KARACHI: On August 14, 2016, Pakistan cricket witnessed one of its greatest achievements in the recent past; winning the last match of the four-match series against England to draw 2-2 in England under the leadership of their most successful Test captain Misbahul Haq.
That won paved the way for the team to achieve the number one spot in the Test rankings for the first time since the official ranking system introduced back in 2003.
Only five months down the line, things are much less rosy.
The team that received the Test mace for the first time in their cricketing history on September 21, 2016 went on to lose the final Test against an inexperienced West Indies side in the UAE, followed by humiliation in New Zealand and then in Australia.
To say that out of all those results, the bashing in Australia hurts the most will not be an understatement, primarily because for the first time, team Pakistan was more stable, more experienced and had bigger names in their squad compared to that of Australia.
Many argue, like Misbah said in the press conference after the Sydney Test, that defeat is nothing new in Australia.
Many more will claim, again like Misbah did, that the defeats show a lot of positives unlike defeats in the past.
However, both these arguments become invalid since the level of opposition and the playing conditions were not exactly ‘Australian’.
The defeat hurts every time you dig deeper into the stats. The team lost against a unit that had a total experience of 120 Tests fewer than our own, that our captain looked below ordinary after leading in more than 50 matches compared to the one whose job was practically on the line, and that our so-called ‘world-class bowling’ could claim 10 wickets just once in five attempts, a new low for the Green Caps in Down Under.
So exactly what went wrong, and who is the culprit?
From domestic cricket to the chairman of the board, nothing seems right in this cricket system, which is why we are where we are.
It is not Mibah’s fault that he is a captain short of idea’s but rather the system’s fault that an 82-year-old chairman wants a 42-year-old captain to extend his stay in the side.
It is not Mohammad Amir’s fault that picked just five wickets in the series but rather the fault of a system which fails to establish a mechanism so people like Amir cannot be fast-tracked to the national team ahead of deserving players such as Tabish Khan.
The people at the helm of affairs make sure that the system remains fragile and full of loopholes, so people find a way out of it if you want to blame them, just like it will happen post Australia tour — the captain will write in the report that he didn’t get the team he wanted, the selector will say that they were not heard at the time of selection, the coach will say he is still learning ‘how it works in Pakistan cricket’, and the chairman and other board members who take hefty paychecks will tell you it’s the players fault, and they should bear the consequence.
This circus of Pakistan cricket is made to work that way, and for so long, we got away with it because of the natural talent we had. That is not naturally available anymore, which is why we are number five in Tests, number seven in T20Is and number nine in ODIs.
All of this tells us that Pakistan cricket remains a mess, a mess which will not getting any better anytime soon. But it’s our own mess, so let’s own it, because that’s what we have been doing, and that’s what we will keep on doing.