From Pakistan’s perspective, things couldn’t have gone worse over the past couple of weeks for a country so mad about cricket. A convincing loss to New Zealand left them all but out of the World T20 bar a series of results still possible but fortuitous if they come to fruition.
A woeful display against Australia extinguished all hopes of progress to the latter stages, the curtain coming down on a truly forgettable expedition across the border and into India.
And the backdrop to it all was frighteningly predictable – their players and board in full revolt, their performances revolting.
It is a frustrating time for everyone involved and especially for those who have followed the side with optimism in the recent past.
This frustration was evident after the loss to New Zealand as I posed a question to coach Waqar Younis about Shahid Afridi effectively calling time on his career.
A three second dismissive stare was the reply, revealing the fire the supreme fast bowler terrified opponents with.
Thinly veiled attacks at Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad followed in a tense presser that highlights Pakistan’s position. Their cricket and its infrastructure is on the brink. It is an ugly state of affairs that on the back of the success of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) should never have come about.
Rumours of Shahryar Khan being under pressure have trickled its way down from the PCB chairman as everyone blames each other for their woes in the dogfight for positions and security.
The next problem posed will be whether the right people are put in place and you only need to look at football’s equivalent of a fallen former giant Manchester United to see how important a succession plan of real substance is.
Whether Shahryar is part of the next stage of Pakistan’s development or not is up for debate but a quick survey of United fans on Ed Woodward’s presence at the club might serve them well.
Waiting in the wings for yet another stint as the PCB boss is Najam Sethi, the PSL chief who so impressively delivered a product for Pakistan to be proud of.
Afridi, still a divisive but hugely popular and talented enigma, looks set to be leaving and his replacement will be as key to the country’s progress in one-day cricket as the people who will eventually replace Waqar and/or Shahryar.
Azhar Ali holds the one-day captaincy but can’t get a game in T20Is. Sarfraz Ahmed has been touted as a possible T20 captain and is widely expected to be recommended by Waqar as Afridi’s replacement.
A pivotal period of introspection now faces Pakistan and although an overhaul is needed swiftly, there must be considered thinking behind their next move.
Kevin Pietersen this week tweeted:
PAKISTAN - the @thePSLt20 will help & guide your national & domestic players. Give your players a season or two to figure out consistency!??— Kevin Pietersen (@KP24) March 22, 2016
It is a valid argument, one based on Pietersen’s own experiences with Quetta Gladiators and of the IPL’s influence on Indian cricket over the years.
Within the PSL they have a product both financially viable and invested in its players, run in earnest by key figures hell bent on improving the national game and returning cricket to the country.
Without question, those involved with the PSL – like Sethi – should be taken on board in an effort to revitalise Pakistan’s cricket. The cricketing establishment must bring in fresh blood with new ideas to have any real ambition of closing the gap between themselves and the rest of the world.