KARACHI - Pakistan hopes new cricket coach, Australia's Dav Whatmore, can find a magic formula to transform the country's talented players into a team that enjoys sustained, match-winning success.
The team's peaks and troughs are infamous. Last month's Test whitewash of England was followed by a flop in the limited overs series, losing 4-0 in the one-day games and 2-1 in the Twenty20s. Frequent changes in the Pakistan Cricket Board and sackings of captains and coaches have halted progress.
But Sunday's appointment of Whatmore -- who guided Sri Lanka to World Cup victory in 1996 -- could change all that. Former captain and ex-coach Intikhab Alam is pinning his hopes on Whatmore.
"I think the missing 'more' in Pakistan cricket will be achieved through Whatmore," Alam told AFP. "With his perfect record in the past I hope he will enhance the team's performance, though it will take some time." The 57-year-old, who played seven Tests and one limited over international for Australia, also guided Bangladesh to the second round of the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean where they beat giants India.
Alam said a lot will depend on the players, some of whom resisted Whatmore's appointment in 2007 when an inexperienced Geoff Lawson was chosen instead. "It is the coach's responsibility to bring more consistency, which is missing, but at the end of the day it is important players also do their best and listen to the coach," said Alam.
Pakistan has also signed Julian Fountain as fielding coach, which Alam believes will help in their weakest area. "Fountain comes with rich experience and has served England, the West Indies and Bangladesh so I hope with him around, much-needed improvement in fielding will also come about," said Alam, coach of Pakistan's World Cup-winning team in 1992.
Another former captain, Aamir Sohail, also believes Whatmore can help the team overcome recent mistakes, even if the challenge is huge. "I wish him the best of luck in his endeavours and hope that he will take notice of our recent mistakes in one-day cricket," said Sohail.
"When you take responsibility in international cricket you are bound to face pressure but you need to be objective and I hope everyone rallies behind him in support to achieve the targets," he said. Whatmore himself on Sunday acknowledged the enormity of the task ahead.
"We want to be consistent. We don't want peaks and troughs," Whatmore said. "We want the team to be at a good level for a long period. When we're brilliant there will be peaks, but we want to still perform and win games when we're not brilliant. We want to eliminate the bad performances. But you can't do that by focusing on the result. You have to focus on the process."
Whatmore's first task is the four-nation Asia Cup in Dhaka later this month, an event that includes a high-profile match against India on March 18. A positive performance will give a first hint of Whatmore can bring to Pakistan cricket, but defeat will bring immediate pressure from fans and media.