Pakistan cricket is going through a tough patch, especially in the longest format. Pakistan is on the verge of a test series whitewash against England as only formalities remain on the final test. This is going to be one of the darkest days in Pakistani cricket. Captain Babar Azam and the team management have a lot on their plates to dig their team out of this hole. This will be the first time that Pakistan will be humiliated with a whitewash at home by a visiting team.
At the end of 3rd day’s play of the ongoing test match in Karachi, England is just 55 runs away to inflict a series whitewash on the host. Ben Duckett and Ben Stokes are in the crease and the three lions have 6 sessions to chase down the remaining runs.
Where is this team going wrong in test cricket? Should all the blame be put on the skipper? Is the Pakistan domestic structure not producing enough quality players? Let us look at these questions deeply.
Babar’s Defensive Approach
As good a batsman as Babar Azam is across all formats, he seems to be in all seas while leading the side. Babar just crumbles under pressure and sometimes does not know what to do when the opponents start taking the game away from Pakistan. This pattern is visible across all formats. It is this inability to handle pressure situations (while not batting) that the team has not major trophy in its cabinet since 2017. The inability to handle pressure-cooker situations gets more exposed in test cricket. Oftentimes, the mistake he makes is fielding the wrong playing XI on the field and becomes lost for options if a partnership develops.
What is Wrong with Pakistan Cricket’s Domestic Structure?
Pakistan cricket’s domestic structure has seen many changes since 1947. During the early days, their domestic cricket was segregated into regional, city and departmental teams. The first test captain of Pakistan Abdul Hafeez Kardar was behind this domestic structure. The domestic structure went under hammer and tongs several times until T20 and ODI cricket came into existence.
In 2019, the Pakistan Cricket Board scrapped departmental cricket and the regional teams were reduced to 6. The main idea behind this move was to improve the quality of cricket by increasing competition. The updated system included corresponding under-19, under-16, and under-13 contests as well as live television coverage of top-tier games. Additionally, the restructuring created a three-tier bottom-up system for district-level cricket, with 90 city cricket associations overseeing school and club cricket at the grassroots level and inter-city championships serving as stepping stones for the six top regional teams.
It seems fine from the outside but several sports journalists and ex-cricketers have pointed out the flaws in this system. With favorable results not being produced by Pakistan, it might be high time that the PCB looks deeply into this matter and find a way out of this rut.
Nepotism Plaguing Pakistan Cricket?
Nepotism can be seen in every field and profession and cricket is no different. Nepotism in Pakistan cricket is one of the root causes of its spiraling decline, especially in the longest format. We are indeed no one to judge and these players and officials, the byproducts of nepotism, are doing enough to keep the wheels moving but not enough for victories. People are getting frustrated after looking at their team in dismay. For instance, during the Aisa Cup 2022 final, the entire stadium was shouting “Parchi” (token player) after Khushdil Shah got out.
Uncertainty in the Playing XI
This pattern is visible in the Pakistan cricket team since 2017. It means that except for a handful of players, the rest of them are not sure whether or not they will be playing the next game. So, they just play to make sure their names don’t get struck off from the playing XI of the subsequent match/es. This can be seen from the outside as well. Take for instance the ongoing test match series against England. While the English players are playing fearless cricket, their opponent players seem to be focused more on pleasing the eyes of the team management and selectors. Their approach is not for scoring but to be eye-pleasing.
As we are just viewing this from the outside, sports journalists and experts following Pakistan cricket will be able to comment more on the aforementioned pointers. They can also give us the best opinions regarding how to stop this rut because what fun will be cricket if Pakistan fails to compete?