Wheres the next Imran

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Shamik Chakrabarty | Updated: Apr 6 2014, 07:53am hrs
At the Mirpur academy nets, Indias bowling coach Joe Dawes erected a dummy and asked players Varun Aaron and Mohammed Shami to have a go at it. The batsmen practised in a separate area, basically concentrating on their bat swings and taking throw-downs from fielding coach Trevor Penny. Next day at Fatullah, Bangladesh, Aaron gave away 74 runs in 7.5 overs before being barred from bowling for letting out back-to-back beamers in Indias Asia Cup opener against Bangladesh.

There might be little connection between the Indian quicks training novelty and his performance on the field, but the method was curious enough to raise a few eyebrows. The obvious question was, why didnt he bowl to the frontline batsmen in the nets, which might have been more helpful both ways

This Indian team revels in confidentiality, so it was too far-fetched to think that Dawes would appear before the media to explain his methods. This correspondent approached Wasim Akram, who was there in Dhaka on a commentary assignment. When asked if he had ever used a mannequin during his playing days to perfect his art, the Pakistan great smiled widely. No, never. I always preferred the original. Original hilta hai, dummy hil nahi sakta (the original can move and use his feet, a dummy cant).

About three weeks later, I asked the same question to Waqar Younis when he dropped in at Kolkata. Akrams new-ball partner struggled to understand what exactly a dummy batsman is all about and what role does it have to play in net sessions. After listening to everything, he simply dismissed the idea.

Akram and Younis have 1,705 international wickets (Tests and ODIs combined) between them and they always backed their natural ability to succeed.

In fact, Pakistan cricket has always been about thriving in individual brilliance, which makes them one of the most exciting sides in the world. The ability to stand firm under pressure had made them a special unit under Imran Khan. The present team, however, lacks self-belief, which is a reason why they are so inconsistent.

Samuel Badree is not considered to be good enough to play for West Indies in Test cricket and 50-over cricket. He bowls flattish, fastish leg-spin, which is suitable for T20s. Pakistan batsmen made him look like Shane Warne the other night. Sunil Narine was bowling from the other end and took the mickey out of Shoaib Maqsood.

Theres no shame in struggling against a class operator like Narine, but the Maqsoods and the Maliks showed very little stomach for fight and threw in the towel a little too easily; 82 all-out in 17.5 overs was a low point for Pakistan cricket.

The debacle had its first casualty in the form of Mohammad Hafeez, who stepped down as Pakistans T20 captain.

As a Pakistan T20 captain, I solely take the responsibility for the performance in World T20 and decided to step down, he said. Hafeez perhaps had no other options.

But the World T20 horror show doesnt look like an odd blip; Pakistan have been blowing hot and cold for far too long now to be considered a serious force at the top level. Not that they are not winning odd matches. Just four months ago, they won a thriller to level the three-Test series against Sri Lanka in UAE. Azhar Ali hit a brilliant hundred as his team chased down 302 runs for victory in 59 overs.

In Asia Cup too, Pakistan played good cricket to reach the final, but looked mediocre against a very professional Sri Lankan outfit in the title showdown. Perhaps Pakistan need a proper cricketing inquest to solve the problem.

Javed Miandad feels the youngsters need to set their priorities right. Young players want instant success. The game has changed a lot and T20 is the new fad. Its easy to play in the shortest format. As a batsman, you just have to hit a few fours and sixes, while as a bowler, you have to bowl only four overs per game. I agree that you can no longer ignore this format, but cricket shouldnt be that easy. I also believe if you are really good, you can seamlessly fit into all formats. I hope the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) will try to groom young talent and will try to strike a balance between T20s and Test cricket, he said.

We had a poor tournament in Bangladesh and now have to start afresh, Miandad added.

Pakistan cricket teams chief consultant Zaheer Abbas is repeatedly reminding his players about the importance of grinding it out in the middle.

Yes, inconsistency is a problem and we have to develop the ability to grind it out in tough situations. This is a process and hopefully in a year or so things will be better, he says.

The problem is that Pakistan appear to be caught between the traditional and the western at the moment. The likes of Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal are old-school and still believe in the home-grown style. The younger generation, on the other hand, prefers the so-called scientific approach. Again, the management needs to strike a balance. More importantly, Pakistan need an Imran-like leader for inspiration.

From Qayyum Commission to Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amirs imprisonment, Pakistan cricket has faced many an upheaval. But they kept on producing quality talent. Unfortunately, there seems to be a dearth at the moment. Pakistan need to regroup fast under an inspirational captain.