Mar 8, 2009

Cricket drought in Pakistan begins?

For at least a year or two Pakistan would not be in a position to convince a competent team to tour

By Muhammad Asif Khan
Horrifying is indeed a small word to describe the tragedy of March 3 when the visiting Sri Lanka cricket team came under attack. I as a Pakistani feel ashamed on the event and would like to extend my heartfelt apologies to the whole Sri Lankan nation. Before the event the Sri Lankan cricket team was being praised from all corners but the way they reacted to the situation made them heroes in the eyes of every Pakistani.
They did not blame, did not panic and we just salute them for the gesture. Here forgetting the policemen who laid their lives and the driver of the bus carrying the visiting team is unjust as because of their gallantry the Sri Lankan team escaped any casualty. Whatever happened should not have taken place but the implications of the event would be far-reaching.
Teams like England, Australia, South Africa, India and others who were already reluctant to tour Pakistan will put this event as a bad example to portray Pakistan as an "epicentre" of terrorism. Not only Pakistan, but I feel the attack would change the way the cricketing world will view security before a foreign trip as this was the first time a cricket team came under attack, and countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and even India would not be spared as insurgencies have been going on in these countries too. The big question at the moment is that what should the Pakistan Cricket Board do to keep things rolling.
For at least a year or two Pakistan would not be in a position to convince a competent team to tour Pakistan therefore it should focus on the two available options. One is to organise foreign tours and secondly play at neutral venues like the UAE. By doing so no doubt the home advantage would be lost but at least the players would get some cricket.
What can also be done is to arrange tours of the neutral venue after three to four months to get acclimatised to the conditions, yes it would be an added burden on the PCB, but what else can be done.
Cricket has been badly jolted by the event, but as the ICC chief David Morgan said "the world is a dangerous place but cricket must go on" therefore we have to look ahead from here to put our house in order.
An issue-after-an-issue has been the story of Pakistan cricket affairs since Dr Nasim Ashraf resigned. During the recent Pakistan-Sri Lanka Test at Karachi, the matter raised by Younis Khan is worthwhile and yes the real man behind the preparation of the dead wicket should be brought to the fore. I will come to this issue later as first of all I would like to scrutinise the overall behaviour of the NSK wicket over the years.
The scorecards of the Test matches played at the venue between 2000 to 2009 show that of the total eight Test matches that have been played 9990 runs have been scored at an average of 1248 runs per match. Not to forget that the 400-run mark was crossed on eight occasions during the period.
The above figures clearly suggest that the wicket at the National Stadium has been placid and the tale in the February 21-25 match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka was not different where more than 1500 runs were scored.
Therefore a huge amount of work needs to be done to revise the nature of the surface which should have been done way before the match. Younis Khan was in favour of grass on the Karachi wicket but his wish went unattended and later his apprehension was understandable but again we chose a wrong time to raise an issue.
I want to raise a point here that only grass on the wicket could not do wonders if the soil underneath it is not tough enough, because if the soil is loose then the presence of grass on it would not be effective. Another thing that can be done is the preparation of ready made pitches like in New Zealand where pitches are mostly drop-in tracks which are prepared separately and then fixed in the field. Can't it be done here in Pakistan?

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