A clueless Pakistan team was mauled on the cricket field by Afghanistan on Monday night. It wasn’t just embarrassing. It was painful to watch — the 92 Cup champions stumble. After all, it has just been 31 years since we won the ODI World Cup.
The opponents weren’t a strong team either. This was Afghanistan. We’ve beaten them 7 times before. Making it 8-0 wouldn’t be a problem.
A few hours later, we all stood embarrassingly corrected.
Hopeful fans could not help but steer conversations to semi-final prospects. The rest tried to mask disappointment by adopting the ‘told you so’ routine.
Much like our egos, which misguidedly saw a victory against Afghanistan as a given, chances of a last-four finish got a beating. It didn’t help that Afghanistan player Ibrahim Zadran took the stage to “dedicate the win to people being sent back home” by Pakistan, referring to Islamabad’s recent decision to deport illegal immigrants (mostly Afghan refugees). All of a sudden, the victory became political.
None of this is to take away from Afghanistan players’ professional and clinical display on the field. In their eighth attempt, they registered an inaugural win over Pakistan in the format. A distant, but related, stat comes to mind against India. The number there stands at 8-0, though.
But like its economy, Pakistan cricket team will now rely on ‘bailouts’, banking on other results to go in its favour to extend the stay in India.
As much as we tout the 1992 World Cup win, none of us can hide from the fact that it was the result of a bailout – rain and an Australian win over the West Indies meant Pakistan scraped through. In 1987, when it started as firm favourites, the team went down to Australia. In 1999, a similar fate awaited them at Lord’s.
Sitting pretty and in comfort is just not Pakistan’s cup of tea.
It has to come at a cusp. Someone has to say ‘and … action’. Its approach towards setting a target is the same way. Let’s do it at the deep end of the innings.
Call it procrastination or reliance on Divine Intervention, but Pakistan cricket – like its economy – has to be shown the worst-possible outcome to make behavioural changes. Analysing, rationalising, arguing, cajoling, even screaming doesn’t work.
While on the cricket field it relies on outcomes of other matches, its economy has the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
More than a dozen bailouts later, Pakistan’s economy is still facing the same basic issues it has faced for decades — loss-making SOEs, cash-strapped governments with inconsistent policies, and lack of trust in the system. Its cricket team walks the same path. Stuck in decades-old issues like fielding and sticking stubbornly to defensive style of cricket.
Perhaps, a proper humiliation in India is needed. Perhaps, another four defeats will convey to the ‘men in charge’ that Pakistan’s ODI ranking is not at all significant if it puts up performances like it has so far.
It may not be about Babar Azam’s captaincy or that he looked like a lost soul, sent unprepared and unguarded in a hostile place, where he desperately ‘hung onto friends’ at the cost of team composition.
But it is definitely about the millions watching back home. The team owes its fans this much. It needed the dollar to hit 307 and 330 in the inter-bank and open-markets, respectively, for the ‘stick’ to come.The carrots don’t work in Pakistan. The bailouts don’t work in Pakistan.
The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners