The whispers had been there and the writing was clearly on the wall, with enough hints being dropped by the Pakistan Cricket Board management about what was to come; in a sense Waqar Younis’ unceremonious exit ahead of the expiry of his two-year contract was expected, though it was likely accelerated by the back-to-back debacles during the Asia Cup and 2016 World Twenty20 tournament.
Hounded by some members of the much-reviled elements of the Pakistan media and actively encouraged by the powers-that-be, Waqar’s second spell as the head coach of Pakistan duly came to an end on April 4. The resignation, made under duress, was a culmination of a tenure that began with much hope nearly two years ago but ended in what can only be classed as a major disappointment for one of Pakistan’s top former cricketers.
To all my boys,thankyou for this journey,my harshness or my praise has always been for your & Pakistans success.I'm sad to leave my family.— waqar younis (@waqyounis99) April 5, 2016
A THANKLESS TASK
Known for his legendary fast-bowling partnership with Wasim Akram, the ‘Burewala Express’ was responsible for a plethora of wickets and many a bruised toe as he went about his job with demonic calm as a player, collecting 789 international wickets – including the scalps of some of the finest batsmen of those times.
Waqar then turned his skills towards a more demanding and, as he would later realise, a thankless task – trying to coach a bunch of extremely talented but unpredictable individuals, the Pakistan cricket team. Waqar took on the challenge with great grace but the events of the English summer in 2010 laid waste to his enthusiasm. Fate still had stiffer trials in store for Waqar as he discovered when Pakistan wicket-keeper Zulqarnain Haider went missing from the team hotel during a series against South Africa in Dubai.
Thnkyou @waqyounis99 4 everything u hve given 2 me n team Pakistan The way u served us Ur hardwork, dedication, patriotism was amazing 1/2)— Wahab Riaz (@WahabViki) April 5, 2016
Possibly brow-beaten by the stress of the job, Waqar said farewell to the team in 2011, citing ‘personal’ reasons, but with the departure of Dav Whatmore in 2014, he returned as head coach. By that time, the Pakistan Test team had become more settled with Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan leading from the front and the UAE established as a fertile battle-ground for the Pakistan team.
While Test victories were becoming common for Pakistan, the situation in the limited overs formats was far from satisfactory. Waqar was also getting frustrated and disillusioned by the apparent lack of consistency in team selection and the high-handedness of the selectors in picking players without his approval.
It was an open secret that Waqar’s position was being undermined by the inclusion of players who had clear issues with his personality or were completely unsuitable for the shorter formats of the game. The Younis Khan selection for the 2015 World Cup, done under intense media pressure, and the same player’s inclusion for the 2015 ODI series against England, exemplify this.
I'm gona miss u n ur presence @waqyounis99 .Ur laughs ur anger everything. May ALLAH bless you n always give u success in ur life . Thanku— Wahab Riaz (@WahabViki) April 5, 2016
Whilst he may have taken on the best in the trade in his bowling days, Waqar was finding it tough to deal with a culture where nepotism and skulduggery were the order of the day.
To many observers, Waqar’s attitude towards some players such as Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad appeared to be unjustified given the hype surrounding their respective talents, but it was clear that as time moved on and with every failure, the Pakistan head coach was slowly losing his patience with the prima donna behaviour of some players, as well as the outrageous decision making by selectors.
WORSHIPPING A FALSE IDOL
The Pakistan Super League (PSL) took centre stage for a few weeks and while the nation and a few PCB officials celebrated Pakistan’s answer to the Indian Premier League (IPL), Waqar looked in horror as the hard work of his coaching staff was thrown to the wind as a number of players used the tournament as an all-expense paid holiday to the UAE, paying lip-service to the carefully crafted development plans for each of the Pakistan players.
The blind quest for revenues and adulation by the masses may have made the PSL a successful tournament but with the approaching 2016 World Twenty20, Waqar knew that the PSL was nothing short of a disaster in terms of preparation.
Speaking of changes, it's always sad to see a member of our cricket family depart. @waqyounis99 all the best & thanks for all the pep talks?— Shoaib Malik (@realshoaibmalik) April 5, 2016
More pain was in store for the Pakistan head coach with the inclusion of Khurram Manzoor for the Asia Cup T20 tournament. A move which could only be described as farcical in nature resulted in the return of Ahmed Shehzad, much to the amazement of a bewildered head coach.
What followed in the World Twenty20 has been well documented but what also came to light, thanks to internally leaked reports, was the pattern of isolation and non-cooperation by the PCB management towards Waqar. This episode also led to the swift end to Waqar’s reign as all and sundryin the Pakistan media and PCB took public pot-shots at him. The leaking of his confidential report to the PCB was certainly not appreciated by a despondent Waqar.
He may not have had the man-management skills of Imran Khan or the silken tongue and fatherly presence of the late Bob Woolmer, but Waqar does leave his position with his head held high.
Under his watch, the Pakistan Test team has become a formidable force in Asia and a settled unit, cohesive on and off the field and a different animal to the limited overs Pakistan teams. Perhaps the biggest testament to any Pakistan team coach is the fact that this tenure was as conspiracy/controversy free as can be humanly achieved in such circumstances.
In his words, he ends this tenure with the team he loves with a ‘heavy heart’ but Waqar Younis’ parting gift to the nation and his employer is a set of recommendations to improve the future of the game in Pakistan. This is a gift to the PCB which should be received with an open mind and implemented as soon as possible. Hopefully the Pakistan cricket authorities focus on the message instead of shooting the messenger.
Pakistan middle-order batsman Haris Sohail is recovering well from a career-threatening knee injury and has vowed that he will soon make a comeback for the national side.
“My recovery is a little slow but I am getting better day by day and with God’s help, I should recover completely,” said Haris while talking to PakPassion. “This is a slow but meticulously managed process. I have not started any cricket practice as yet as the rehabilitation phase is still in progress. These are just the starting stages of my rehabilitation; the total recovery is around six months long.”
The southpaw made an appearance on the Pakistan cricket scene in 2013 and soon registered his place in the middle order of all three formats. Unluckily, he incurred a knee injury in June 2015 for which he was operated in December 2015.
The 27-year-old further said that he is recovering well and will be starting cricket-related training in June.
“I can only start sports related activity after four of five months into this recovery period of six months,” he explained. “So, I expect to start training later this month and start cricket-related training around June.”
Haris has a healthy average of 43 after representing Pakistan in 22 ODIs. He has scored 774 runs at a strike rate of 82.86. Thus, the vacant space left by Haris’ in the middle order was felt by Pakistan during their Asia Cup and World T20 campaigns. However, Haris believes surgery was the only way out after the career-threatening injury.
“The injury was a serious one and surgery was really the last choice after all other options had been exhausted but I am confident that I will be able to fully recover and serve Pakistan again,” said Haris.
Meanwhile, with Pakistan’s tour of England this summer, Haris is not sure if he will be able to make it into the squad.
Mohsin, who previously coached Pakistan across eight Test matches – winning six and drawing two – in a hugely successful long format stint during the 2011-12 season, was addressing media at his Karachi residence.
Of late the 61 year-old has turned into a staunch critic of the PCB during TV stints across various international assignments.
His latest volley was aimed at the committee assigned the task of finding Waqar’s replacement that comprises of legendary cricketers Wasim Akram and Ramiz Raja. Mohsin described them as “too junior” to conduct an interview with him for the role.
“I won’t be interviewed by my juniors; there’s simply no possibility of that,” said Mohsin. “Both cricketers in the committee started their careers towards the end of mine. If I apply, I will address my application to the chairman only.”
Mohsin was unceremoniously dumped as head coach after a long and draining series against England in the UAE four years ago but is adamant he is ready to “serve his country” again but only if his demands were met.
Under Mohsin, Misbah-ul-Haq’s team whitewashed the then world number one England in the longest format, before enduring a slump in both ODI and T20I formats — 4-0 and 2-1 defeats. Mohsin believes that the series defeat was due to outside influences.
“We did fantastically well against England in the Tests but after that a conspiracy was initiated to remove me,” said Mohsin.
“The illogical move destroyed Pakistan cricket since my replacement Dav Whatmore and after him Waqar did nothing noteworthy for our cricket; we have now been left in a state of absolute shambles.”
Mohsin minced no words in his criticism of foreign coaches, adding he feels that the so-called “high profile” candidates are only interested in filling their pockets.
Mohsin was also offered the post of chief selector after the Haroon Rasheed-led selection committee was sacked last week, a role he claims to have turned down in belief that selectors have a thankless job and often their plans are not executed by the team management.