What has been on the whole a good year for Pakistan cricket has now drawn to a close. There was the memorable series victory over arch-rivals India followed by a satisfactory tour to Sri Lanka. And the disappointment of the England tour and the Champions Trophy has been alleviated by the success against the West Indies at home to close the year.
There have been many surprises and unforeseen developments too through this year and even as it closes there have been more with the exclusion of Shoaib Akhtar from the squad to tour South Africa.
Pakistan have done much better on the field than off it. The Test series defeat in England and the poor showing in the ICC Champions Trophy came both with less than full strength squads. Pakistan’s main forte, the pace department, was severely handicapped by the absence of Shoaib, Asif and Rana Naved for most of the England tour and even when they did manage to get back, both Shoaib and Rana were showing the difference that their absence from the game had made.
The Champions Trophy campaign was hit not only by the absence of Shoaib, Asif and Inzamam but perhaps more seriously by the chain of events that had led to their absence. The doping incident that had hit Shoaib and Asif and the Oval fiasco for which Inzamam had to carry the can must have left severe scars on the side and it is to their credit that they could put all that behind them and come back so convincingly against the West Indies.
While the players and officials alike may be able to put some sort of closure on the Oval Test and Umpire Darrell Hair, the doping saga seems to be very much alive with the decision by the World Anti Doping Agency to take the case to the Sports Arbitration body in Switzerland.
Opinion appears to be divided on just how much WADA can achieve by doing this but without claiming any expertise on the subject, hopes that they can do nothing about it — some of which have appeared in the press — would appear to be unduly optimistic. If that were the case, I am sure WADA would not have bothered to appeal.
As the last foreign assignment before the World Cup, the tour to South Africa will be very important. A poor showing will be disastrous for morale and equally a good showing against strong opponents in their own backyard will count for a great deal.
One cannot comment on the decision of the selection committee to omit Shoaib Akhtar except to say that I have no doubt in my mind that it was guided by no factor other than merit. In the absence of Shoaib, Asif and Umar Gul will spearhead the attack and as the Indian experience in South Africa has shown, the side that is able to bowl to a plan with accuracy is the side that will most likely come out on top.
I think the present manager Talat Ali has formed a good rapport with the squad and that positive development should be boosted by a long term attachment for Talat with the team in the capacity of manager. The Australian and South African squads have managers who do the jobs for ages and this makes good sense once a manager has been able to forge a good relationship with the players.
A good working relationship in any business is an asset and once established, it is a shame if the advantages afforded by this asset are not utilised for the benefit of the side, rather than having a new manager appointed every few months who then is faced with the task to trying to forge relationships anew.
That period of forging relationships is a trying one both for the manager and the players and the players certainly do not need any extra pressure especially when going in for a big tour or tournament.
As for Shoaib, I think he has to realise now that with the great wealth of fast bowling talent that Pakistan now enjoys, he cannot count on his media image alone for getting him a place in the side. In fact, the greater competition should also mean that he too will have to take greater care over his personal relationships, for between two players of near equal calibre, a captain invariably prefers having the one who is easier to getting along with.
Only time will tell whether or not it is too late for Shoaib to be making the adjustment although I have a feeling that the time span we are talking about here is probably not a long one.
Source:The NewsMore on:Champions Trophy, england, Pakistan, Shoaib Akhtar, Sri Lanka
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Post InfoThis entry was posted on Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007 and is filed under General.
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