By Sohail Ali
LAHORE, Jan 12 (APP): The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Cricket Committee on Tuesday expressed its dissatisfaction on the national team’s performances, but acknowledged the fact that the side had competed in the unprecedented and challenging COVID-19 circumstances, which resulted in the absence of a few experienced players that, in turn, contributed towards the overall below-par performances.
The first meeting of the PCB Cricket Committee of the year took place under the chairmanship of former Test wicketkeeper Saleem Yousuf. Umar Gul and Wasim Akram joined the session online, while Urooj Mumtaz attended the meeting at the Gaddafi Stadium. PCB Chief Executive Wasim Khan and Director – International Cricket, Zakir Khan also participated as ex-officio members.
(Pakistan men’s national cricket team performance)
The committee analysed and reviewed the performance of the Pakistan men’s national cricket team over the past 16 months during which the side played 10 Tests (won two and lost five), five ODIs (won four) and 17 T20Is (won seven and lost eight).
Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and bowling coach Waqar Younis also attended the session upon special invitation and provided their feedback and input to the committee. Prior to their participation, newly-appointed chief selector Muhammad Wasim also briefed the committee on his selection policies.
The PCB Cricket Committee unanimously agreed that the backroom staff needed to provide absolute clarity on their collective strategy and approach so that they could be evaluated and assessed against those objectives at the next meeting.
The committee also recommended that the PCB should continue to support and back the team management, whilst suggesting that the next performance appraisal be conducted following the home series against South Africa.
PCB Cricket Committee Chairman Saleem Yousuf said : “The PCB Cricket Committee carried out a holistic but constructive, fact-based and objective review of the Pakistan men’s cricket team in the past 16 months. There is no denying the fact that we all want to see our side ranked amongst the top three or four cricket playing nations and our recent performances do justice with neither those expectations nor the talent we boast.
“Nevertheless, we also need to take into consideration a number of other factors and the committee was of the view that cricket during the Covid-19 pandemic was one of the biggest contributing factors in the side’s dismal performances.
The challenges of playing in Covid-19 protocols have not only been faced by the Pakistan men’s national team, but by all the sides presently involved in international cricket and these concerns have been regularly raised by the team coaches and elite cricketers.
“All professional and high-performing athletes require an environment where they can prepare their best for the international stage, which was not the case for the last two tours and most definitely not at the last tour where players had been confined to their rooms for two weeks due to the policies of that particular Covid-free country.
“As a consequence, Babar Azam, Imam-ul-Haq and Shadab Khan were unavailable for Test selections after Fakhar Zaman had missed the flight on the day of the departure. These big loses affected the team combinations that, in turn, resulted in the side’s overall below-par performance against a side that remained unbeaten in the past two-and-a-half years.
“Notwithstanding these disadvantages, the PCB Cricket Committee strongly believes team selections and choice of players in the playing line-ups should have been made better. The committee also believes more scientific and data based work needed to be done on the players with improved communication to not only prepare them for the bigger challenges but by also identifying players who can back their performances with other capability trades in a high-competitive environment on a consistent basis.
“With the important home series against South Africa only two weeks away, the PCB Cricket Committee will conduct another review after the conclusion of the same. However, it has already been relayed to the team management that there will be no points for second place.”
Zakir Khan, Director – International, updated the PCB Cricket Committee on the Pakistan men’s cricket team’s commitments in the 2021 calendar year, which will commence with the home series against South Africa.
Zakir Khan informed the committee that all arrangements have been put in place for the befitting delivery of the series under difficult and challenging bio-secure environment. The committee was informed fans will not be allowed inside the venue due to government restrictions.
Apart from the series against South Africa, other events in the 2021 calendar year include Pakistan tour to South Africa, Zimbabwe, England, West Indies and Afghanistan, and home series against New Zealand, England and the West Indies with the Asia Cup T20 and ICC T20 World Cup scheduled in the second and last quarters of the year.
The PCB Cricket Committee complimented the women’s wing for arranging and scheduling international series against South Africa and England, which indicates that women’s cricket was firmly on the PCB’s radar despite the difficult pandemic situation. The Committee also congratulated Bismah Maroof and her Challengers’ side for successfully defending the National Triangular T20 Women’s Cricket Championship trophy in December 2020.
The Committee recommended that irrespective of how the series in South Africa pans out, focus should not drift from women’s cricket and all possible support and assistance be provided to the side so as to enable them to perform strongly in the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier 2021 and progress to next year’s event proper in New Zealand.
(PCB domestic cricket 2020-21)
PCB General Manager – Domestic Cricket, Junaid Zia, gave a presentation on the National High Performance Centre and PCB domestic season 2020-21. He briefed the panel that 255 domestic contracted players featured in 185 matches of eight events between 30 September 2020 and 5 January 2021, with the Pakistan Cup One-Day Tournament currently under progress in Karachi.
The PCB Cricket Committee was pleased with the involvement of over 50 recently retired international stars in various coaching roles in the High Performance department. The Committee expressed hope that these coaches will not only work in unearthing, identifying and developing talented cricketers but will also work extensively with the current players to help them rectify their technical flaws and regain their forms.
The PCB Cricket Committee acknowledged that through the efforts and hard work of the High Performance department, Pakistan was able to demonstrate to the world that cricket and Covid-19 can co-exist with appropriate safety measures. The PCB, during the ongoing season, has already conducted 3,750 tests on all participants, including players and match officials.
The Committee was pleased with the quality and competitive cricket that was played in the domestic competitions, noting the improved and impressive strike-rates in the National T20 Cup as well as individual performances and results in the four-day first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.
The Committee recommended that the High Performance department needed to continue to focus on improving the standard of umpiring, pitches and other player facilities. The Committee also suggested similar brand cricket balls should be applied across all events and formats so that the gap between first and second XI sides and the players can be further reduced.