In his report to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) after Pakistan's unsuccessful 2016 World Twenty20 campaign, Waqar Younis reviews his latest tenure as Pakistan head coach and makes recommendations for future improvements of the game. This report is presented unedited and in its entirety.
By Waqar Younis
AN OVERVIEW OF LAST 2 YEARS AS HEAD COACH OF PAKISTAN
I started my tenure as head coach of Pakistan Cricket with the intentions to improve the game back to the top level. I had discussed my vision and aims for both short and long term goals in a presentation with Mr Najam Sethi prior to my joining. My one and only ambition was to serve Pakistan with complete honesty and dedication which I am doing.
My tenure till now, has had a mixed result with some good ones and others not so. My aim for this report is not to shift the blame to any personal individual but to identify where things did not go right, where we could have improved, hindrances and recommendations which I hope are implemented for the betterment of Pakistan Cricket and its future.
My first tour was Sri Lanka 2014, Moin Khan was selector-cum-manager, this in itself was something that caused an immediate stressful environment in the team as the boys were always worried they were being judged and tried to make brownie points with Moin to make sure they remained in the team. Same tour, Umar Akmal was a forced selection in place of Zulfiqar Babar by Mr Najam Sethi and chief selector Moin Khan. Mohammad Akram, co selector, had refused to sign off the team but it was overruled.
Next two series, Australia and New Zealand, our test results were appreciable, where we had a historical win against Australia and drew against New Zealand. Pakistan cricket performed outstandingly with a very settled team playing traditional test cricket lead by Misbah ul Haq and joined by Younis Khan, who are probably our best traditional test players. Ahmad Shezad was hit in the head during the test match and probably since then he has developed a fear of the ball which he has not been able to shake off. He has never been able to perform since that incident. Sometimes players come back improved and other times it can lead to the end of their careers, for Ahmad, I think it is the latter.
Younis Khan was dropped by selector Moin Khan for both the ODI series as he had not performed for the last many tours and personally I believe it was a good decision if we were trying to look ahead at the future. It was around this time when we lost Saeed Ajmal and then the ban of Mohammad Hafeez who Pakistan had been completely dependent on for their wins in ODI and T20 cricket. Pakistan had been hiding behind these two bowlers for the last few years so their weaknesses were not exposed. Pakistan has always won with match winners, individuals but what happens when our team becomes static, doesn’t grow and the rest of the world’s cricket modernises and we are dependent on our only match winners who are then taken away? We fall behind unless we change our ways, we resisted changing our ways.
I had made a lot of recommendations after the World Cup, including sending some boys back to first class cricket for at least a season so they can regain their hunger for the game and rethink their approach and attitudes, to play for Pakistan but no recommendation was implemented. I had also recommended certain selectors who I believe had a vision for modernised cricket or changes in domestic set up but it was all overlooked.
I do believe, however, Moin Khan has a good cricketing mind and vision and should be used at the domestic level, he could be very successful in developing young players.
Haroon Rasheed was made chief selector after the World Cup and since then there have been so many changes on every tour, at times I feel they were stop gap decisions, temporary/short term answers but to develop a team you need to believe in your decisions and then give them time. I have always believed in giving youngsters a chance, they bring energy, fresh talent and also push the seniors to consistently perform, healthy competition for team positions is always good. More importantly, it allows for a succession plan for the future of Pakistan cricket. My vision was not often understood or accepted but if you have given me the responsibility to be head coach, my decisions should have been trusted as I would be taking responsibility for all outcomes, especially failures, as I am being blamed today.
Bangladesh was a disappointment but we shouldn’t forget that they are no longer minnows and they beat South Africa, India and New Zealand convincingly. We had a young and inexperienced captain, Azhar Ali, who probably needs time to learn the ropes. We should not have lost in the T20 games because Shahid Afridi is an experienced player/captain and we should have noticed the decline of his captaincy and own performance then. We did, however, win the test series with Misbah leading.
Pakistan did really well against Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka 2015 winning in all formats and looked perhaps we were moving in the right direction. It was a historic test win which showed our domination by both bowlers and batsmen. We had many of our batsmen making centuries including Azhar Ali, Hafeez, Asad Shafiq and the match winning partnership between Younis Khan and Shaan Masood. Yasir Shah and Zulfiqar Babar were outstanding. We were trying to develop a young ODI team, and keep consistency with our test team. Our T20 had a lot to ponder over, although we did win but at times were complacent in decisions on the field.
Umar Akmal was asked by Haroon Rasheed to come the next day for fitness test to join the team in Sri Lanka for the ODIs, instead he chose to catch a flight to Caribbean for a lucrative league without informing anyone. Few months later, when he was caught in the Hyderabad incident or misbehaving with his domestic team coach, all times he managed to retain his place back in team. Is this what criteria we are setting for selection of new players? Andrew Symonds was a very talented player for Australia or Kevin Peterson for England but due to their behaviour they was dropped and never picked again irrespective of their talent. Are we bold enough to take this step or do we fear media or pressure from different people to play certain players? I can assure you that sacrificing one Umar Akmal will allow us to develop other players who can truly and proudly wear the star on their chest and represent Pakistan.
I had noticed fitness levels for the boys were below par and they needed a lot of training time to reach the same fitness levels as other teams, inclusive of Bangladesh. I had requested from Sri Lanka a training camp to be held after the series to help us prepare for a big series against England, working on both mental and physical fitness but I was refused and instead of preparing for a test series, a domestic T20 tournament was pushed in. I had clearly given ample notice. How can you expect to win when everyone is not on the same page?
England Test series 2015 was successful although there were a few huge errors which could have been detrimental for the team. We did not have a backup for a third spinner on a spinning pitch!! I had requested it earlier along with a backup wicketkeeper as Sarfraz had been continuously playing for many months and it was going to be a long and hot tour. Yasir Shah was injured on the eve of the tournament and Sarfraz Ahmed had a strain during the test match. We could not organise to get a spinner for the match which both captain and I were extremely upset about. Poor planning and vision by the selectors.
To select Younis Khan for the England ODI series was a real step back. I have a lot of respect for Younis Khan, he has been a great server for Pakistan but when you are trying to develop a team for the future and for modern cricket, I, alongwith the team management did not feel that he warranted a place in the team and the direction was not right. I emailed the Chairman in regards to this issue but he left the decision on the selection committee. I tried my best to convince Haroon Rasheed when he arrived in Dubai but he had no vision for the future rather saying that Younis Khan is in their future plans. After selecting Younis Khan, I spoke to Younis and told him that I had a lot of respect for him and discussed what position he wanted to play. We gave him the position he wanted and he was to play all the games, how do you bench such a senior batsman? It was Younis Khan’s decision to retire just before the ODI which really caused on upset in any planning for the rest of the series. I don’t blame Younis for his decision, rather the selector who should have discussed with Younis his future plan and also had a vision for Pakistan’s future.
We lost the T20 England series, again due to poor team selection by chief selector and captain, who selected 39+ year old opening batsmen and then poor decision making on the field. We should have recognised that the Captain was not delivering and so many opportunities to change the captain but did nothing. Sachin Tendulkar was an outstanding batsman but poor captain, why do we continue to feed off egos?
Prior to the New Zealand tour, during our training camp, players were allowed to leave to play in domestic tournament instead of preparing for upcoming tour. A lot of hard work goes into preparing camps and then implementing them.
We lost New Zealand, Asia Cup and 2016 World Twenty20 due to poor captaincy. On several occasions I had made it clear that Shahid Afridi was not performing with bat, ball or captaincy but I was not listened to. Poor tactics, really cost us matches. Meeting was held after the NZ T20 series where the boys emphasised that they felt confused with what the captain was telling them to do.
We played well in New Zealand ODI but were not able to finish the game, most games we had upper hand but couldn’t complete the execution, this comes down to lack of fitness and match awareness which Azhar Ali will gradually develop. I believe Pakistan should have won, I was completely heart broken after that series, I really believe we should have won. The only consolidation I have is that Australia lost to them after our tour.
Prior to the PSL beginning, team management gave each individual a fitness program to follow and same programs were sent to Director International to circulate it amongst the franchises so there shouldn’t be a lapse in their training as there were two important upcoming tournaments ahead. I had requested to attend PSL to watch the players and help identify new talent and discuss upcoming tournament selection with the selector but I was refused and advised to stay in Pakistan.
Ahmad Shehzad had performed poorly over many tours, he was dropped by the captain’s choice, not specifically the selector. I did agree that he could not warrant a place in the team but after I received whatsapp message by Haroon Rasheed mentioning Khurram Manzoor along with the rest of the selected players I was completely shocked. I had sent my 20 players to Haroon Rasheed from whom he could potentially select but some of the decisions were, again, not very well thought out, lacked planning or vision, and forced by captain again. I could not agree with Khurram Manzoor and also 2-3 other players. I spoke to the Chairman who did agree with me, I said I would rather have Sharjeel or Kamran Akmal instead of Khurram Manzoor. The team was initially refused by the Chairman but Haroon Rasheed’s specific words to me were that Afridi said to stick to our guns and not compromise on Khurram Manzoor. I eventually surrendered for them to decide.
There was no training by the boys during the PSL, it was more a holiday for them. They came to the Asia Cup tired and unfit. Shahid Afridi did not attend few meetings or practice, a captain leads from the front, not like this. It was unfair how he played Mohammad Nawaz during the game which destroyed the youngster’s confidence. He was so fixated on his own performance that he did not execute any game plan or use the right players at the right time. His sudden decisions on changing the batting order or field placements did not help the team. He appeared to be under so much pressure and playing poorly as well, it really reflected poorly on the team. The whole team morale was down because they all felt the pressure from the captain. No matter how many times I talk to the players, it is the captain who has to lead the boys on the field and execute plans.
I spoke to the Chairman again regarding the captaincy issue before the World Cup because I could see that up ahead things weren’t going to get better the way they were heading.
I also realised that we were still struggling regarding an opening batsman, I suggested Salman Butt to Haroon Rasheed, Chairman, Shahid Afridi and discussed it with the senior team members. Salman Butt had performed well in the domestic tournaments, technically sound and hungry to perform at international level. I thought he would be a good option in place of Khurram Manzoor but Shahid Afridi was completely against him and without discussing it further with me, Haroon Rasheed announced Ahmad Shezad after dropping him in the previous tour. This was a complete knee jerk reaction, how can you consider a player in one tour when you have dropped him in the previous tour? What is the criteria to be selected? To gain support from media and then be brought back into the team, this is bullying and not a good example for others to follow.
The result of all the above has lead to our ouster in the 2016 World Twenty20. Poor captaincy, game plan strategy and execution, lack of fitness, inclusion of inappropriate players and not enough youngsters.
To have a result as we have in the 2016 World Twenty20, was a huge disappointment and heart breaking. I was completely shattered. On the other hand, I cherish our successes beating Australia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, England, and drawing against New Zealand. I’m proud of the boys who scored 17 individual centuries over a period of 7 test matches. Younis Khan scoring multiple centuries against top class teams, the comeback of Shoaib Malik was very fruitful with scoring double century in the tets against England and his brilliant century in ODI against Zimbabwe, outstanding performances by Yasir Shah in a short period of time supported by Zulfiqar Babar. And Misbah ul Haq making a world record for the quickest test century against Australia and as usual always leading from the front. I can proudly say that during this time there were no controversies on or off the field except the casino incident by Moin Khan. I am proud of our team management, Grant Flower, Grant Luden, Mushtaq Ahmad, Azhar Mahmood, Shahid Aslam, Dr Sohail, Mohammad Talha, Usman, Malang Ali and managers Naveed Akram Cheema and Intikhab Alam who worked really hard during this time. During this period, we also identified new talent in the likes of Babar Azam, Yasir Shah, Imran Khan, Harris Sohail, Mohammad Rizwan, and Sharjeel Khan and the successful return of Mohammad Amir.
As I mentioned earlier, I took this job wanting to make things better and to improve Pakistan Cricket. There have been hindrances which have not allowed me to implement changes. I am a hard and professional individual who expects and wants the same for the team. However, I have come to realise, this is not a one-man show, everyone needs to have the same vision and we all need to work together to make Pakistan Cricket successful.
I suggest you the following recommendations:
1. Head coach should be part of the selection committee.
2. Chief Selector should be someone who has played modern era cricket and has a positive vision, and also does not select players by differentiating regions or by media pressure but just recognising talent.
3. Selection criteria should include and emphasise fitness and fielding and first priority.
4. Dieticians to be involved during all camps and junior tours.
5. NCA and other academies around the country need to become functional.
6. Domestic cricket needs to be restructured. Less teams to play first class cricket to improve the standard, quality should be preferred over quantity. Less teams to play first class cricket to improve the standard.
7. High performance managers post need to developed to overlook all performances of head coach, Chief selector, junior selector, trainers, phyios, at both international and domestic level and be accountable. This role should be of a foreigner with experience.
8. Ex-players to be involved at domestic level and help youngsters.
9. Emphasis on fielding and fitness is necessary at junior levels.
10. Pakistan A tours need to be organised on regular basis so we can groom our youngsters and give them overseas exposure.
11. Selected players should be sent to various international academies to gain experience and exposure.
12. Players should be educated regarding maintaining confidentiality, respecting, “what’s said in the dressing room, stays in the dressing room.”
13. Bring in players who are proud of playing for Pakistan, not for themselves or for their own stature.