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No Light At Tunnel’s End For Pakistan Players

By Orin Davidson
Nov. 30th, 2009
These days are not the greatest times being a Pakistan cricketer.

If you might have forgotten, all Pakistan teams have not had international competition at home for close to a year. And there is no indication matches will return there anytime soon, as the International Cricket Council (ICC) is still dithering on the way forward. So, young players aiming to make a start to international careers, are having to do it the hard way, without the home advantage.

But the players’ woes don’t end there. Those contracted to play in the lucrative Indian Premier League next year face an unusual stumbling block. They have to get permission from the Pakistan government first. Yes, you heard right! Kamran Akmal, Sohail Tanvil and Misbah-Ul-Haq will have to acquire approval first from their politicians before travelling to India. Cricket is a huge sport in Pakistan and India, so huge that it sometimes require more than mere ability to play at the highest level in the sub continent, moreso in the former country. Politicians there, being as opportunistic as any in any part of the world, have managed to spread their tentacles of power to engulf the game there.

They have the final say in all major cricket issues, which is not only a curious situation, but one which would be viewed with horror especially in the United States.

The appointment of captains have to go through the Government and in some cases the leader for example in the case of ex-President Musharaf. He vetted such processes himself as Head of State that resulted in the Pakistan Cricket Board president, as well as coaches and other important officials having to get the Government green light before beginning duty.

In countries like ours in America, politicians cannot even think of getting involved in any type of decision –making issue relative to the management of the NFL, MLB, NBA or NHL. It is only they break the law, you hear about congressional probes.

Imagine a player having to seek permission from his government to earn a livelihood. That is unthinkable here where freedom is a scared right in everything we do.

No wonder in Pakistan there are a great many upheavals in their cricket. In recent weeks, big drama resulted over the captaincy. Younis Khan gave up the post twice in two months. Very likely he was pressured to rescind his first decision and finally got his way by dropping out of the current tour of New Zealand. In such scenarios where politicians have a big say, players are forced to adhere to directives, which normally is a recipe for disaster.

Shoaib Akhtar has has spent more time in fights with officialdom than he probably had to tend to his injuries. Inzaman-Ul - Haq ended an excellent career in turbulence with authority, Mohamed Yusuf once retired prematurely and came back, and presently one of the world’s best leg spinners Danish Kaneria is cooling his heels in Karachi instead of touring New Zealand.

The bottom line is that players are not given the freedom to play the game on their own accord which results in mental distraction and hinders players from giving their best.

Now, if you continue to wonder why Pakistan’s talented players cannot perform to their maximum potential, it is because of frustration for the most part.

It is a sad case for which the International Cricket Council will be loathe to straighten out, given their track record of spinlessness. But the world ruling body can lead the way to normalcy in Pakistan’s cricket by at least determining a tentative date for the return of international cricket to the country.

The PCB’s horrific security lapses that caused the shooting attack on the touring Sri Lanka team recently, was one mighty letdown that caused the indefinite ban, which is a decision you cannot argue against.

It has already cost Pakistan their hosting rights for the next World Cup, which is bad enough.

Yet you should expect the ICC being proactive in working with the PCB in resolving the issue, because they cannot keep out the country forever. In the same way the politicians throw their weight around the internal Pakistan cricket affairs, the same way they should try to convince the ICC of using government resources to provide security for future visiting teams.

One reason true cricket fans love Ricky Ponting is for his ability and batting flair. Now you can add pragmatism to the list of superlatives to describe the Australia captain.

Ponting recently said Test cricket is all about fast bowlers attacking batsmen that creates the appeal which makes the sport, so adorable to its followers. Ponting hit the nail on the head by correctly identifying the real reason cricket should be loved. More than anything else it is about showcasing bowlers skill in getting wickets. Bowlers have unrestricted freedom to fully utilize their ability in Test competition. And it could only be realized if pitches are lively enough to provide a balanced platform to allow bowlers and batsmen equal opportunity to perform.

Pace bowlers as well as spinners would not be deterred by lively pitches, nor would batsmen who could bat. Hopefully the International Cricket Council (ICC) is taking note.

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