Australia's perfect planning secures World Cup 2023; Pakistan's selection woes lead to Early Exit

Pakistani cricket team landed at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport Hyderabad late at night on the 27th of September with high hopes of lifting the ICC World Cup Trophy 2023.  

Whereas, the other teams had already reached India a couple of weeks ago and were busy in net practice. The Pakistani boys, therefore, had very little time not only to practice but also to acclimatize themselves with the climatic conditions. The team was led by Babar Azam, highly rated batsman and a brand, who had never won any championship trophy at the international level in his four years captaincy.  

The fast bowling attack spearheaded by Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf and supported by Wasim Jr, a talented medium pacer, and Hassan Ali, who had not represented Pakistan for the last one year, was considered one of the best winning combination. Fakhar Zaman, Imam ul Haq, nephew to the chief selector Inzamam ul Haq and young Abdullah Shafique were selected as openers. 

The middle order, the backbone of any team, besides, the skipper, had inexperienced Saud Shakeel. Wicketkeeper batsman Muhammad Rizwan, a twenty over specialist, was entrusted with the added responsibility in the middle order. In the spin department, the team heavily depended on Shadab Khan, the vice-captain, with young mystery spinner Ibrar Ahmad, kept in the reserves, who could only be included in the team case of injury to a spinner. Imagine a team playing World Cup in India without the services of even a single quality spinner.  

In addition, Muhammad Nawaz, Usama Mir and Salman Ali Agha, inexperienced cricketers, perhaps incapable of bearing the tons of pressure, were there to fill the gaps in the team lineup. Apparently, the team lacked balance to play fifty over version of cricket. There were no quality openers, no solid middle order batters, expect Babar Azam, no specialist spinner, and no reliable faster bowler all-rounder.  

No doubt, Pakistani team had a vast experience of playing Twenty20 tournament and winning against some of world class teams. Nevertheless, fifty over version of the game demands different strategy, fitness and technique. Unfortunately, Pakistani selectors depended heavily on the players of limited over format and conveniently overlooked requirement of fifty over format which is a bit closer to Test match cricket as all those cricketers who have made their name in ODI format excelled in their Test match career.  

Our boys also prefer to play T20 as they earn fame and wealth overnight. The Indian government unnecessarily delayed the issuance of visa to the team and the Pakistani spectators were deprived of their right to watch their matches in the stadium. Even a few spectators supporting the team were humiliated, beaten and kicked out of the stadium. The Indian crowd was extremely hostile shouting anti-Pakistan slogans and hurling abuses upon Pakistani cricketers.  

India has never been a generous host to any touring Pakistani team. Pakistan won their matches against Netherlands, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and then lost to India, Australia, South Africa, and Afghanistan, a defeat which came as a shock. Their victory over New Zealand through D/L method kept their hopes of reaching the semis alive. England’s victory made the Pakistani team roll their carpet back to Pakistan in small groups landing at different airports surreptitiously.  

The successive defeats of the Pakistani team made Zaka Ashraf, the chairman PCB Management Committee, behave ungentlemanly. Sitting on a channel, he blamed Inzamam ul Haq, the chief selector and Babar Azam, the captain, for choosing the players of their own liking, while the world cup was in full swing.  

He even revealed Babar’s personal chat on the screen uncaring and unconcerned with its impact upon the morale of the skipper in particular and the team in general. Only one man, the skipper, was held responsible for the debacle in the world cup. One could see that the fast bowlers did not support the captain. People forgot the filthy affairs in PCB.  

The Prime Minister appoints the chairman of PCB and the change in the regime removes the sitting chairman and a new chairman is installed in his place. This change trickles down to the appointments of peons and guards of the board. The new chairman brings his own men in the key posts, from the anointment of coaches, the chief selector, members of selection committee even at the district level, directors, CEO, etc; every appointment is done on personal liking. They are seldom done on merit.  

Within the span of one year, PCB saw three Chairmen sitting in the chair with all the pomp and show. Ramiz Raja was replaced by Najam Sethi and Zaka Ashraf replaced the latter, unsettling even the blueprint of the comprehensive plan of improvement in game of cricket which the previous chairman had chalked out. The present chairman, on three months extension, violating the verdict of IPC Ministry baring him to take any policy decision, dissolved the selection committee rather hurriedly; the chief selector had already resigned. 

Babar Azam was compelled to follow suit. He did not even wait for the report of the touring management committee’s submitting the reasons for the defeat in the world cup fixing the responsibility. Ever since the start of the world cup, some of the media channels, redundant cricketers, self-appointed experts and analysts led by some tainted cricketers had launched a vicious campaign to malign Babar Azam.  

Some claim that some local franchises and international betting companies whose logo Babar refused to display on his cricketing kit are behind this poisonous campaign. They left no stone unturned to humiliate him and belittle his performance not only as batter but also as a skipper, though his record as a skipper reflects that he is one of the most successful skippers who led Pakistani team to so many victories in all the three versions of cricket.  

Babar’s resignation has not been appreciated by some of the international cricketers. They have called it a hasty decision. The world cup started amidst different controversies, the selection of venues of BCCI’s choice, the tossing of the coin, the change of pitches before the start of the match and ball controversy. The dice had been loaded in India’s favour even outside the ground as well.  

All this happened under the very nose of ICC which seemed to have become an executive branch of BCCI. With so much control over the game, India has lost another final. Even the Indian Prime Minister did not show much grace to give trophy to Pat Cummins. Money and politics cannot buy success. And a deserving team carried the day in the end.

Prof Dr. Shahid Imtiaz is former Head of English Department, of Islamia Graduate College, Railway Road, Lahore. Currently, he is also teaching in a private university of Lahore.

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