Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Accountability, but on every level

By Muhammad Asif Khan

What happened in Centurion a week or so ago was nothing but an old tale narrated by new tellers. The green caps succumbed to the mighty South Africa within only three days of a five-day encounter. Nothing fresh to write about the demolition mission of the Proteas and their overall dominance in the three-match Test rubber but still a few questions have risen again which should be sorted out once and for all to curtail the recurrence of such humiliations in the future.

Alright, this is also a valid argument that this was not the first time that green caps surrendered in South Africa or in Australia for that matter, but this is also a reality that such facilities include highly qualified foreign coaches and a sizable number of support staff as their helping hands were not at the disposal of their predecessors yet the Misbah-led outfit faltered and faltered badly. Their accountability will and should be done but will it happen in Pakistan Cricket for the first time? Not at all is the answer.

Haven’t we seen inquiries after inquires from the dismal 2003 and 2007 World Cup campaigns then very recently after the 2009-10 Australia tour? After all the probes only the players paid the ultimate price and the other responsible were ignored or let off the hook. Who can forget the saddest event of the Pakistan Cricket history when three players got convicted and banned by the International Cricket Council but again apart from the players nobody from the team management was taken to task. The manager on that infamous England tour of 2010 went unquestioned.

Will the same happen this time around as well? If this is the case then such performances would keep on coming I am afraid. Yes, the players should be questioned and taken to task but the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) should also give a review to its decisions in the recent past.

Pakistan, not so far ago, beat the then number one team of England in the United Arab Emirates, however that winning combination was rattled by the PCB chairman himself. Even before that tour he put the fear in the mind of coach Mohsin Khan that he [Mohsin] would be replaced come what may. Imagine how a man, who is on the verge of embarking an important assignment, would feel with such a threat. The reason given by the chairman was that Mohsin Khan was not duly qualified for the job, fine but why this ‘golden principle’ wasn’t taken into consideration while appointing other key individuals for various slots in the Cricket board or with the team?

Is the Director of the National Cricket Academy is duly qualified? Nothing against him at all because he knows the game inside out, but rules are rules and should be adhered to in every aspect. Moving on is the incumbent bowling coach of the Pakistan Cricket team meets the criteria mentioned in the advertisement posted for the job? Also when the batting consultant was appointed, prior to the India series, then was the qualification of the great Inzamam-ul-Haq taken into account? No, is the answer and rightly so because a man of Inzamam’s caliber doesn’t need any recognition to his credentials.
Modern day game is changed and why other teams are inclining towards qualified coaches is a separate debate. In short, in view of the culture in Pakistan, I am a firm believer of having someone with reputation rather than a certain level of qualification to impart in a better manner. For instance if Wasim Akram and Muhammad Akram tell something to a young Pakistani bowler, then who would have the greater impression on that youngster is not hard to guess to make. Not maligning Muhammad Akram at all, he might be a successful man, but before joining Pakistan, he worked in a different culture all together.

How the players were prepared for the South African trip is evident in their performance over there, but what facilities did the board provided them with is also a matter of concern. Why the batting consultant was appointed for the trip of India only? Does the PCB think-tank believe conditions in India are tougher then in South Africa? They also sent a physiologist with the team to India and that practice was discontinued on the African safari, they were either wrong earlier or put a foot wrong this time around, only the people at the helm could solve this puzzle.

I am also convinced that the able people who are  running the cricket affairs are well aware of the fact that which nature of Cricket balls are being used abroad these days, therefore shouldn’t the same be provided to the players in the domestic circuit too? If it’s a costly business then should limit it to the premier tournament to gauge the true potential of a bowler.

I would like to come back to the point mentioned earlier that players did perform badly no doubt, but they were not the only answerable for the recent debacle. The way a few players collapsed during and even before the Test series raised question on the medical panel of the PCB which is responsible for the final clearance on players’ fitness. Will they be questioned?

After every series only the team is bashed for the lack of consistency, and rightly so, but who is responsible for bringing consistency in the decisions taken by the PCB officials.

It has not been a culture where a person either takes responsibly of a mistake or doesn’t feel free to work accordingly and steps down with pride. Last such resignation was from Muhammad Ilyas, in March last year, for the post of chief selector. It was reported that he reached to the decision upon Pakistan team’s poor performance against England in the ODI and T20 series – followed by the famous Test white-wash - and meddling of the PCB in the selection affairs. In either case or both Mr. Ilyas deserves credit for his bold stance.

Who is responsible for sending half-fit players to South Africa, who should be blamed for not appointing the batting consultant or the physiologist, who should be asked upon the use of cricket balls at the domestic circuit? These and a lot of other questions converge to one person only, the PCB chairman, who is considered to be the man running the show alone.

Anyway individual shouldn’t be either targeted or praised overwhelmingly but Zaka Ashraf cannot enjoy this distinction because of the fact that he is directing every matter. From the appointment of a Director General to the Coach, captain and vice-captain for the national teams his consent is a must.

With the management experience under the belt, Zaka Ashraf seems to be a man who can do it. Unluckily most of his initiatives have backfired lately, which should be enough for him to realise and revisit the strategy he is drafting with his team. The PCB Chairman is no less than a General, but even the best General can’t win a war on his own.

The writer is a Pakistani sports journalist, and tweets @mak_asif

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