The signs are not great for Team Pakistan

The signs are not great for Team Pakistan

By G Rajaraman

Some things don’t change at all. The squabbling in the Pakistan team continues unabated. Shoaib Akhtar carries another niggle and heads home but speaks of how he ploughed a lonely furrow for Pakistan in Australia – and he was not even the leading wicket-taker for his team in the three Tests against Ricky Ponting’s team.

And, even if the team management has worked – half-heartedly, some might say – towards keeping the flock together, there have been others who have fanned the flames. Captain Inzamam-ul-Haq has been under fire from all sides, including from his mentor Imran Khan who branded the captain as spineless.

A selector, speaking from the safety of anonymity, has been reported as saying that Inzamam-ul-Haq has played favourites in selecting the XI for the matches in Australia and in the batting order as well. Such votes of no confidence are a clear indication of the fact that the Pakistan team is indeed a house divided.

Small wonder then Inzamam-ul-Haq has been wondering if he would continue in the job. “I am uncertain about it. There’s been a lot of criticism. I am not feeling good and I am not sure whether it is something I want to keep doing. It’s not good for me and not good for the youngsters in the team. Criticism is okay but I don’t think the performances have been that bad,” Inzamam-ul-Haq has been quoted as saying.

All this can only work in India’s favour it hosts Pakistan in the Test series in March and April. A beleaguered team will find it hard to stay competitive, even if it is fuelled by a fervent desire to do well in India. Teams need to have a single-mindedness about the purpose – and India can offer a number of distractions for the Pakistan cricketers.

Inzamam-ul-Haq had been tempted earlier to say that Pakistan would benefit from the tour of Australia just like India did the previous season. One can only term this as wishful thinking. India won a Test match in Adelaide and drew the series, very nearly winning it in Sydney. Its batsmen dominated the series so much.

Newspaper reports emanating from Pakistan will have us believe that Rashid Latif may be hauled out of wilderness and entrusted the task of leading the team on the tour of India. If indeed that happens, he will find out that it is never an easy task to come back and lead a team on what most sides find a hard trip.

There have also been calls for Younis Khan to be named skipper in Inzamam-ul-Haq’s place. Surprisingly, nobody seems to be pitching for vice-captain Yousuf Youhana’s elevation to skipper’s position, even though he led the team in two Tests when Inzamam-ul-Haq was on the sidelines with an injury.

Touring India with an uncertain incumbent or a new skipper may not be the best of propositions for any side, especially Pakistan. Only a focussed Australian team could have managed as well as it did earlier this season when Ricky Ponting was absent from the first three Tests and Adam Gilchrist was in charge.

Australia has been a great ally of the Indian team. Last season, India’s competitive instincts were honed in Australia and it went on to win a maiden Test series in Pakistan This time around, Australia’s comprehensive whitewash of Pakistan will have demoralised it instead of raising its stock.