New ‘Legends’ cricket tourney to bring back classic bowl-out format

NEW YORK: How many times have we heard the words inconsistent, unpredictable and chaotic used to describe the performances of the Pakistan men’s cricket team over the years?

There are many answers, although the description is usually followed by the statement that the syndrome is most dangerous in this condition.

After the team’s failure in the 2024 T20 World Cup in the Super 8 class, the mood is different and much darker.

Inconsistency, unpredictability and chaos did not translate into him becoming a dangerous opponent. And it shouldn’t, because it is much more likely that a team characterized by consistency, diligence and unity will perform best.

In my opinion, it is time for those involved in the Pakistani cricket world to move away from the myth about what it takes to galvanize a team. Instead, there should be an awareness that the raw talent that once helped them create magical moments is not being properly utilized and that teams from other countries have adopted a riskier style of cricket.

The big question is: How can Pakistan achieve such a transformation? There is nothing new in the current environment. Problems with chairmen and selection have escalated over the years, leading to accusations of nepotism and favoritism. However, I believe there is reason for hope.

The two new coaches, Gary Kirsten in white-ball cricket and Jason Gillespie in red-ball cricket, are in positions that allow them to make decisions that are likely to be unconditionally supported by the hierarchy, even if it is just to save face.

Let’s hope coaches take full advantage of this opportunity and chart their path immediately. It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that they are facing the most difficult task of their careers. I was trained by Gillespie in Yorkshire and I know his style is to stay calm, which will be helpful in this task. He prefers to let players lead by playing a supporting role. From a distance, Kirsten appears to have a similar style, as evidenced by his time in India, winning the 2011 World Cup under MS Dhoni.

Anyone who has followed the lead of the men in green will be very aware of all the issues surrounding the team’s environment, so these need to be addressed first. It is a very dangerous place with a lot of noise.

Personally, I wouldn’t opt ​​for a two-coach policy. These players need a simple and consistent message to be able to come out and express themselves. However, given the presence of two coaches, it will be especially important for them to work together and build a trusted backroom staff that is the same across all formats. Time is crucial to implement this as the pressure to improve both team and individual performance will build rapidly. In my opinion, the environment needs to be refreshed and the unnecessary baggage that has accumulated over the last few years needs to be removed.

One of the most difficult and controversial issues is the question of captaincy. In the current situation, I would downplay the strength and importance of the captain. It goes against my natural beliefs, but for the foreseeable future, the coach must be a figurehead and a leader. Of course, you still need a captain, preferably in different formats to reduce noise and convey one simple message. Pakistan’s next white-ball match will not be played in Australia until early November, so there is no need to take immediate action. However, there will be two Tests against Bangladesh in August. Shan Masood is the current captain.

Another controversial issue is the selection process and the role of Wahab Riaz in it. It was only on March 24 that the current seven-member selection committee was appointed. This included Riaz, who had previously served as chairman, but the position was removed and Riaz remained a member of the committee. Somewhat impractically, each member had an equal vote, upon which a majority decision would be made. How this works in practice is not clear.

In my opinion, the experiment should be abandoned and the last word left to the coaches in a reduced committee. Riaz, who is believed to be close to the PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board) chairman, was the senior manager of the team during the World Cup, even though the team manager and coach were there! There is public opinion that Riaz appears to have too much influence. Time will tell whether an assessment of Pakistan’s performance in the World Cup will recommend reducing it. Results are expected soon.

The first requirement for team selection will be the Bangladesh Tests. Gillespie will oversee a training camp ahead of these matches to prepare both the national team and the A team. He has already said that “we cannot rely on the same 11 players to play day in and day out. We have to make sure we have a team mentality.”

Surprisingly, the talent pool appears small and some positions lack ready replacements, so those who have the necessary character and skills need to be identified and supported. One option is Mohammad Haris. He has a modern approach that should definitely be incorporated into the team’s approach and continue till the next T20 World Cup. Irfan Khan Niazi is another young dynamo who can develop into a good run-scorer and investing in batsman Omair Yousuf could prove beneficial.

In the fast bowling department, Shaheen Shah Afridi needs the necessary support to get back to basics and improve his performance. In my opinion, he was advised to forget about the captaincy and concentrate on scoring goals and being a match winner. Naseem Shah needs protection and support as he seems to be on his way to becoming world class. I expect Gillespie to provide that level of support for both players.

Spinner Usama Mir would be in my World Cup squad while Mehran Mumtaz has the potential to be the No. 1 spinner in all formats. Shadab Khan needs time to rediscover his bowling skills. He was brilliant as a batsman for Islamabad, but that seems to have skewed his thought processes in international cricket. He has been successful before and I have no doubt he will be successful again, but he is another player who needs to get back to basics.

The change in approach I suggest for both coaches may not be very natural for either of them. They both prefer to have a strong captain who takes charge while creating an environment that encourages players to make their own decisions.

In the short term, in my opinion, coaches need to lead from the front, managing the noise and protecting their players from the inevitable attacks from former players, pundits and fans. Internally, it is recommended to set clear expectations. The team must become a priority in an uncertain culture that makes players think more about personal performance.

Both men need to put players’ minds at ease through a combination of hand-holding and tough love. Let’s hope that a period of peace and support will create better conditions for success.

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