Pakistan cricket remained embroiled in legal entanglements in the year 2013, with the court orders keeping the sport on its toes and providing soap opera lovers all the thrills, comedy and drama in this depressing environment. Except for their one-day international series victories against India, South Africa and Sri Lanka, the Pakistan cricket team didn’t accomplish big throughout the insipid and abysmal year that ended without much to look forward to. Nothing, perhaps, sums up the contradictions of Pakistan cricket, and the abyss into which it descended in one year. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) became more or less dysfunctional.
The controversies involving PCB chairman Zaka Ashraf, who was suspended by the Islamabad High Court, and later his replacement Najam Aziz Sethi, who was also suspended but later reinstated, made the country a laughing stock around the globe. The court orders were beyond one’s comprehension. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was directed to oversee the election of a chairman of the PCB. But the ECP informed the court it was not within its mandate to do such a thing. The court wanted that the chairman be a graduate and a former first-class player: which chief of a cricket board around the world fulfils both requirements? These hullabaloos and legal mess crippled the PCB and damaged the game more than anything else. The saner elements in the country not only wanted Pakistan cricket to come out of the mire, but also needed some respite from this unending deluge of miserable drama in the PCB, which plunged it to the lowest ebb. But the circus continued unabated.
Like the year 2012, people of this ‘land of the pure’ remained bewildered even in 2013 why these unpleasant incidents and extreme situations kept on recurring and why controversies simply refused to spare Pakistan cricket. Perhaps they still not have realised by now that both in the national sphere and the sporting arena the root of our dilemma is the notorious system of patronage and imposed cronies, to the exclusion of merit and professionalism. Under the powerful patron’s benevolent gaze, the pick and choose appointees can survive scandals and failures that would crush an ordinary mortal.
After losing their appeals in the Court of Arbitration for Sport over bans, former captain Salman Butt and fast bowler Mohammad Asif at last admitted that they were involved in spot-fixing and apologised to the nation. The PCB endorsed the life ban on Danish Kaneria after the leg-spinner lost his appeal against the original punishment imposed by the England and Wales Cricket Board. Saeed Ajmal, the wily Pakistan off-spinner, continued to fox the batsmen world over with his craft and guile. He emerged as the top wicket-taker in ODIs this year, picking up 62 wickets in 33 matches. He was also in the top ten wicket-takers’ list in Tests, picking up 37 wickets in just seven matches. Misbahul Haq continued to be the unheralded master. Often considered only apt for Test cricket, Misbah silently piled on the runs in ODIs as well, making 1373 in 34 matches in 2013 and topping the chart for most runs. He led Pakistan to their first ever bilateral ODI series win in South Africa, and interestingly, he did it without scoring a hundred through this period.
Pakistan cricket team’s embarrassing run of defeats in 2013 also threw up serious questions about the future of the game in the country as the crisis kept on deepening with each passing day. The team’s dismal run began with the tour of South Africa in January, where Misbah’s men bore the ignominy of a 3-0 whitewash in Test matches, was gone from bad to worse with only a couple of wins to show for nearly a dozen international matches played during this period. The unceremonious first round exit at the ICC Champions Trophy in England in June, the humiliating Test loss against unranked Zimbabwe in Harare and the thumping at the hands of South Africa in the United Arab Emirates in September-November ruthlessly exposed the brittle foundations of Pakistan cricket.
And all these results were not that difficult to explain: Pakistan did not score enough runs. Indeed, they generally haven’t done so for over a decade. Take the performance of Pakistan’s top three batsmen, for example. In the past four years, their average in Tests was clearly second rank, on par with West Indies and Bangladesh. Many of those Tests were played on batsman-friendly wickets in the UAE. It wasn’t the bowlers or the fielders, it was the batsmen, and the top three at that.
In short, Pakistan cricket is falling short for a multitude of reasons, and the greatest impact is on the batsmen, who require a thriving domestic first-class game to develop into international cricketers. We are naive if we believe that simply selecting the right players and the right coaching staff will cure our ills. There is no quick fix. Promises of support from the international cricket community in Pakistan’s time of political difficulty have not translated into concrete assistance. Pakistan has to find its own solutions but that means finding the right people to run the national game, people of integrity, independence and vision, capable of implementing plans that will halt the decline in Pakistan cricket. But such people rarely find their way to power in Pakistan, even more rarely to a position of influence in the PCB.
Pakistan start year with victory in India: Pakistan started the new year with victory over India in a limited over series played from December 25, 2012 to January 6, 2013 in India. The tour consisted of three ODIs, and two Twenty20 Internationals. This was Pakistan’s first cricket tour of India in five years. The Twenty20 series was drawn 1-1 but Pakistan won the ODI series 2-1. This was Pakistan’s first win over India in a series since 2005.
Dismal tour of South Africa: Pakistan undertook tour of South Africa from January to March. The visitors were beaten black and blue by the hosts. Pakistan, led by Misbah, lost the three-match Test series 0-3 and five-match ODI series 2-3. Everybody knew the team faced a stern examination in South Africa, but not many expected a Test series whitewash. The loss in the opening Test, followed by a grittily conceded narrow defeat in the second Test, and finally a devastating rout in the final Test, was shocking for the fans back home. Expectations from the ODI series were even higher – especially after New Zealand had recorded a series win in South Africa a few weeks earlier – but there was disappointment on that front too. But Pakistan did record an emphatic win in the solitary Twenty20.
Salman and Asif lose appeals over spot-fixing bans: In April, former captain Salman and fast bowler Asif lost their appeals in the Court of Arbitration for Sport over bans handed down for spot-fixing. The International Cricket Council (ICC) banned Salman for 10 years, with five suspended, and Asif for seven years, with two suspended, for their role in the spot-fixing scandal that also involved team-mate Mohammad Aamir. The 28-year-old Salman was named as the orchestrator of a plot to bowl deliberate no-balls in the Lord’s Test against England in 2010, with Asif and Aamir the men who delivered them. The CAS statement read: “The Court of Arbitration for Sport has dismissed the appeals filed by the Pakistan cricket players Asif and Salman against the decisions taken by the ICC Tribunal on February 5, 2011.” According to CAS, Salman did not contest his liability in the case but had requested a shortening of the ban, while Asif had requested for the annulment of the ICC’s decision on procedural grounds.
Pakistan’s short tour of Ireland: Before the ICC Champions Trophy in England, Pakistan toured Ireland from May 23 to May 26. The tour consisted of two one-day internationals. The first match was tied under Duckworh-Lewis method while Pakistan won the second by two wickets.
Salman admits to spot-fixing for first time: In June, former Pakistan captain Salman admitted his involvement in the spot-fixing scandal for the first time. “I want to apologise to my countrymen and cricket followers all over the world for having done wrong. I am sorry for having hurt the sentiments of the Pakistani people and cricket lovers. I am ready to undergo any rehabilitation programme.” During his international career, Salman scored 1889 Test runs in 33 matches at an average of 30.46.
Shameful performance at ICC Champions Trophy: In June, the abrupt end to Pakistan’s campaign at the ICC Champions Trophy took the team’s worst critics by surprise, despite their chequered record in international matches. The spectacular wilting of Misbah’s army in the high-profile event, first against the West Indies and subsequently against the Proteas, laid bare yet again the many chinks in the team’s armour. Pakistan faced further humiliation after they lost their last Champions Trophy match against India by 8 wickets under Duckworth and Lewis Method at Edgbaston Ground. Pakistan’s feeble batting was the reason for their elimination from the tournament and this sorry trend continued also in the dead rubber. The archrivals’ match drew a full house even though it held only academic interest since world champions India had already qualified for the semi-finals and Pakistan were out of the race after losing both their previous games. It is pertinent to mention that Pakistan had never lost to India in the Champions Trophy – they won in 2004 and 2009. But they failed to keep that record intact in 2013. Besides exposing their inability to sustain the pressure of top level cricket, the debacle also smacks of wrangling within the side which was Pakistan’s Achilles’ heel for several decades now. And yet, even then, the Champions Trophy defeat was hard to explain.
PCB chief Zaka’s election and suspension: In June, the Islamabad High Court upheld the suspension of Zaka as PCB chairman and ordered the Pakistan Inter-Provincial Coordination Committee to name an interim PCB chairman to represent the board in the ICC annual conference in London. The court, at its initial hearing in May, suspended Zaka from “exercising his power within his incumbency” due to what it called the “dubious” and “polluted” process to elect him. The IHC was responding to a petition filed by a former official of the Rawalpindi Cricket Association against the PCB’s elections that were held in May, through which Zaka was elected to a four-year term as chairman. Zaka was elected in the first week of May – the first election of a PCB chairman –under the new board constitution that replaced the system of appointing the chairman by the patron. The process was conducted without any prior announcement, the PCB revealing Zaka’s appointment through a press release, and Zaka’s election was challenged in three different courts in the country. The PCB’s new constitution was produced as a result of the 2011 ICC directive, which required that its member boards become autonomous and free of interference from governments by June 2013. Removal of government interference had also been one of the Woolf Report recommendations approved by the ICC. Zaka had been the PCB’s chairman since 2011, previously working under the old constitution, under which he was appointed for an indefinite period by the PCB patron, President Asif Ali Zardari.
Sethi becomes new PCB chief: Senior analyst and former caretaker Chief Minister of Punjab Sethi was appointed as the interim chairman of the PCB in June. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif approved the appointment. Mumtaz Haider, Chishti Mujahid and Arif Abbasi were also in run for the post. Critics had lashed out at Sethi’s appointment on the grounds that he had never played cricket and was awarded the PCB chairmanship as a ‘reward’.
Iqbal resigns, Moin is new chief selector: The PCB appointed former Test captain Moin Khan as new chief selector in July after Iqbal Qasm resigned. Qasim had resigned from his post after Pakistan lost all three of their group matches at the Champions Trophy. Qasim cited personal and health reasons for his decision to step down but was known to be unhappy with interference from the team management in selection affairs. Selectors Saleem Jaffar, Farukh Zaman and Azhar Khan remained in their positions as before to aid the new chief selector in making decisions.
PCB endorses Kaneria’s life ban: In July, the PCB endorsed the life ban on Kaneria after the former Pakistan leg-spinner lost his appeal on July 2 against the original punishment imposed by the England and Wales Cricket Board. Because of an agreement between boards affiliated to the ICC, the ECB ban on Kaneria was applicable throughout world cricket and after the endorsement from his home board, effectively means the end of his career. Kaneria was banned by the ECB in June 2012 after being found guilty of corruption in the spot-fixing case involving Mervyn Westfield, where he had been ‘cajoling and pressurising’ his Essex team-mate into accepting money to concede a set number of runs in an over during a Pro40 match in 2009. He had been hoping to get the sanction reduced, having earlier lost another appeal against the convictions in April this year. Kaneria, 32, was Pakistan’s most successful Test spinner and the fourth-highest wicket-taker for his country with 261 in 61 Tests at an average of 34.79, putting him behind only Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Imran Khan. He picked up 1024 wickets in 206 first-class games at 26.16, including 307 for Essex.
Pakistan’s limited over series victory in West Indies: Pakistan toured the West Indies from July 14 to 28. The tour consisted of five ODIs and two Twenty20s. The tour was initially to have included two Test matches, but the scheduling of a triangular series by the West Indies with India and Sri Lanka shortened the available window for the tour. The West Indies Cricket Board had asked the PCB postpone the tour to August, but that interfered with Pakistan’s plans to complete a series against Zimbabwe that had been postponed from 2012. Pakistan won the five-match series 3-1 as third match ended in a tie. Pakistan won the two-match Twenty20 series 2-0.
Asif finally confesses to spot-fixing: Paceman Asif, one of the three disgraced Pakistan cricketers in the infamous spot-fixing scandal during the 2010 Lord’s Test against England, in August publicly apologised to the nation for his involvement which led him to be slapped with a seven-year ban by cricket’s world governing body. At a media briefing at the Karachi Press Club on the 66th Independence Day of the country, the 30-year-old Asif, at last, admitted his guilt for the first time in public and accepted the ban imposed on him. “I really want to seek forgiveness from every Pakistani. I am extremely sorry and would like to deeply repent for my actions which brought disrespect to Pakistan and millions of cricket fans,” said Asif. Asif, one of the finest swing bowlers produced by Pakistan, pledged that he would fully cooperate with the ICC’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) and the PCB while saying that cricketers who wish to represent their nation must stay away from ‘all forms’ of corruption. Before his career took a steep nosedive, Asif took 106 wickets in 23 Tests, 46 wickets in 38 ODIs and 13 in 11 Twenty20s after making his Pakistan debut during the Sydney Test against Australia in January 2005.
Zimbabwe’s historic Test win against Pakistan: Pakistan toured Zimbabwe from August 23 to September 14. The tour consisted of two Twenty20s, three ODIs, and two Tests. The limited overs matches were played at the Harare Sports Club while the Test matches were split between Harare and the Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo. The series was originally supposed to take place in December 2012 but was postponed as it clashed with Pakistan’s tour of India after the two countries decided to resume bilateral cricketing relations. Pakistan won the first Test but lost the second. The second Test match was originally scheduled to take place at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo but was moved to Harare as a cost saving measure. Zimbabwe’s victory in the second Test was their first against another Test nation other than Bangladesh since their victory over India in 2001. Pakistan won the ODI series 2-1 and Twenty20 series 2-0.
PCB chief Sethi suspended, reinstated: The Islamabad High Court in October dissolved the PCB ad hoc committee and suspended interim chairman Sethi. As per the IHC order, the administrative and managerial powers now rested with the PCB governing council which would handle all the matters, including election of board chairman. However, after a couple of hours, a division bench at the same court granted a stay order to the chairman.
Prime Minister dissolves PCB governing council: In October, Prime Minister of Pakistan Sharif dissolved the governing council of the PCB and formed a five-member Interim Management Committee (IMC) to run cricket in the country. PM Sharif also became the patron-in-chief of the PCB. The PCB’s acting chairman Sethi, former PCB chairman Shahryar Khan, former Test players Zaheer Abbas and Haroon Rasheed and former team manager Naveed Cheema were named the members of the committee. The IMC took control of the game’s administration in an effort to end months of turmoil. The IMC was directed by PM Sharif to elect one of its members as chairman, and the committee unanimously chose Sethi, who had been acting as caretaker chairman since July.
South Africa humiliate Pakistan in UAE: Pakistan played their ‘home series’ against South Africa in UAE in October and November. The tour consisted of three Tests, five ODIs and two Twenty20s. South Africa crushed Pakistan in Test series 2-1, 4-1 in ODIs and 2-0 in Twenty20s. Pakistan’s pathetic performance led to many raise questions abouth the captiancy of Misbah. Critics asked serious questions about Misbah’s longevity in the skipper role.
Whatmore announces to part ways with PCB: In November, Pakistan head coach Dav Whatmore announced that he would not be extending his contract with the PCB. The former Sri Lanka and Bangladesh coach, who played seven Tests and a solitary one-day international for Australia, took charge of Pakistan in March 2012 on a two-year deal, taking his team to the semi-finals of the World Twenty20. But after a disastrous Champions Trophy 2013 campaign followed that with a Test defeat to Zimbabwe and dismal performance against South Africa in the United Arab Emirates, Whatmore came under severe criticism from former cricketers and experts. A statement from the PCB said: “In order to lay speculation to rest with regard to the status of Whatmore, the PCB clarifies that according to the settled terms the board’s contract with him expires on February 28, 2014. Whatmore informed the PCB that he would not be seeking a renewal of his contract due to his personal and family reasons.”
Pakistan’s triumph in South Africa: In November, Pakistan undertook a short tour of South Africa to play three-match ODI series to boost the coffer of their cricket board. Pakistan undoubtedly dented South Africa’s pysche with a historic ODI series win in the Proteas own den. The hastily arranged limited-overs series – after India cut short their tour of South Africa for various reasons – turned into a historic one for Pakistan who won the first two ODIs to ensure their first ever series victory over the Proteas. After losing two matches in a row along with the series, South Africa managed to win the third ODI against Pakistan, who gave them a tough fight in the third match played at the Centurion. With this victory, Pakistan justified their tag of the most unpredictable side in world cricket. It was Pakistan’s first ever bilateral ODI series win over South Africa and first ever by any Asian team in the Rainbow Nation.
Waqar Younis joins ICC Hall of Fame: Former Pakistan captain Waqar Younis was inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame on 11 December before the start of the first Twenty20 International between Pakistan and Sri Lanka at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai Sports City. Waqar received his commemorative cap from ICC chief executive David Richardson in front of a large and appreciative crowd. He became the 70th male member and fifth Pakistani after Hanif Mohammad, Imran Khan, Javed Miandad and Wasim Akram to be inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame. Nicknamed ‘The Burewala Express’, Waqar is famously known as one half of ‘The Two Ws’ – a moniker for the fast bowling pair of Wasim Akram and Waqar. A famed exponent of reverse swing, he claimed 373 wickets from 87 Tests and 416 scalps from 262 ODIs. The 42-year-old, who was born in Vehari, Punjab, also led his country in 17 Tests and 62 ODIs. In a first-class career spanning over a decade, he snared 956 wickets from 228 matches with a best of 8-17.
ICC honours for Gul and Ajmal: In December, seamer Umar Gul won ICC T20I Performance of the Year award. The ICC cited that Gul’s performance in a match against South Africa in which he took five wickets while only conceding six runs earned him this award. Spinner Ajmal also made it to the ICC ODI Team of the Year.
Pakistan win ODI series against Sri Lanka in UAE: At fag end of the year, Pakistan played their limited overs ‘home-series’ against Sri Lanka in the UAE: The two Twenty20s and five ODIs. The Twenty20 series ended in 1-1 draw while Pakistan won the ODI series 3-2. The ODI series will be remembered for T20 captain Mohammad Hafeez who aggregated 448 runs with three centuries, and for this performance he not only earned the player of the series award but was also rewarded with a jump of 18 places that put him at a career-best 16th position in the ICC ODI Player Rankings. Hafeez became Pakistan’s second batsman to feature inside the top 20 with Misbah retaining ninth spot in the year 2013.
(The writer is Sports Editor at Daily Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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