In his latest blog for PakPassion.net, Aamir Sohail writes about why he feels that England are ethically bound to make a return tour to Pakistan, the absence of top domestic performers from the Pakistan squad for the tour of England, Younis Khan’s appointment as batting consultant, Mushtaq Ahmed’s unsatisfactory track-record as spin-bowling coach for Pakistan and why Babar Azam needs to be mentored to become a good captain.
By Aamir Sohail (26th June, 2020)
England are ethically bound to make a return tour to Pakistan
I am pleased that PCB have made the effort to honour their FTP commitment and visit England to play the Test and T20I series. I believe that such tours, especially in these troubling times, are very important and send a positive message to the rest of the world. It shows that cricket boards are ready to stand by each other in tough times, as each has contractually binding commitments with their sponsors and broadcasters.
So, for one cricket board to go out of their way to help another as Pakistan is doing is commendable and sets a great precedence for others to follow. The ECB should repay this favour by Pakistan and make a return tour which to me is also the ethically correct thing to do on their part. However, for that to happen, the PCB will need to approach the matter in an intelligent way and negotiate the issue to the satisfaction of both parties.
Top domestic performers should have been picked for the tour of England
There are always differing views whenever a squad is selected for a series, but my biggest reservation is regarding the choice of batsmen. We were led to believe that PCB’s reorganisation of the domestic structure which involved the elimination of departmental teams and the introduction of six teams in the First-Class and an equal number of 2nd XI sides would lead to an improvement in the quality of our cricketers. Well, I don’t see the top performers in First-Class cricket included in the squad and to me that is nothing but an admission of failure by the PCB in terms of what they wanted to achieve by changing the domestic structure. If we are struggling in the batting department and are having to fall-back on veterans like Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik then why not try out some youngsters and do justice to their talent, and get some good back-ups ready as well?
Younis Khan’s appointment as batting consultant is an admission of failure by the PCB
The fact is that Misbah-ul-Haq for reasons best known to the PCB, was given the roles of Head Coach and Chief Selector, and he was also looking after the position of batting coach. Many of us commented then that this was not a good idea as batsmen who are struggling in some aspect of their batting are unlikely to share their problems with the Batting Coach who happens to be the Chief Selector and the Head Coach as well. In that context, Younis Khan’s appointment, whilst recognising his experience, is proof that the PCB are accepting the fact that they made the wrong decision by entrusting Misbah with so many roles. What the PCB are implying is that Misbah is not a good enough batting coach which is why they had to bring in someone like Younis Khan into the picture as a batting consultant.
Question marks hang over Waqar Younis’s judgement as Bowling Coach
I am curious as to why Musa Khan, who was hailed as a Test player and given a debut against Australia, was then discarded from the Pakistan squad bound for England. This shows a huge flaw in Bowling Coach Waqar Younis’s judgement as it’s difficult to understand why Musa didn’t find a place in the original squad. He could well make it to England given the Covid-19 tests situation, but the fact is that he wasn’t deemed to be good enough to be part of the initial squad whereas Sohail Khan has been brought back into the fold.
Mushtaq Ahmed has an unsatisfactory track record as spin bowling coach for Pakistan
Given that the state of pitches in England will be very fresh due to no cricket being played so far, off-spinners are not likely to figure much, but fast-bowlers and leg-spinners will be of much more use. We all know that Yasir Shah has been struggling to perform in Tests and Shadab Khan, if he does make it to England will need the services of a leg-spinner as a bowling coach. So, to take Mushtaq Ahmed on the tour of England as a spin bowling coach is a logical decision. However, there are huge doubts about what he actually brings to the table in terms of a proven track record in helping players to improve. However, since PCB have entrusted him with the role of a spin bowling coach, one can only presume that they believe in him, but it’s about time he achieved and repaid PCB’s faith in him.
Pakistan have ample time to prepare for the Test series against England
Whilst Pakistan would be going up against an England side that will have played 3 Tests against West Indies, the fact is that this should provide them with a good opportunity to gauge their opposition’s strengths and weaknesses and then prepare accordingly. After all, at this level where skill-sets are similar between teams, it’s all about how you prepare for a series and this would be a good opportunity for Pakistan to do the same. With a squad of up to 29 players, Pakistan should be able to organise competitive inter-squad matches and given the time in hand, the players will have ample opportunities to practice their strategies for the series.
Haider Ali needs to be looked after by the Pakistan coaching staff and not discarded after a few failures
Pakistan need to be very careful as to how they utilise Haider Ali’s talent because in the recent past we have seen players like Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Akmal and Umar Amin, being touted as the next comings of Sachin Tendulkar, only to see them fade away due to the mismanagement of their talent. If Haider Ali has been fast-tracked to the national team ahead of other top performers in First-Class cricket then the onus will be on the coaching staff to ensure that they are proven right by investing time in Haider and not simply discarding him at the first sign of trouble.
Pakistan has the ability to compete well against England
I do believe that Pakistan can compete really well in the series against England, but it will depend upon the state of pitches and how well they prepare. In terms of bowling strength, the Pakistan bowling attack is pretty strong with Shaheen Shah Afridi looking most likely to be the top performer in the Test series. The only issue, as always, will be with our batting but if they can put up scores of 300+ then they will give their team a very good chance of dominating the home team.
ICC Technical Committee failed to take intelligent decisions
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic has led to unprecedented testing times for the world of cricket. But I do believe that the ICC technical committee should have done a better job of taking decisions to help the game at this point in time. I specifically refer to the ban on using saliva to shine the ball which will have a huge affect on the ability of bowlers to swing the ball. Now saliva by nature is heavier than sweat and it does help in making the ball a little heavier on one side and it also has some enzymes which help in lubricating and providing shine to the ball.
With this ability to shine the ball taken away, the ICC should have considered other means of helping the bowlers such as allowing the new ball to be taken after 60 overs instead of the current limit of 80 overs. In addition, the use of artificial saliva which is used for people who are diabetic could have been explored as well. If we are asking players to risk their lives by playing cricket during the Coronavirus Pandemic, then it makes no sense for the ICC technical committee to pay scant regard to making the game even in terms of the ball and bat. We know these are tough times for all so exceptions should have been considered and out of the box thinking and a flexible approach was required which unfortunately, the ICC has failed to do.
It’s much better to postpone the T20 World Cup rather than play matches in empty stadiums
Playing an event like the T20 World Cup in empty stadiums will not only take away the charm of the whole event but it will also not bring benefits to the home country’s service sector as no spectators will travel to Australia. There is very little point in having the T20 World Cup under such conditions and it’s right that the ICC is taking its time to carefully deliberate the rescheduling of this event. If we recall, back in 1992, the World Cup took place as late as March in Australia so there is plenty of time for the ICC to reschedule the T20 World Cup.
I feel the best way forward for the ICC would be to let all the sides know that the tournament is being deferred to March 2021 to allow them to prepare in advance. If God forbid, the Coronavirus Pandemic is still a threat at that time then the tournament can be delayed further as playing a World Cup in front of empty stadiums would be a travesty.
No point having Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik if T20 World Cup is postponed
If the T20 World Cup does take place by September, then there is some logic to include both Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik in the squad until that time, as there really are no short-term replacements ready to take their place. If the T20 World Cup is moved beyond the end of this year, then it would make no sense to have both of these veterans associated with the squad and we need to look for replacements. But unfortunately, we are now in a situation where we weren’t far-sighted enough to have groomed some of our top domestic performers to avoid exactly this kind of situation in which we find ourselves in.
Misbah-ul-Haq must ensure that Babar Azam doesn’t make the same mistakes as he did when he was captain
If Babar has been identified as Pakistan’s captain in at least 2 formats of the game, then it’s incumbent upon the PCB to help him become the best captain he can be. This can be achieved by identifying any weaknesses in his leadership qualities and by good mentoring. But if Misbah is to be Babar’s mentor, then we have a problem because he was himself criticised for being a defensive captain. The onus is on Misbah to be honest about his own deficiencies as a captain and to make sure that Babar does not make the same mistakes he made, especially when it comes to making sure that the younger players are given good chances to ensure a brighter future for Pakistan cricket.
The Mohammad Hafeez COVID-19 test fiasco has been caused due to PCB's mismanagement of the issue
The whole Mohammad Hafeez COVID-19 test fiasco has been a matter of embarrassment for Pakistan and I fail to understand how this matter was handled so badly by the PCB. Firstly tests were done after the squad was announced and instead of doing all tests in one laboratory, players were sent to different facilities for tests resulting in conflicting reports. Without jumping the gun, they should have done scrutiny of those results and if needed got them redone to confirm before going public with them. And to expect Mohammad Hafeez to not go public with results of his COVID-19 test when PCB had announced that he had tested positive would be unrealistic as he is not bound by any code of conduct which would be the case if he was a centrally contracted player.