As if the sacking of the Chief Justice of Pakistan by President General Pervez Musharraf and attacks on media offices to prevent them from reporting the public’s retaliation by Pakistani Police had not brought enough disgrace for Pakistanis around the world, the Pakistani cricketers then hit the another nail in the coffin.
The Pakistani defeat will be remembered as one of the darkest days in the history of Pakistan cricket, which, on the other hand, the Irish will celebrate their historic victory as a gift from Pakistani cricketers on St Patrick’s day.
The shocking death then followed of 58-year-old South African Pakistani coach, Bob Woolmer, who died shortly after the humiliating defeat of Pakistan by the new Irish cricket team. Though Bob Woolmer had a history of problems relating to diabetes and breathing, according to close sources and his family, he died due to unbearable stress.
A loss after a 100 per cent effort and a fight to the end is understandable and acceptable to everyone, however, a hefty defeat where there was no team planning or strategy apparent to the cricket fans creates suspicion. The loss against Ireland in the preliminary round is not just another lost match, rather it is a great shame for Pakistan which has now become part of cricketing history.
It is universally believed that chance and luck plays a vital role in wining and losing a game of cricket but the way the Pakistani cricketers performed is beyond mere chance or luck. In one game they may win with unbelievable margins and a determined display of sparkling batting and bowling and in the very next one they put up a dismal, pathetic show and are comprehensively routed. Losing a match badly and creating upsets in big tournaments is common practice for Pakistani cricket.
This is not the first time the Pakistani cricketers have played with the emotions of millions of cricket fans. On several occasions, Pakistan was defeated badly by other teams. The Pakistani cricket team humiliated the entire cricket-loving Pakistani nation and disappointed countless cricket lovers around the world. They showed none of the guts, courage or fighting spirit that would be expected from a top cricketing nation.
The personal excuses from the senior players, the mysterious injuries, the strange team selection, a dispute over the captaincy and then a rift between captain, coach and management have been setbacks for the Pakistani cricket team. The involvement of senior players in drug use, the banning of senior players due to bad behaviour and now a poor, substandard world cup first round match had traumatised Bob Woolmer. He could not bear any more and he lost his life. It has been a disgrace for the entire Pakistani nation.
With every defeat over the last three years, the Pakistani cricket officials have come out with the excuse that they were preparing for the World Cup and were trying different strategies. Prior to the World Cup, the speedsters, Shoaib Akhter and Mohammed Asif, were found to be involved in drug use. Shahid Afridi was banned for his unacceptable behaviour during a one-day game in South Africa.
Even during the match against Ireland the attitude of the opening bowler Umar Gul was arrogant and disgusting. He stared at the Irish batsmen during his bowling spell as if he could destroy the entire batting line. It was an unnecessary, arrogant attitude which left him empty handed.
The favouritism and politics in Pakistani cricket is a major drawback in promoting fairness and professionalism.
One big reason for the unprofessional and ill-mannered behaviour is that most of the Pakistani cricketers, in the recent years, have not had a good education. They may have a superb natural cricketing talent but their education is lacking when it comes to understanding the ethics and responsibilities associated with being a national representative.
As an example, the captain, Inzamam ul Haq, has been playing international cricket for Pakistan for the last 17 years but he can not speak proper English. Of course, it is no offence to speak in just your own language, however, even when he speaks his own national language (Urdu) he struggles to speak sensibly. He has poor communication and leadership skills.
A high level of cricketing skill and a long time as a team member do not automatically satisfy the criteria for captain of a team which represents one’s country internationally. Pakistan won the 1993 World Cup because Imran Khan had the ability to lead the team as a captain. He is an impressive personality with a high-level of communication and leadership skills. And then he had players like Javed Miadad, Wasim Akram and Amir Sohail in his squad.
Pakistani President Musharraf tends to readily sack high-officials. This is a real opportunity for him to take immediate, strong action against the present team officials. But in a situation where the President of Pakistan personally selects the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Control board solely on his discretion how the things can be fair at a lower level?
There is a need to restructure the entire cricket industry in Pakistan from top to bottom. There is a need to restructuring the whole process of national team selection. There is a need to reform the nurturing process for young cricketers. Merit must replace nepotism and favouritism.