An Indian cricket captain who has led the ODI team in a match against Pakistan after 1986 has battled the same problem a top notch CEO would face when his company was in the decline mode!
Javed Miandad’s last ball six off Chetan Sharma changed the dynamics of the Indo-Pak rivalry for the next 10-12 years. From what used to be a closely contested rivalry, post-Miandad-sixer Pakistan seemed to have gained some kind of edge over the Indians.
Even if they were struggling against other teams and with a host of problems internally, the Pakistani team seemed to have an aura around them while playing against India. The team produced heroes who delivered exactly what the team required in crunch situations. The only exceptions to this were the matches played in World Cups where India ruled the roost by winning every time the 2 teams clashed.
With the high level intensity of Indo-Pak games in the decade of 80s and 90s, the Indian captain always appeared to be struggling to come up with a way to get rid of the stronghold that Pakistan possessed. The struggles seemed to have shifted borders now and it is the Pakistani team which seems to lack steel nowadays.
In the 90s specifically, Pakistan had a strong set of ODI players in Akram, Waqar, Saeed Anwar and Inzaman, but against India, even players like Aaqib Javed, Aamir Sohail, Salim Malik, Ijaz Ahmed, etc. used to win matches single handedly. This trend continued throughout the 90s with India enjoying a rare series win, for e.g. in the Sahara Cup 1997, Toronto.
Cut to the present and last week’s Indo-Pak game and its one-sided result actually got me thinking of the huge gap that can be seen between the 2 sides now. Even knowing the fact that Shahid Afridi helped Pakistan beat India in an Asia Cup encounter a couple of weeks ago, as a cricket viewer, this Pakistan team seems bereft of class to actually compete with Team India. Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi seem to be the only 2 talismanic cricketers left in the Pakistani ODI team now who can be included in the list of world’s top players in the shorter formats currently.
The earlier Pakistani players were definitely much more talented than the current lot and they seemed to possess a certain swagger when they walked onto the field of play. Even if they were defending small totals below 200, the sheer confidence with which they entered the ground, their body language while fielding made them a formidable team.
The current lot on the other hand seems a little laid back, a little less aggressive – somehow they certainly seem a bunch of team Imran Khan would never have captained!
The Pakistani team was always an enjoyable team to watch because they produced entertaining cricket – If Wasim and Waqar were not playing, they always had an Aaqib Javed, Shoaib Akhtar, Mushtaq Ahmed or a Saqlain Mushtaq who were wicket taking bowlers. Saeed Anwar, Inzaman ul Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, Salim Malik were top class batsmen regularly playing in the side with Aamir Sohail and Ijaz Ahmed contributing strongly. And they had the fighting spirit of a Moin Khan to help the team when they were struggling.
Younis Khan actually managed to captain the team to a World T20 win with the help of some dazzling individual performances by Afridi, Abdul Razzaq, Kamran Akmal and Mohd Amir. Sadly the team seems to have lost track of playing attacking cricket.
For cricket fans, except Saeed Ajmal there is not one cricketer in the current team who is consistently watchable. From being a country producing some exciting talent which was great for the sport, Pakistan seemed to be struggling to throw up and more importantly retain raw talent.
The ODI team has just won a series in South Africa and competed in the finals of the Asia Cup but for cricket fans like us, we would like to see a more exciting Pakistani team playing aggressive cricket. Maybe it’s time the PCB tinker with their existing selection set-up and start getting their stream of talented youngsters back.
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