zimbabwe befuddled Waqar enough to have a memory loss? Or is he just taking the media to be duds? He is already accountable after previously losing all sense of balance in the team as to play four specialist bowlers in the game against West Indies but now he has revealed an inert panic state. Or is there another game being played out as there has been in Pakistani cricket since the last two decades. Is the unprovoked panic simply a happenstance or is it part of a more thought out plan? Wonder what the odds are on that?