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Pakistan legend spoke about the side's chances in South Africa, reflected on the importance of departmental cricket and discussed Sarfaraz Ahmed's captaincy.

By Amir Husain (17th December, 2018)

Pakistan’s dismal showing in the recently concluded Test series against New Zealand could not have come at a worst time as far as their upcoming three-match Test series against South Africa is concerned.

From positions of strengths in two Test matches which most top-quality Test teams would have looked to win with ease, Pakistan crashed to embarrassing defeats and conceded an unexpected 1-2 loss to the visiting New Zealand side.

Pakistan's bowling throughout that series had put in sterling performances but the abject surrender of their batting line-up in, what could only be termed as batting-friendly conditions in the UAE, cast some serious doubts about their viability in what may well be a sterner test of their abilities in South Africa. With the likes of Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and the recovering Vernon Philander ready to take on the visitors in the three-match Test series which begins at the Centurion from 26th December, it will take an effort of gargantuan proportions from the much-maligned Pakistan batting line-up to give their team even a small chance of success.

For a batsman of the stature of the Pakistan legend Javed Miandad who was known for his abilities to master bowling attacks around the world, the loss to New Zealand should not have come as a major surprise for anyone who has watched Pakistan cricket in recent times and the prospects of positives from the upcoming tour of South Africa are rather bleak, as he explained in an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, “I am afraid I do not expect much from the Pakistan batting line-up during the South Africa tour. The wickets that Pakistan will encounter in South Africa will be difficult to play on and only if the batting clicks can we have a chance of something positive from this tour. However, I don’t feel that our Test batsman have the technique needed to adjust to different wickets around the world and this is not something which is a new phenomenon as far as Pakistan are concerned.”

 
 

Whilst a lot of the blame for Pakistan’s recent loss to New Zealand could be laid at the feet of the batsmen from the home-side, it would be totally unfair to ignore the fact that the true foundation of the Kiwi victory was constructed by some superb performances by their batsmen, such as captain Kane Williamson. For Javed Miandad, it's this ability of top-quality batsmen to master conditions away from home that makes them world-leaders and is something Pakistan batsmen lack.

“The reason for our problems in batting is that our players cannot adjust to foreign conditions in the same way the likes of some of the top-quality batsmen can do. The manner in which Kane Williamson, Joe Root and Virat Kohli can adjust to different wickets around the world is simply amazing and the secret of their success is due to the fact that these players are technically strong. When such players travel away from home, they are able to judge the conditions and hit 50s, 100 or even double-hundreds when conditions allow them. This is what makes them world-beaters and that is something our batsmen should learn from as batting techniques of our batsmen are abysmal and they can only perform in conditions which they are used to but fail miserably where there is any slight difference.”

The crisis caused by the lack of good quality emerging batsmen from Pakistan seems to have reached a serious stage and must be a cause of concern for the PCB. In recent times, there have been statements made by PCB officials which speak of changes to the domestic structure to bring it in line with similar structures with what can be found in other countries. For Javed Miandad who played his domestic cricket for a departmental side, the very idea of tinkering with the system to look for improvements proves that the powers that be are not able to comprehend the issues at hand as he explained, “The whole idea of removing departments from domestic cricket to somehow magically improve the quality of cricketers in Pakistan seems rather foolish to me and has not been thought through properly. In my playing days, the departments would attract top talent from around the country and not one region, and it was like a County cricket team in terms of standards. This was the setup that would provide the top 11 players for the Pakistan team and we produced some world-beaters who brought glory to the country as well. We must also remember that changing a player's team from a regional to a departmental one will also not make him a better player. It depends on the support he gets, and I am afraid that the current regional setup is far too badly managed to make any positive difference for Pakistan cricket.”

The debate for adoption of a departmental versus regional system in domestic cricket has been a passionate one with some strong views on both sides of the divide. Whilst Javed Miandad is clear about the benefits of the departmental style for domestic cricket in terms of producing good cricketers for Pakistan, he also understands that the type of financial incentives the departments can provide to cricketers do make a huge difference to the lives of the players.

“People who are blindly thinking of getting rid of departments do not understand that it is these departments financial help that not only supported the players financially, it also helped them look after their families as well which was crucial for their well-being. Without PIA or the banks, players like the Late Hanif Mohammad or Wasim Akram would have had no way to help their families and therefore play with clear minds for Pakistan.”

The Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed’s position has come under a huge amount of criticism especially after the recent defeat in UAE where doubts have been raised about his suitability as leader of the Test side. Whilst he has received unreserved support from the Pakistan team management and the PCB hierarchy, there is an overriding feeling amongst fans and some experts that the wicket-keeper batsman is a walking liability for the Test side. To Javed Miandad, however, he represents the best option Pakistan have for a captain and putting the burden of defeats on Sarfaraz Ahmed’s shoulders is unfair and totally counterproductive for the side’s interests, “My message for Sarfaraz is not to worry about this sort of pressure and to continue leading the team with the best of his abilities. You cannot run a cricket team by looking at statistics alone and in my book, Sarfaraz’s name would feature as the first name on any team list I would make as to me, he is our best wicket-keeper who can also score runs when needed. Honestly speaking, we have no other option to replace him as Test captain and he should be persisted with and to those looking for scapegoats for the defeat to New Zealand, my advice would be to think of getting rid of some of the under-performing players instead of the captain.”

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