How Pakistan’s new cricket coaches can approach tough tasks ahead

Pakistan’s Shaheen Shah Afridi, right, consoles batting partner Naseem Shah as they leave the field after their loss in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup cricket match between India and Pakistan at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in Westbury, New York, Sunday, June 9, 2024. (AP)
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Updated 23 June 2024
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How Pakistan’s new cricket coaches can approach tough tasks ahead

  • The two coaches need to lead from the front and protect the players from attacks by ex-cricketers
  • The coaches should also set up clear expectations within the team to make player perform better

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

The answer is numerous, although usually the description is followed by the qualification that the team are at their most dangerous when in that state.

In the wake of the team’s failure to progress to the Super 8s stage of the 2024 T20 World Cup, the mood is different and much darker.

Inconsistency, unpredictability and chaos did not translate into becoming a dangerous opponent. Nor should it, because it is much more likely that a team characterized as consistent, hardworking and united will perform best.

In my view, it is time for those involved in Pakistan’s cricket world to step away from the myth surrounding what it takes to galvanize the team. In its place ought to be a realization that the raw talent that once helped them produce magical moments is not being harnessed properly and that teams in other countries have adopted a more adventurous style of playing cricket.

The big question is how can Pakistan achieve such a transformation? There is nothing new about the current environment. Issues with chairmen and selection have abounded over the years, leading to accusations of nepotism and favoritism. However, I believe that there is reason to be hopeful.

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

Hopefully, the coaches will take full advantage of this opportunity to set their paths immediately. It is not an understatement to suggest that they are set for the hardest task of their careers. I was coached by Gillespie at Yorkshire and know his style is to be calm, which will be of help in this task. He prefers to let players lead while occupying a supporting act. From a distance, Kirsten seems to have a similar style, evidenced by his time with India in winning the 2011 World Cup under MS Dhoni’s captaincy.

Anyone who has followed the men in green will be very aware of all the issues with the team environment, so those must be addressed first. It is a very insecure one with a lot of noise.

Personally, I would not have chosen the two-coach policy. These players need simple and consistent messaging to be able to go out and express themselves. However, given that two coaches are in place, it will be especially important for them to work together and build a trusted backroom staff body which is the same across the formats. Time is of the essence to put this in place as pressure to improve both team and individual performances will build quickly. In my view, the environment needs freshening and unnecessary baggage which has built up over the last couple of years needs removing.

One of the most difficult and contentious issues is that of the captaincy. In the current situation, I would play down the power and importance of the captain. This goes against my natural grain but, for the immediate future, the coach needs to be the figurehead and lead. Obviously, there still needs to be a captain, ideally across formats, so as to reduce noise and deliver one simple message. Pakistan’s next white ball match is not until early November in Australia, so there is no need for immediate action. However, there are two Tests with Bangladesh to be hosted in August. Shan Masood is the current captain.

Another contentious issue is the selection process and, within it, the role of Wahab Riaz. It was only on Mar. 24 that the current seven-member selection committee was established. This included Riaz, who had previously acted as chair, but that title was removed, Riaz remaining as a committee member. Somewhat impracticably, each member carried an equal vote from which a majority decision would be formed. How this works in practice is unclear.

In my view, the experiment should be ditched, with the coaches having the final say in a reduced committee. Riaz, who is believed to be close to the PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board) chair, was senior team manager during the World Cup, despite there being a team manager and a coach! There is a public perception that Riaz appears to wield too much influence. It remains to be seen if the review of Pakistan’s World Cup performance will recommend that it is reduced. The results are expected shortly.

The first requirement for team selection will come with the Bangladesh Tests. Gillespie will oversee a training camp ahead of these matches to prepare both the national and A teams. He has already said that “we can’t rely on the same 11 players to play day in and day out. We need to make sure that we’ve got a squad mentality.”

Surprisingly, the talent pool appears to be small with a lack of ready-made replacements in some positions, so there is a need to identify and back those with the necessary character and skill. One of the options is Mohammad Haris. He has the modern-day approach which surely needs to be injected into the team’s approach and pursued all the way to the next T20 World Cup. Irfan Khan Niazi is another young dynamo who could grow into a good finisher, whilst investment in batter Omair Yousuf could prove beneficial.

In the fast-bowling department, Shaheen Shah Afridi needs the necessary support to return to basics and improve his performance. In my view, he would be advised to forget about the captaincy to concentrate on taking wickets and being a match winner. Naseem Shah needs protection and support as he appears to be on the right path to being world class. I expect Gillespie to provide those levels of support for both players.

Leg-spinner Usama Mir would have been in my World Cup squad, whilst Mehran Mumtaz has the ability to be the all-format No. 1 spinner. Shadab Khan needs time to rediscover his bowling skills. He has been brilliant as a batter for Islamabad but that seems to have skewed his thought processes in international cricket. He has succeeded before and I have no doubt he will again, but he is another who needs to go back to basics.

My suggested change in approach for both coaches may not be very natural for either man. Both prefer to have a strong captain who takes the lead while they create an environment which encourages the players to make their own decisions.

In the short term, my view is that the coaches need to lead from the front, dealing with the noise and protecting their players from the inevitable attacks by ex-players, pundits and fans. Internally, they are advised to set out clear expectations. The team must become the priority in what is an insecure culture which makes the players think more about personal performances.

The two men need to settle the players in their minds through a combination of hand holding and tough love. Hopefully, a period of calm and support will create a better environment for success.


Pakistan’s opposition alliance announces countrywide protest on July 26 for ex-PM Khan’s release

Updated 21 July 2024
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Pakistan’s opposition alliance announces countrywide protest on July 26 for ex-PM Khan’s release

  • Ex-PM Khan has been in jail since last August on charges his party dismisses as “politically motivated“
  • Six-party opposition alliance demands judicial commission to probe recent shooting at Bannu rally 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s six-party opposition alliance, the Tehreek Tahafuz Ayeen-e-Pakistan (or the Movement to Protect the Constitution of Pakistan) announced this week it would hold a countrywide protest on July 26 to demand the release of former prime minister Imran Khan and other “political prisoners” in the country. 

Khan, who ruled the country as prime minister from 2018 to 2022, has been in jail after being convicted in four cases since last August. Two of the cases have since been suspended and he was acquitted in a third. 

Last week, Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi were arrested by Pakistani authorities in a case involving the illegal sale of state gifts, after a court accepted their appeals against a ruling that they had violated the country’s marriage law and ordered their immediate release.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party says it has been facing a crackdown and mass arrest of its members for standing by Khan. Pakistani authorities deny the allegations.

“Opposition alliance of Tehreek Tahafuz Ayeen-i-Pakistan (TTAP) announced to hold a countrywide protest on Friday (July 26) for the release of all political prisoners including PTI Founding Chairman Imran Khan and reclaiming the stolen mandate,” a press release issued after the alliance’s meeting on Saturday said. 

The six-party alliance comprises the PTI, the Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and Balochistan National Party (Mengal), as well as three religious parties: Jamaat-e-Islami, the Sunni Ittehad Council and Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen

Khan’s party also claims that the national election held in February this year was heavily rigged to keep him and the PTI away from power. Pakistan’s government and election regulator have rejected these allegations. 

’INDEPENDENT JUDICIAL COMMISSION’

Separately, the alliance also called for the formation of an independent judicial commission to probe a recent shooting at a Bannu rally in northwestern Pakistan that triggered a stampede and resulted in casualties and injuries to several. 

At least two persons were killed and more than 20 injured after gunfire triggered a stampede at the procession attended by tens of thousands of people in the northwestern city on Friday. 

The demonstration was held at a time when Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan, has witnessed a surge in attacks on security forces, government officials and anti-polio vaccination teams in recent weeks.

The shocking increase in daily attacks led the residents of the area to demand peace only a few days after 10 soldiers were killed by militants in Bannu’s cantonment area.

“They demanded that an independent judicial commission should be constituted immediately to probe into the deaths and injuries caused by the firings on Bannu Aman [Peace] March,” the statement read. 

The alliance stressed the need for a judicial commission to probe the incident, saying it should be headed by a serving judge. The alliance said the judge should be “free from any external pressure” to ensure a transparent investigation into the Bannu incident. 

The press release added the meeting criticized senior police and provincial administration officials, saying they had “miserably failed in restoring peace in the province” and must be dismissed.


All Pakistani students in Bangladesh safe, confirms foreign office 

Updated 21 July 2024
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All Pakistani students in Bangladesh safe, confirms foreign office 

  • Deadly clashes between students, law enforcers broke out in Bangladesh this week over allocation of government jobs 
  • Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson says Pakistani students in Bangladesh have been shifted to safe accommodations

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch this week confirmed that all Pakistani students were safe in Bangladesh and had been shifted to safe locations in the country, following days of deadly clashes between protesters and law enforcers over the allocation of government jobs. 

The protests, led by students which began weeks ago but escalated sharply this week, represent the biggest challenge to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina since she won a fourth consecutive term in office after elections in January.

Bangladesh media outlets have reported different figures over the number of people killed in the clashes, with some saying the riots caused the deaths of 17 people while others reported 23 dead. The government on Friday imposed a nationwide curfew and ordered the deployment of troops to maintain order. 

“Our mission in Dhaka is in contact with all students,” Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said in a statement on Saturday. “The deputy head of mission has visited Chittagong to meet the students there as well. All students are safe.”

Baloch said the Pakistani high commission in Bangladesh has shifted students to safe accommodations in the country. 

“These include the high commission, the ambassador’s residence and some other safe locations,” she said. 

The deadly protests in Bangladesh have highlighted cracks in the country’s governance and economy and the frustration of young graduates who face a lack of good jobs.

The protesters are demanding an end to a quota system that reserves up to 30 percent of government jobs for relatives of veterans who fought in Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971 against Pakistan.

They argue the system is discriminatory and benefits supporters of Prime Minister Hasina, whose Awami League party led the independence movement, and they want it replaced with a merit-based system.

But Hasina has defended the quota system, saying that veterans deserve the highest respect for their contributions to the war regardless of their political affiliation.

The Bangladeshi leader is credited for bringing stable growth to Bangladesh, but rising inflation — thanks in part to the global upheaval sparked by the war in Ukraine — has triggered labor unrest and dissatisfaction with the government.


Pakistan’s disaster management authorities warn of floods in Sindh, Punjab from next week

Updated 21 July 2024
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Pakistan’s disaster management authorities warn of floods in Sindh, Punjab from next week

  • Heavy monsoon rains killed 24, injured 80 in Punjab last weekend, as per official figures
  • Monsoon rains expected to lash parts of Sindh, Punjab from Monday to Thursday next week

ISLAMABAD: The Provincial Disaster Management Authorities (PDMA) in Pakistan’s Sindh and Punjab provinces have warned of flash floods in the country’s two provinces from next week amid a forecast of heavy rains, state broadcaster Radio Pakistan reported on Sunday. 

Heavy monsoon rains have lashed Punjab and Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provinces this week. At least 24 people were killed and 80 injured in Punjab last weekend as heavy rains lashed many parts of the province, official figures said.

“Provincial Disaster Management Authorities of Punjab and Sindh have warned of flash floods in various cities of the provinces due to heavy monsoon rains, likely to start from tomorrow till Thursday,” Radio Pakistan reported.

PDMA Punjab spokesperson said floods were expected in Punjab’s cities of Rawalpindi, Attock, Jhelum, Chakwal, Mandi Bahauddin, Gujrat, Gujranwala, Hafizabad, Sheikhupura, Sialkot, Narowal, Sahiwal, Jhang, and Toba Tek Singh, among others. 

As per Pakistan’s Meteorological Department, rains and thunderstorms are likely to occur in Sindh’s Tharparkar, Umarkot, Badin, Mirpurkhas, Sanghar, Hyderabad, Tando Mohammad Khan, Tando Allah Yar, Matiari, Kambar, Shadad kot, Kashmore, Shikarpur, Jacobabad, Ghotki, Sukkur, Thatta and Sajawal districts.

“The spokesperson said PDMA issued an alert for the administration of these cities to take necessary precautions,” Radio Pakistan said. 

The spokesperson urged the public to follow the government’s instructions and take necessary precautionary measures to avoid any damage.

Pakistan is recognized as one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change effects in the world. Unusually heavy rains in June 2022 triggered flash floods in many parts of the country, killing over 1,700 people, inflicting losses of around $30 billion, and affecting at least 30 million people. 


Over 70 local businesses show interest in collaborating with Chinese firms relocating to Pakistan

Updated 21 July 2024
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Over 70 local businesses show interest in collaborating with Chinese firms relocating to Pakistan

  • Government says Chinese firms in textile, medical, plastic and leather sectors will be brought to Pakistan
  • PM Sharif says the transfer of Chinese industries will improve economy, create jobs and strengthen exports

ISLAMABAD: More than 70 local businesses have expressed interest in collaborating with Chinese firms planning to shift their industrial units to Pakistan, according to a briefing given to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during a meeting on Saturday to review progress on bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

The meeting was a continuation of the prime minister’s five-day visit to China last month, during which he interacted with investors and participated in wide-ranging business-to-business engagements.

Sharif also met top Chinese leaders, including President Xi Jinping, and discussed the possibility of enhancing cooperation under the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Apart from that, he visited Chinese agricultural zones and reached an understanding to send Pakistani students interested in learning advanced techniques to increase crop yield amid mounting concerns related to climate change.

“A comprehensive roadmap for the transfer of Chinese industries to Pakistan was presented to the meeting,” said a briefing given to the prime minister according to an official statement released after the meeting. “Collaboration with Chinese companies will be established to transfer Chinese textile, medical and surgical instruments, plastic and leather industries to Pakistan.”

“Seventy-eight Pakistani companies have initially expressed deep interest in collaborating to transfer Chinese industries to the country,” it added.

Sharif was also told that a comprehensive plan to send 1,000 students to China for advanced agricultural training at government expense had been completed.

“The first batch of students will be sent to China at the start of this academic year,” the statement said. “The next batch will be sent to China’s advanced agricultural universities after learning the Chinese language in Pakistan for which the plan has been completed.”

The prime minister said that China was a long-standing friend that had always helped Pakistan in difficult times.

“The Chinese leadership is committed to further increasing investment in Pakistan,” he continued. “The transfer of Chinese industries to Pakistan will improve the national economy, create new employment opportunities and increase Pakistan’s exports.”


Pakistan PM mourns Sheila Jackson Lee’s death, praises her for strengthening bilateral ties

Updated 20 July 2024
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Pakistan PM mourns Sheila Jackson Lee’s death, praises her for strengthening bilateral ties

  • The US Congresswoman was suffering from pancreatic cancer and died on Friday at the age of 74
  • She was the founder of the Pakistan Caucus that was launched in 2004 to foster strong relations

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday expressed grief over the death of American Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, saying she played a significant role to strengthen her country’s bilateral ties with Pakistan.
The US Congresswoman was suffering from pancreatic cancer and died in Houston on Friday night at the age of 74. She was the founder and co-chair of the Pakistan Caucus launched in 2004 within the United States House of Representatives.
The forum was established with the goal of fostering stronger US-Pakistan relations and addressing issues of mutual concern between the two countries.
“Deeply saddened to learn about the sad demise of @JacksonLeeTX18 Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee,” Sharif said in a social media post. “As Co-chair of the Pakistan Caucus in the US House of Representatives, she was a champion for stronger ties between Pakistan and the United States.”
“Her contributions will be remembered and missed for years to come,” he continued. “May her soul rest in peace. My heartfelt condolences to her family and her supporters.”
 


The Pakistan Caucus has been instrumental in facilitating high-level meetings and discussions between officials of the two countries, helping to address mutual concerns such as regional security and trade opportunities.