Beware: PCB's daggers are out again, expect slit throats and SOS calls
It is all back to square one for the cricket team of Pakistan.
Since 18 long years, the volatile Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has time and again chopped and changed the national side whenever they performed badly. A single match or a series lost, and many players would be thrown out of the side and other sidelined players who had been chucked out earlier would get a chance. Captains would change, batting and bowling orders would change. Till this replaced side does well, it survives, and a semblance of a bad performance would mean the newly replaced side would need replacement again. And again. And again.
The cycle does not go.
Not too long ago, a talented team led by a bearded and solemn Mohammed Yousuf struggled and failed to win a single cricket match against a not-so-dominant Australia in that country – all Tests, one-dayers and the solitary T20.
PCB took tough steps in the wake of the embarrassment, banning for indefinite periods experienced and dignified stalwarts like Younis Khan and the studious captain himself.
The team took time to find its feet under a new captain – a characteristic Pakistan player who likes to contribute with his astonishing knocks as frequently as a solar eclipse visits town. Shahid Afridi, with his temperamental attitude and hyperactive though-process, still instilled belief and confidence into the fresh, young team. After a painful loss at the T20 World Cup semi-finals, and two victories against a lax Australia at Edgbaston, things seemed to be atypically falling in place for Pakistan. The team, which had changed its captains as frequently as men change clothes, finally looked to settle under a passionate, mercurial leader in Shahid Afridi.
We should have known better.
The first Test against Australia failed to change the trend and Pakistan lost convincingly again, largely due to failure of its batting. Its bowlers had tested Australia and found success, and Afridi had a reason to believe his team could do better in the next Test. But on the day of that defeat, he announced retirement from this longest version of cricket. It came as a shock, but aren’t we used to it now?
Other steps were contemplated by PCB, like recalling banned Yousuf and Shoaib Malik. The latter, eventually, made an appearance for his country to boost their middle-order.
A smart and mature Salman Butt was appointed captain for the first time. The 25-year old handled things pretty well to lead his side to a historic Test win (yes, you read it right) against Australia – their first in 15 years. Suddenly, everything seemed right and positive for them, and with the Tests against England scheduled to begin soon, they were rightly proclaimed to be a force to reckon with, and Butt was a national hero and a heartthrob.
Come Trent Bridge, however, and Pakistan expectedly embarrassed themselves again.
In this just concluded Test, the comical and entertaining bunch of players managed to accumulate 262 runs in two innings – equal to England’s second innings total. There were a few fiery bursts from special talents Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif, but tons from Morgan and Prior and Pakistan’s collective batting failure meant that they lost by a whopping 354 runs.
The morale is down yet again, and the PCB must be thinking deeply.
What about banning the current players and bringing back other banned and sidelined players? Yousuf, who has gone on record saying he is still available for his side, (meaning he has taken his revenge on PCB by ignoring them for long and is now ready for business), for sure can be brought back. And banned indefinitely again.
Or maybe, give Shoaib Akhtar another chance and make him open the batting?