Writing in his exclusive blog for PakPassion.net, Fazeer Mohammed looks at the challenges confronting Pakistan cricket after the retirements of Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq.
By Fazeer Mohammed (21st May, 2017)
Given what transpired in the final moment of their outstanding international careers, it appeared that destiny was on the side of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan.
Yet while Shannon Gabriel’s inexplicable moment of madness in Dominica gifted the two departing heroes and all of Pakistan with the history-making Test series triumph in the West Indies, it is important for the long-term health of Pakistan cricket to accept that their era is over and to move swiftly and decisively towards shaping the national team for the many challenges that lie ahead.
This is not about rudely consigning them to the rubbish bin of history. That is impossible, for they have both achieved too much in terms of individual performances and team results, and also conducted themselves in a generally dignified manner in front of an increasingly microscopic public eye to be forgotten anytime soon.
So yes, there will be misty-eyed references to their achievements: Younis for the World T20 title, his peerless batsmanship over 17 years and scaling heights no Pakistani has ever reached before in Tests; Misbah for restoring pride, honour and dignity to a nation shaken by spot-fixing and other elements of corruption in the game, together with his own pragmatic, unruffled style of leadership and batsmanship that were essential for the time in which his career coincided.
But in moving towards the next Test assignment in September, the game’s administrators in Lahore must be prepared to acknowledge - the 2-1 series win the Caribbean notwithstanding – that the national side is in a slump after seven defeats in their last nine Tests and while they will continue to remain dominant or at the very least competitive on slow and low pitches anywhere, cricket is about entertainment and marketability.
At the moment, Pakistan are not an attractive team to watch, a far cry from the sides that had previously visited the West Indies who were not only brimful of talent, but possessed attacking, confident almost cocky individuals who were prepared to give as good as they got.
Misbah’s team of 2017 have achieved what none before could, however they were facing opponents who may actually be overtaken soon by Bangladesh on the Test rankings. This manner of wearing down the opposition over five generally tedious days – that morning session on the second day in Dominica was especially forgettable - may bring the desired results but it doesn’t win admiration from the cricketing world.
Of course this is not to suggest that there should be a devil-may-care attitude. Still it is worth noting that teams and individuals are revered in the world of sport more for the manner in which they play the game than the results and honours which come their way. There is obviously enough talent in Pakistan cricket for those inherent attacking skills to be harnessed in a positive manner.
That’s why sorting out the succession issue to Misbah is so very important.
His style worked effectively when Pakistan needed calmness and stability in the very choppy waters that came in the aftermath of the 2010 Lord’s scandal. Now though, there needs to be a recognition of the importance of playing first and foremost for the team and not being sidetracked and preoccupied with personal goals and milestones.
Having seen Pakistan at close quarters over six Tests in the United Arab Emirates and the Caribbean over the past eight months, it is obvious that too much of that abundant ability is stunted by an apparent obsession with records. Almost every player seems to know exactly how many runs or wickets he needs to move up the ladder of top achievers.
Worse still is the fixation with anything that is written or said about them by those in the media, especially former players, when they should be more concerned with letting their performances on the field do the talking. On at least one occasion in the West Indies queries were made by a Pakistan player about who on the television production crew would have been responsible for certain images being shown during a day’s play which he interpreted as making fun of him.
If egos are so fragile as to be constantly scanning social media for any references to themselves then it explains to a large extent why a team rated number one after an excellent drawn series in England less than a year ago has now slumped to sixth after tours of New Zealand and Australia that exposed technical and temperamental deficiencies.
Long after it is forgotten that Yasir Shah took 25 wickets in three Tests in the West Indies and that his very last ball of the campaign sealed the series win in sensational fashion, it will still be remembered first and foremost as a first-ever series win there by Pakistan.
That is what matters, that is what Misbah and Younis helped to restore to a certain degree, and it is that principle of team and country first which must define Pakistan’s leadership and the way forward as they seek to build on the significant contributions of these two departed legends.