MISBAH’S LAST OOPS By Sohaib Alvi
Misbah ul Haq would have wanted to go with a last hurrah but all he got was more of the same; that initial optimism that lasted very little past the national anthems and then the dismantling of the plan, if there was one that made sense. And so it was more of: “Oops, here we go down again”, than any significant hurrah.
And so, as the cricket world gets set today for its showpiece event of the year– in fact the last four years – and there is the romantic vision of seeing New Zealand lift the trophy for the first time in what is their first ever appearance in a World Cup, Pakistan cricket continues on its nightmare of finding how to play the modern game.
Indeed this World Cup has thrown up the huge, in fact mammoth, difference between how we play our cricket and how the top 5 ranked teams play theirs; much like we’re catching the rickshaw to work when the others are catching the bullet train.
Yes there will be that odd, breathtaking spell from a fast bowler that we keep throwing up and maybe when Saeed Ajmal returns we can see the magical guile over the course of a session that turns the game but honestly, hope is all we’ve got.
With the departure of Misbah from the One Day scene I feel we will live even more with hope alone. I say that considering that despite all the slack he got for his conservative approach, Pakistan collapsed within a handful of overs every time he went early.
It has been an annoyed Misbah who has departed as captain and team member of the ODI unit. In his departing press conference he was perhaps justified to a great extent to ask the question if he was responsible for everything under the sun; from selection to the state of domestic cricket to his fielders dropping catches.
And he was honest too by going to a great length to explain that the helmet was too small for Sohaib Maqsood and he only substituted in his place at forward short leg as it fit him until the new helmet had been received. There were no charges of lack of support; in fact he went out of his way to claim that everyone tried their best and worked their hearts out in practice and in the actual game itself.
But he did speak of immaturity in batting and the lack of adaptability to what is happening around the batsmen. His defense of not playing Sarfraz in the first four matches was a bit patchy. Claiming that he didn’t work out in batting in the lead up games was full of holes in the sense that neither could a couple of others and Pakistan’s batting disappointed overall. He also eschewed the fact that Sarfraz was the specialist wicketkeeper and never touched upon the point as to why he wasn’t played as wicketkeeper when Umar Akmal was not of similar standard nor had had any such role given him recently.
What he didn’t hold back of course was his annoyance, to put it lightly, of some past cricketers who had become too personal in their criticism of him. “Pull me up for strategy and tactics but not for who I am” was his gripe. On cue the retorts came back from those he had directed his ire at and we all saw some stuff being thrown back.
Sad that it has come to this. A captain bullied and half cursed simply by those who have ganged up on him. That he has indicated he has set no timeline for his departure altogether from Pakistan cricket means we will be seeing some more targeted censure of his self for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile the chairman now has two pressing decisions to make. One is concerning who will replace Misbah as ODI captain and the other is the formation of a new selection committee and more importantly that of its new head.
About the selection committee first, it is imperative that we have somebody at its head who is not of subservient nature. Otherwise we will simply see the powers behind the throne running or shall we say ruining our cricket again. I mean it in the way that the old guard should return. Unfortunate that Rashid Latif gave it up so soon otherwise he or his kind is what we need today. The names being mentioned, Mohsin khan or Wasim Bari, are too soft and are more inclined to please judging from their previous stints.
But the more important will be who captains Pakistan. It wouldn’t hurt to look to the future than handing it to someone like Mohammad Hafeez, not after he failed in the role as Twenty20 skipper. He is also in the midst of having his bowling action cleared without which he is a lame duck in the team with his slow scoring and hoarding of the powerplay overs to no avail.
Wahab Riaz has certainly put his hand up and not just because of the aggression he showed. Throughout the World Cup he was the standout player along with Sarfraz when the wicketkeeper got his belated chance. You could see how committed both were to the Pakistan cause, how hard they batted, bowled and fielded in every game they played.
I had sensed before the World Cup that Ahmed Shahzad would have been a good candidate to lead but his body language and commitment, nor performance, was not that of a leader. Certainly Wahab Riaz has impressed enough to be given the responsibility, but his injury niggles have to be explored. We can’t have a leader who is absent off and on. Sarfraz is too raw and has to improve further behind the stumps when standing up to spinners. We must also bring Fawad Alam back into the side and then groom him.
Whatever decision we take should be arrived at after considering the long term. In that way perhaps Wahab’s case looks strongest, if that episode in an England restaurant with Salman Butt can be overlooked.