In this week's "Beyond The Boundary" piece, Pakpassion looks at the fallout from Pakistan's semi-final exit from the T20 WC.
A Sincere Message To The Instigators; Patience with the Professor, is the need of the hour.
Another high-profile global tournament, another semi-final exit and another round of fingers being pointed. This is Pakistan Cricket or at least how it has been for the last decade.
Team Pakistan went into the tournament on the back of a 2-1 win in a T20 series over Australia, which meant they were relatively high in confidence, and two convincing victories over New Zealand and Bangladesh in the group stage heightened expectations.
However, yet again a World Cup defeat to India before the semi-final defeat to Sri Lanka, meant that we now have the inevitable round of the infamous 'blame game.'
As expected, and perhaps deservedly, senior-all rounders Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik took some stick for their 'below-par' performances. Imran Nazir, Kamran Akmal and Umar Gul were called out for being too inconsistent. Some pointed fingers at the coaching staff but not surprisingly, most cynicism and criticism was directed towards new T20 captain Mohammad Hafeez.
Accused of trying to end Abdul Razzaq's playing career by deliberating leaving him out. Accused of trying to please seniors like Shoaib Malik and Shahid Afridi, whilst forcing deserving youngsters like Asad Shafiq to sit on the bench. Hafeez was also criticized for his strategies and poor planning. Not dropping himself down the order, playing with 'four openers', persisting with an inconsistent Imran Nazir, wasting Umar Akmal at 6, wasting too many balls upfront and piling pressure on the middle-order.
Let's just say Hafeez has had to suffer the brunt of some serious 'allegations' in the aftermath of Pakistan's elimination. Is it justified? I'm not so sure.
We need to have a look at the ground realities. Misbah is 38, his time on the International circuit is already limited, in all likelihood both Misbah and swashbuckling all-rounder Shahid Afridi (legend has it, is still 32) won't be representing Pakistan after the next 18 months. In former captains, Younis Khan and Shoaib Malik, 34 and 30 respectively, Pakistan have two candidates who could take over for the interim but realistically speaking, neither is assured of a place in the team across all three formats.
All this leaves Mohammad Hafeez at 31, as Pakistan's premier choice to lead them for the next 5 years, which is why he needs the kind of support that was levelled to Afridi, prior to the 2011 World Cup. It's disheartening to see sections of the media and even cricket enthusiasts, pulling him down, hurling accusations towards him.
A country can ill-afford to do this when it hasn't groomed a leader for the future. Azhar Ali's name will pop up here and there, but it's bizarre to expect somebody whose own place in the team hasn't been cemented across all three formats, to start leading the team.
Pakistan were dealt a massive blow in 2010, when Salman Butt, somebody who had been groomed as a future captain, somebody who defeated Australia in his first Test match as captain, was caught in a spot-fixing scandal. Hence, we are in a position where we need to support the one and only realistic option.
The 'Professor', is often referred to as a 'minnow basher.' While he might not be the best batsman in the team, what he has shown in his mini-stint as captain is a willingness to fight and an uncanny determination. He comes across as somebody who isn't afraid to improvise, somebody who isn't intimidated by the need to think on his feet. Through his field settings, his bowling changes, and to an extent the way he batted in the semi-final, he showed glimpses of developing into an attacking captain, somebody who isn't afraid of leading from the front. He is not averse to taking risks and at the moment, that might be exactly what Team Pakistan needs.