By Behram Qazi
The 2003 cricket World Cup in South Africa was the last global tournament to host a Pakistani team full of superstars — steady openers, lethal fast bowlers and world class middle-order.
Many pundits and spectators thought the team would recreate the performances of the1999 World Cup, in which the men in green made it all the way to the final. Little did they know that this time the team would not even make it past the first round!
Waqar Younis’s boys lost to three cricketing giants — Australia, England and India — while their game against Zimbabwe was washed out. The two wins they managed were against Associate cricketing nations— Netherlands and Namibia.
What made this worse was that Pakistan lacked team spirit against the big teams that resulted in lopsided contests. The batting was irresponsible, the bowling was wayward and inconsistent while little can be said about Pakistan as a fielding side over the years. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), being in a tough position, was bound to make some big decisions after this debacle. As a result, most of the existing squad was dropped and new faces were roped in.
They say a good team is the one which has a good mix of veterans and youngsters. Pakistan’s squad selected for the Sharjah Cup in April 2003 lacked big names making way for greenhorns. Pakistan went unbeaten in the tournament and showed immense mettle, proving all the naysayers wrong. It was a great achievement and marked a new era for Pakistani cricket in an era where unpredictability had been Pakistan’s constant accomplice.
This Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) experiment had both its pros and cons. An advantage of this decision was that talented Pakistani youngsters got international level experience and a chance to prove their worth. However, Pakistani cricket, as a whole, developed a trait that it hasn’t gotten rid of till date; inconsistency.
With the absence of senior players to guide the youngsters, Pakistan might often wilt under pressure and throw away games that were in their complete control. But still, every now and then, Pakistan would put on a show and make it seem as if they were invincible. It is difficult to gauge a pattern of their play.
This past decade has been a testing one for Pakistani cricket; Controversies related to player discipline, performance enhancing drugs episode and spot-fixing saga have made international headlines. During this period we have seen many potential cricketing heroes making a mess of their careers, contributing to inconsistent results of the team.
Furthermore, to make matters even worse, the 2009 Lahore attacks on the Sri Lanka national team put an indefinite end to international cricket in the nation. It is an amazing feat that Pakistan are still considered as heavyweights in the cricketing world after all these sordid incidents.
That said, Pakistan cricket has been given one too many chances, and it is time for the team to pull up their socks. Albeit, Pakistan cricket has had its highs in this decade, they have made it to the knockout stages of several global cricketing tournaments with ICC World Twenty20 title triumph in 2009 being the most cherished moment.
The question is: Has the experiment carried out by the PCB back in 2003 paid off? Do the pros outweigh the cons?
In my opinion, they surely do.
Pakistan cricket may be inconsistent and may not have any big names imprinted on its green jerseys, but what it does have is durability. It is resilient and has proved to the world that even the worse of controversies cannot hold it back and it will always be a major cricketing force.
If you ask me, this past decade has been a blessing in disguise.
Of late, Pakistan has developed great team spirit and the dressing room environment has never been better. The players put in their 100%, play for the star on their jerseys and stand united. They say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and Pakistan has certainly proved this right by their efforts on the field.
The recent tour of South Africa might have been a failure, but the team has shown great strength as a unit and has avoided controversies of any sort.
There is still a lot to learn and a great deal of hard work to put in. If things continue in this fashion, I reckon Pakistan cricket will emerge stronger than ever in this next decade.
(Behram Qazi is an engineering student at the University of Waterloo, a sports fanatic and a patriotic Pakistani. He tweets @Behram22. The above article is reproduced from http://tribune.com.pk/ with permission)