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Pakistan's World Cup exit crowns eight shambolic months on the field and off it
The world's laughing-stock
March 18, 2007
Ireland have done their utmost to promote the cause of 'minnows', for striking one for the romantics in sport © Getty Images
First, an apology to the Irish: what follows is meant in no way to take anything away from what must be one of that immensely warm, tiny nation's greatest sporting achievements. They outplayed Pakistan with bat, ball, mind, body, soul and all else that goes into the winning of cricket matches.
Niall O'Brien, Boyd Rankin and Andre Botha, we thank you for reminding us precisely why cricket is the wonderful game that it is and why the story of David and Goliath, no matter what twist it is given, will never bore. We salute you for doing your utmost to promote the cause of 'minnows', for striking one for the romantics in sport.
And we apologise to you for our captain Inzamam-ul-Haq's disgraceful yet revealing post-match comment that kismet was not with Pakistan; kismet or fate, Inzamam, had nothing to do with it and to say it did degrades a mighty performance. But can I politely ask that the Irish now look away lest it spoil their Guinness buzz.
Cricket is a beautiful sport but since August last year, in Pakistan it has been an ugly, grotesque creature. Every scandal, every debilitating, familiar loss, every pathetic little lie, every cock-up has hammered away not only at the game itself but at our souls as followers.
To top that entire period by losing to Ireland, by getting knocked out of the World Cup barely five days after it began, throwing out of the window in five days what was supposed to have been three years of preparation and somehow contriving to make even the doomed World Cup class of 2003 appear champions, is cause enough to churn out that most hackneyed of literary clich鳠- the cricket obituary.
I was tempted to write one now, before I realized that I had written one for a local magazine when Pakistan were knocked out of the last World Cup. I was wrong then and am wrong now for Pakistan cricket is not dead. Death would be a blessing, a final blow that we could eventually get over. No, we're in a far worse situation: doomed to exist in a state of perpetual, cyclical near-death, resurrected after every World Cup, only to slowly develop the same cancers, quickly rot, come close to death and then revamp all over again.
On the field, the same ills plague us. We might as well not play openers and better fielders have been spotted in morgues. The same morgues probably have fitter bowlers in them. A touch of green on any surface still produces a whole host of yellow in our batsmen.
There are some new twists to this vintage. The holier than thou religiosity is a sidelight, but when you know that all of them are so trapped by material greed that they ask for money to even pick up a phone to answer your call, how much respect can you have for their moral fibre?
The relationship between Inzamam-ul-Haq and Bob Woolmer has been rocky since the Oval Test, which is when Pakistan's latest descent began. The captain has, according to almost everyone bar himself, become a dictator of the worst kind since then © AFP
Leaving everything in the hands of the Almighty isn't a great Plan A. But if Plan B was evident in the form of Pakistan's squad selection for the tournament, then perhaps the first wasn't so bad after all. Imran Nazir and Danish Kaneria were particularly baffling, only because they hadn't featured at all in the last three years (dropping Kaneria for the Irish game bordered on the genius). Azhar Mahmood had featured even less in that period.
Off the field is no different. The world has decried, bemoaned and laughed at the way we have cocked up the doping crisis. They laughed when we changed captains thrice in a trice and the administration too in October. They fell over, sides split, when our biggest contribution to the World Cup was a discussion on which languages are banned and which are not at press conferences. The board's constitution, promised to us at the start of the year and several times since, remains hidden. Who knows whether or not it makes any difference anyway.
The chairman of selectors has as much say as the country's prime minister (very little) and a similar level of success. The coach has been accused by many, including PCB officials, of spending too much time on things that aren't coaching. The relationship with the captain has been rocky since the Oval Test, which is when Pakistan's latest descent began. The captain has, according to almost everyone bar himself, become a dictator of the worst kind since then.
All of which means the case for sacking each and every one of them can be made rationally, rather than just emotionally. If we're getting emotional then we should call for the entire team and board to be sacked, maybe to be replaced by the Under-19 team. Or the team from my neighbourhood.
Is this response over the top? Probably, but if we're not to get emotional over this then what are we to get emotional over? And it's still not half as bad as what the country is saying.
No excuse, no reference to fate or God's will, no green pitch, no blue one, no injured players, no poor selection, nothing can justify this. Unlike that obituary which I eventually lost, I'll hang on to this article. I'll need it again in four years' time.
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo
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