Pakistan Cricket 2008: A Year In Review

Insular is the only word that comes to my mind when I try to describe the year 2008 for Pakistan cricket. The team was isolated from the rest of the world and, shockingly, didn’t play a single test in 2008. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the Pakistani team have an uncanny ability to shoot themselves in the foot. But this has been a disastrous year even by their standards.

On paper, things don’t look that bad: 18 wins from 21 matches played. Delve a little a deeper and you see the real picture. 12 of the 18 wins were against minnows Bangladesh, Hong Kong and Zimbabwe. Pakistan ended the year ranked a respectable 4th in ODI’s. But there is no doubt that the PCB had a lot more to worry about than just the team’s on-field performances. There were numerous financial and administrative problems that stemmed from the spate of series cancellations that occurred because teams found it unsafe to tour the country. The PCB required great leadership to tackle the various issues at hand – which Dr Nasim Ashraf, former chairman of the PCB, was ultimately not able to provide. His tenure was marked by indecisiveness and the lack of any real results. Inevitably, Dr Ashraf resigned and that was followed soon by the sacking of coach Geoff Lawson. The new board looked to the past to shape their future and appointed Intikhab Alam, former Pakistan Captain and World Cup winning coach, as the coach.

Pakistan’s isolation from the rest of the cricketing world settled an oft-raised debate once and for all. Sportswriters often argue with each other about whether sports and politics go hand-in-hand. This year provided more than ample proof that there is more than just a little overlap between sports and politics. Sport is merely a reflection of society. And Pakistan has been rocked by economic and political crisis and has suffered because of militant violence. All these things led to the team being virtually secluded from the cricketing world. Notwithstanding this, fans in the country stayed positive. They hoped that neighbors and arch rivals India, who had a few security issues of their own after the Mumbai bomb blasts, would agree to tour the country and in the process show the rest of the world that cricket could be played in Pakistan. Therefore, the fans were very disappointed with India’s decision to refuse to tour or even play the series on a neutral ground. I shared their disappointment when I first heard about India’s decision. However, when looked at in the larger scheme of things, India’s decision in the face of rising tensions between the two countries isn’t very surprising. As much as we’d like to do it, it is just not possible to treat sport differently from anything that’s happening in the real world. Nonetheless, I believe that the BCCI should have agreed to play the series on neutral grounds like Dubai or Abu Dhabi. In addition to boosting the PCB’s diminishing finances, the series could have also helped improve the deteriorating relationship between the two countries.

2008 will undoubtedly be a year that the fans will want to forget fast, but there were still a few positives to build on. The team may have finally found the answer to their opening woes – 19 year old Nasir Jamshed had a great year scoring over 300 runs with 4 half centuries and a strike rate over 100. Two of the team’s senior batsmen – Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq – had great years as well. Sohail Tanvir finished as the leading wicket taker in the innaugral Indian Premier League. The team also managed to beat India against all odds in the final of the Kitply Cup.

Looking ahead to 2009, I think that Pakistan will surprise a few people and do well in the Twenty20 World Cup. That, hopefully, will send a strong message to the rest of the world.

Photo Courtesy: Max Lorton

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