As the 2023 Asia Cup commenced, Pakistani fans were filled with heightened hopes and exuberance, their eyes glued to the screen in anticipation of the men in green clinching the Asia Cup title. However, the episode concluded in grim silence. At a time when the ODI World Cup looms ahead, the Pakistani team appears to be grappling with low morale, and controversies are escalating in the cricketing arena. The Asia Cup has undoubtedly been a valuable lesson that Pakistan needs to heed.
The physical fitness of the squad has been a topic of discussion since the injury news of formidable fast bowlers Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah hit the airwaves. These two players were perennial sensations, consistently quickening the heartbeats of fans with their thrilling deliveries. Pakistani cricketers are constantly on the move, with their workload demanding exceptional physical strength.
While senior players have criticized the cricketers, cricket authorities have also questioned the PCB’s responsibility, particularly regarding the easy issuance of NOCs to players for foreign leagues, which leaves them with inadequate rest time. Presently, the PCB is working on refining the NOC issuance process, but even stricter measures are necessary. The PCB could explore the option of directly compensating players, thereby raising the bar for them to sign contracts with foreign leagues frequently, which often leaves them fatigued.
Influence of India:
The Asia Cup in 2023 showcased India’s influential role, particularly in determining the match venues. Historically, India has been adamant about not playing in Pakistan and insisting on a neutral pitch. This decision adversely affected the Babar Azam-led team’s performance for various reasons. Some matches were played at home, while others were scheduled in Sri Lanka. The consecutive travels took a toll on practice time, disrupting the rhythm and energy of the players, both individually and as a unit. This led Pakistan to score a mere 128 runs compared to India’s 356 in the second match.
Weather conditions also contributed to the challenges. The first match was suspended due to heavy rain, while the second match was spread over two days because of persistent rainfall. Weather predictions had not been favorable for the games. However, under India’s influence, Pakistan reluctantly opted for Sri Lanka as the venue, further burdening the team. This series of events tarnished Pakistan’s image in the international cricket arena, raising questions about its control over such decisions.
It comes as no surprise that political instability has cast a shadow over the PCB’s infrastructure. Within a span of two years, the PCB witnessed two changes in its chairman. When the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) assumed power, Imran Khan was ousted, leading to doubts during Ramiz Raja’s tenure, which ultimately culminated in his replacement by Najam Sethi. In July 2023, Sethi was also removed from office, and Zaka Ashraf took over. It appears that the new chairman selects cricketers for the squad based on personal perspectives, disrupting the team’s cohesion. One can’t help but wonder if the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) can operate impartially and independently of political influences.
Loss of Confidence:
Former cricketers have consistently made derogatory remarks about the national team, eroding their confidence and labeling them as the “worst” team. Instead of demoralizing them, it’s high time to boost their spirits, help them regain their composure, instill hope, and make them believe that their goals are attainable.
Pakistan must learn from these lessons and bounce back with pride for the upcoming ODI events, radiating confidence. Every entity involved must wholeheartedly support the team’s efforts and enable Pakistan to rise once again.