From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.33 :: NO.13 :: Apr. 01, 2010

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CRICKET / COMMENT

Pakistan needs a strong leadership

Pakistan cricket will remain in the doldrums until strong leadership emerges on and off the field. People need to serve the game not seek. Pakistan cannot change the political situation, but it can raise its game. By Peter Roebuck.

G.P. SAMPATH KUMAR

Indian cricket is sustained by a staunch and sturdy bunch of elders such as Srikkanth and Anil Kumble.

Over the last few years a gulf has appeared between the cricket played in Pakistan and India. Till then the rivalry had been keen and the competition close. Created from the same cry for independence, the nations forged their own identities and histories. As far as cricket is concerned, both produced great players and won World Cups. Sometimes politics prevented them playing each other but the teams remained on friendly terms.

And so it remained until the last few tumultuous years as Pakistan was forced into a period of introspection and India was able to surge into a wider world. Inevitably these contrasting experiences have been reflected in their cricketing fortunes. India continues gather strength as its neighbour flounders, a victim of circumstance but also the lack of the strong structures discernible elsewhere.

Good batsmen learn to survive on sticky wickets. Pakistan cricket cannot control its political climate but can improve its own performance. To that end it can learn from its neighbour. As it implodes, its neibhour is holding another IPL and preparing for the World Cup.

Pakistan lacks a stable administration. As much can be told from the constant changing of the guard. Insecurity breeds mistrust. Players start to watch their backs. Everything in Pakistan cricket seems capricious. But, then, the same insecurities exist in the nation so it is hardly surprising.

Not that Indian cricket runs like clockwork. Power struggles are not unknown and few domestic players have contracts and some are not paid till the following year. Trade Unions have never been strong hereabouts and it shows in the cricket. India's senior players are well placed to assist colleagues but instead they desist. Nor has the brown paper bag culture been eradicated.

Overall, though, Indian cricket has made great strides. Domestic cricket is stronger, revenues from television have vastly increased and are more transparently deployed, pensions are paid and spectators are better treated. Both the IPL and Champions League have been roaring successes. India deserves credit for many of the advances in the game. Now the BCCI is even showing interest in Test cricket.

Until Pakistan can match its neighbour off the field it will be hard to beat them on it. But the second factor is just as important. Over the last few years India's strength has been founded upon a large and impressive group of senior players. In that regard few nations have been as well blessed as India. From Kris Srikkanth and Javagal Srinath to Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble, and others besides, India has been sustained by a staunch and sturdy bunch of elders. No youngster worth a rupee could fail to be inspired by them.

Pakistan has not been as fortunate. As much can be told from the Board's response to the problems that arose on the tour of Australia. Whatever the motivations of senior officials or the reliability of the tour report it is clear that enmity between the senior players continue to undermine the team's performance.

Two captains have been banned, another has been suspended and a fourth has been fined. Admittedly Pakistan cricket has more captains than the US navy but it's an extraordinary state of affairs. Evidently the things that divide the players are stronger than the forces that unite them.

Pakistan cricket will remain in the doldrums until strong leadership emerges on and off the field. People need to serve the game not seek. Pakistan cannot change the political situation, but it can raise its game. Some of the finest knocks in history have been played on sticky dogs.



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