by Shamik Chakrabary
India’s 2-1 Test series win Australia with a depleted squad has earned unabashed praise from the entire cricketing world. However, Pakistan has stood up for applauding the Indian team and the cricket system the loudest. From across the border, former Pakistan players have also singled out Rahul Dravid for the team’s success. While saying that Pakistan needs a Dravid kind of committed mentor to chart the country’s roadmap and nurture young talent, they have appreciated the former Indian captain for working silently in the background as National Cricket Academy’s head coach.
How has Pakistan reacted to India’s series triumph?
Former Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar lauded India’s cricket system. Commenting on his YouTube channel, he said: “The bench strength of India with these youngsters won this Test. A system that India had invested 20 years ago. They brought solid, honest hard-workers, and people who were not in it to make money. They were people who cared about cricket. Rahul Dravid came first, and then Sourav Ganguly ,Ravi Shastri.”
Former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, who also served as the country’s chief selector, lavished praise on the Indian team and the feeder system that makes the likes of Shubman Gill, Rishabh Pant, Washington Sundar and other youngsters battle-ready.
“Incredible Test & series win for India have not seen a bold, brave & boisterous Asian team on a tougher tour of Australia. No adversity could stop them, frontline players injured, & won after a remarkable turnaround from the depths of 36 all out, inspiring for others. kudos India,” the legendary Wasim Akram tweeted.
Recently, senior batsman and former Pakistan T20I captain Mohammad Hafeez did a press conference and told reporters that in India, “finished products” played international cricket, whereas in Pakistan, there has been an overreliance on talent.
“Hamara jo talent hai woh product-making process se guzra nahi hota (our talent doesn’t go through the product-making process). The way India played in Australia, the morale they showed, as a fan of cricket we are all happy. Their (finished) products play at international level, while our talents turn up,” Hafeez said.
Pakistan’s National Cricket Academy, which is now a High Performance Centre, at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, has all the modern facilities. It was set up to act as a finishing school for young talents and make them ready for international cricket. However, over the years Pakistan cricket suffers from a lack of continuity. To start with, political influence has been a factor. Pakistan’s Prime Minister is their cricket board’s Patron-in-Chief. After Imran Khan became the country’s Prime Minister, Najam Sethi resigned as the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman, with Khan tweeting minutes later that he has nominated Ehsan Mani as Sethi’s successor. Different sets of people ostensibly with different political alienations set different roadmaps. Continuity suffers.
It surely is. After the 2020 IPL, BCCI treasurer Arun Dhumal revealed the Indian board earned Rs 4,000 crore as revenue from hosting the tournament. The BCCI also has a Rs 6,138-crore broadcast rights deal with Star India for home international and domestic matches, valid until 2023. The Indian board is well-placed to spend a huge chunk of money on infrastructure building and youth development. Three years ago, the Pakistan Super League secured a 358 per cent rise in their new broadcast deal for the tournament for the period 2019-2022. The deal was said to be worth $36 million (Rs 262 crore approx.) even after such a significant rise.
International cricket moved out of Pakistan after the 2009 Lahore terror attack and although Sri Lanka and Bangladesh toured the country for Test series in 2019 and 2020 respectively, the ongoing Test series against South Africa that started on Tuesday marked the return of a high-profile side after a gap of 11 years. For close to a decade, Pakistan played their home matches in the United Arab Emirates, which adversely affected the PCB’s revenue stream and hampered development programmes.
Pakistan have lost three of their last five Tests, and after being clean-swept in New Zealand, former Pakistan pacer Aaqib Javed lashed out at the national team head coach Misbah-ul-Haq. “Looking at Misbah’s coaching, I don’t think even a school will give him this job,” Javed, who served as Pakistan’s bowling coach, told Cricket Pakistan. He urged that professional coaches be appointed top-down.
Meanwhile, for youth development, Akhtar has demanded the appointment of someone of Dravid’s stature and skill.
The restructuring, with just six regional teams in first-class cricket, seems to have cut very little ice with a lot of people. In fact, last year, a delegation that included Misbah, Hafeez and Azhar Ali met Imran Khan at his residence, requesting the Prime Minister to have a rethink on the new structure.
According to an ESPNcricinfo report, shunning departmental cricket and rendering teams like Habib Bank Limited etc. ineligible has cost over 400 cricketers their jobs. Some former Pakistan players believe that the changed structure has shrunk the talent pool. Khan, however, refused to budge. The PCB, too, wants to stick to the new structure for the sake of quality at the expense of quantity.
Former Pakistan captain Javed Miandad suggests the PCB look back to move forward. “First of all, I don’t agree that Pakistan cricket is doing too badly. It is going through a rebuilding phase. Some players have retired. A slew of new faces have come and the team has a new captain. So it’s important to back the process,” Miandad told.
He added: “Cricket during Covid is not easy. Players can’t be in top mental shape. What has been happening around them; that affects their mind. Not very long ago, Pakistan became the No. 1 Test team in the world. They won the Champions Trophy. Before that, when we were playing, Pakistan used to dominate. So (the PCB) must look into the aspects that made those sides tick, what we had been doing right. We must look back to move forward.” ( Indian Express )