In a society of intolerance and injustice, egos run the show intentionally or unintentionally. We consider ourselves correct and leave no room for listening or accepting others point of view. Affairs of Pakistan cricket, with cricket being the only popular game where Pakistan has a noticeable presence now, are no different. Sadly it’s again a case of egos at war. The latest is the example of world number 1 One Day International bowler.
Saeed Ajmal has been officially cleared by ICC to play international cricket. Any team in the world would rush to play him in the squad; fans in Pakistan on the other hand witnessed a catalogue of bizarre and absurd explanations from the Cricketing body and team officials. Nothing of that makes sense, and even if all the reasons quoted were true, Pakistan can lodge a request to ICC considering the special circumstances of his delayed results of testing. It does not take a genius to figure out that something is terribly wrong within the system if the world number 1 ODI bowler is not getting to play the world cricket’s biggest tournament, World Cup. Yes there was an obstacle in the form of his suspension due to a suspect bowling action, but he is over that hump now. He is available, willing and keen to play the world cup, but the Gods of cricket in Pakistan won’t budge.
Media is ripe with reports of conflicts and Ajmal being sidelined because of his differences with cricketing officials in the PCB. Such is the anger within the board that its website is conspicuously silent over Ajmal. His suspension and then clearance from the ICC did not merit inclusion on its website, where all the domestic matches and even the interviews of officials and players, both international and domestic can be regularly seen. The social media is abuzz with rumors, speculations and cricket fans in Pakistan are just astonished at the apathy and indifference that’s been shown by the sport’s governing body. Pakistan ranks 7th in the ODI ranking and the chances of Pakistan lifting the cup are close to the worst it’s ever been in any world cup.
Pakistan has lost 10 out of last 13 matches recently and was brutally defeated by New Zealand in the last 2 games. They were outclassed in every department- bowling, batting and fielding and did not even look like a team that was playing for winning. Pakistan desperately needs Saeed Ajmal, but the ego of someone high up would be hurt, and that is not acceptable.
Cricket romantics in Pakistan cannot stop but compare this world cup and for that matter every world cup before it kick starts to the somewhat overly glamorized world cup in 1992. Ramiz Raja in an interview to Cricinfo said that one of the reasons of Pakistan winning the world cup was Imran Khans’ merit based selection, where he regularly selected players whom he did not like personally. It is no news that Imran Khan and Javed Miandad, the two giants of Pakistan cricket did not see eye to eye at the time. Imran took captaincy when players revolted against Javed Miandad in early 1980s and they had very different ideologies, methodologies and approach to cricket. Still when it came to working together, they both were extremely instrumental in taking the team across the line. One can recall the marathon partnership in the final of world cup 92 between the two veterans, in which they hardly spoke to each other even when they were on the crease. Credit should go to Javed Miandad for not letting the grievances interfere with his performance in the game, though it’s completely understandable that he must have felt wronged. He was the second highest scorer in the 1992 world cup, scored fifties in both semifinal and final and captained 2 matches in the world cup. This all came in a tournament where he was initially not selected for the world cup.
Ignoring Saeed Ajmal from the world cup would hurt him, may be Pakistan as well, but what it would hurt the most is the game of cricket and its fans all around the world. Today the cricketing world is being dominated by batsmen so badly that a bowler like Saeed Ajmal, trying to wither the storm of runs would have been exciting to watch. The batsmen are winning this battle between bat and ball and the bowlers seem to be on the receiving end. Fast bowling is a quickly disappearing art, but new innovations have been introduced in the spin department, some of which Saaed Ajmal has mastery in.
The politics of PCB has been a mystery, starting from Abdul Hafeez Kardaar to the current regimen. Pakistan has produced some exceptionally talented players, who have enriched the game of cricket and brought glory to Pakistan. But it was the job of the Board to make sure that the talent is utilized to get the maximum results. Unfortunately, hardly anyone can claim that it has been the case. This does not seem to be getting any better and where cricket has moved into an era of professionalism and use of technology, PCB has its priority clearly identified, politics and personal egos. The ultimate responsibility lies with the Patron in Chief, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, who though is a cricket fan, first class cricketer, may still not have the time or eagerness to intervene.
Regardless of the results of the world cup, Saeed Ajmal will be missed.