It is only natural that the range of reactions differs significantly after any remarkable victory with worldwide reverberations. Same is the case with team Pakistan’s momentous triumph in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017. Immediate reactions to this massive success were obviously those of fervid celebrations from Pakistani fans. Starting from the Oval, the revels of the win expanded across continents, followed by a series of rapturous welcomes given to the members – the heroes – of the winning squad who landed intermittently in different cities of Pakistan. Meanwhile, the Indian media was ripping through their erstwhile champions, Indian fans were burning the posters of their once idols, and Indian head coach, Anil Kumble, was writing his poignant resignation letter after a spat with skipper Kohli. Thus, so far so good from a Pakistani perspective.
Next erupted a spurt of beautifully written blogs and articles on different notable portals and by different writers, both foreign and Pakistani. The authors poured their hearts out through the nibs of their pens; it was as if the whole world madly wanted to see Pakistan winning. But I found something missing in these pithy write-ups, especially those by Pakistani writers. It was misplaced distribution of the credit given to the factors contributing to the victory. The main theme of these articles revolved around the esoteric nature of Pakistan cricket’s ascendency to the top. Most argued that stats, reason and logic went against Pakistan, and that it was the month of Ramazan, prayers of the fans and players’ conviction that did the magic. Some mentioned the ‘raw talent’ to be responsible for the unlikely outcome.
It is here that they got it terribly wrong. No, the colossal win of green shirts was not mysterious or miraculous, nor was the Bumrah’s no ball something sent from the angels of the heaven. Team Pakistan’s unprecedented rise is instead the result of a combination of factors that can well be statistically analysed, rationalised and supported by reason, such as: some right decisions, right selection, hard work, coaching, and most importantly the captaincy. There is no need to argue about how critical the factor of captaincy is in the game of cricket. After Misbah’s retirement, it was a no-brainer that the ODI captaincy be given to Sarfaraz. However, for some unknown reason, Azhar Ali was handed over the job for which he was clearly incompetent. Making Sarfaraz the skipper was the right decision which was made only when there was no option left, and when Pakistan’s ODI cricket was petered out after a horrible stasis of Azhar’s captaincy. Thus, team Pakistan’s ODI fortunes could have risen much before had PCB shown some semblance of sincerity.
It has been depressing to see that not a single former Pakistani cricketer has given credit to Sarfaraz’s brilliant captaincy throughout the tournament. Except fans, whose opinions do not even matter, every expert is heaping the credit on blessed month, luck, prayers and individual performances. It is an indubitable fact that individual performances like Fakhar Zaman’s and Amir’s win teams the tournaments. But it is also a fact that lone performers are always present in any playing eleven. Every team possesses match winners in its ranks all the times. But not every team becomes a champion. It is the factor of captaincy in particular, and coaching in general, that extracts the most out of talented players. In the post-match analysis in Sky Sports, former English captain and brilliant commentator Nasser Hussain along with other experts identified Sarfaraz’s captaincy as the key to Pakistan’s triumph. They concluded that tactics of the Pakistani skipper had been absolutely ‘spot on’ throughout the tournament. How many in Pakistan have talked about the importance of captain’s tactics other than spiritual factors?
Subsequent step in the chain of reactions is the most purposeless one. First, the prime minister announced Rs 10 million for each member of winning squad, not to mention winning check of $2.2 million from ICC. Then, the PCB came up with an announcement of some pretty hefty millions for the team, followed by Bahria Town’s absurd largesse. It all culminated in a TV show hosted by Pakistani cricketing legends wherein winning captain Sarfaraz was rewarded by a brand new BMW. What are we doing with our players? These players, save Malik and Hafeez, have hardly played any international cricket. They are not yet developed into professional, stoic sportsmen nor do they possess enough international exposure. Splashing cash, cars and bungalows on these fledgling cricketers is a recipe of disaster. For them, a large scale celebration arrangement, like that of a football club, that is, roaming on the streets atop a decorated bus surrounded by thousands of fans would have sufficed.
The government and the PCB would have done well to spend that kind of money on domestic cricket and to uplift other neglected areas of sports like hockey and football. Moreover, the Champions Trophy success should be a moment for us to cease from where we build our cricketing future around this young squad, keeping in mind the upcoming 2019 World Cup. Also, after retirement of Younis and Misbah, the PCB should be contemplating a sound plan to save our test cricket from a possible downfall. Players from the Champions Trophy winning squad like Hassan Ali, Shadab Khan, Rumman Raees, Harris Sohail, and Fakhar Zaman can be some sturdy additions to the test team. But, for now, we have exposed them to ridiculous amount of money, unabated media attention and arbitrary heroism. May these young guys be able to handle all this using their will powers, because the PCB only intervenes after it is all over.