Wasim Akram did not hold back after Pakistan were handed a shock defeat by Afghanistan in their World Cup 2023 match in Chennai on Monday.
The great Wasim Akram was part of a Pakistan set-up which used to be a force to reckon with. Sure, they were not the greatest cricket playing team in the tournament but it would consistently challenge top teams. From winning the World Cup in 1992 to reaching the final of the 1999 edition in England and clinching numerous bilateral and tri series in Sharjah, Pakistan were no pushovers, and regularly took the opposition to their limits.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said now. The current unit playing the World Cup in India under captain Babar Azam could well qualify for being the worst-ever team to play the prestigious quadrennial event. The players are simply too one dimensional, the captain and his ideas lack spark and to make matters worse, the team has suffered a hat-trick of defeats, most recent being a drubbing just last evening against Afghanistan in Chennai on Monday. Drubbing because Pakistan may have taken the game to the penultimate over, but to lose by eight wickets is a huge reality check.
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The batters did well to post 282 on the board but Pakistan’s bowling – which has a rich legacy and history – was just toothless. Without Naseem Shah, there is no life left in the pace-bowling line-up despite the presence of Shaheen Afridi. Haris Rauf has been another huge disappointment, leaking runs at will. But that is not even the most appalling part. Pakistan’s field last evening was another example of why so many memes and jokes come at the expense of it. They were outrageous on the field, with the ball slipping between legs, fingers and what not.
Fielding is directly proportional to a player’s fitness levels and that is where Akram says the team needs to have a good, hard look at themselves in the mirror. Reflecting on the result, a miffed Akram couldn’t help but vent out his disappointment, frustration – call it whatever you want – in giving Pakistan a serious dressing down as their hopes of qualifying for the World Cup hangs in the balance. After five matches, Pakistan are placed fifth in the points table with 4 points and not only need to win their remaining four league games, but also depend on the outcomes of other teams to stay alive.
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“It was embarrassing today. To reach 280-odd losing just two wickets is pretty big. Wet pitch or no, look at the fielding, the fitness levels. We’ve been screaming for the last 3 weeks that these players haven’t undergone a fitness test in the last two years. If I start taking individual names, their faces will drop. Looks like these guys are eating 8 kilos of mutton everyday. Should there not be tests,” a visibly frustrated Akram said on A Sports.
“Professionally you guys are getting paid, playing for your country. There has to be a certain criteria. Misbah, when he was coach, had that criteria. Players hated him but it worked. Fielding is all about fitness and that’s where we are lacking. Now we have reached that same position, where we will pray for ifs and buts to happen.”
Please think about the country first, says Akram in request to PCB
Akram then went on to call a spade a spade. He targeted the current PCB regime, blaming it for making rash decisions as opposed to the one under former chairman PCB. Under him and the previous coaching staff including Saqlain Mushtaq, Mohammad Yousuf and others, Pakistan reached the final of the T20 World Cup last year in Australia. After Ramiz was sacked, Najam Sethi was given the post as interim chairman before Zaka Ashraf was appointed head for four months. And the result is for everyone to see. Not qualifying for the Asia Cup final and now this, Pakistan are all over the place as Akram confronted the PCB with some hard-hitting questions.
“We were excited we were No. 1 but man, come on! Last 6-8 months, we had one chairman. And once he came on board for 3-4 months, he straightaway changed the coaching staff. We reached the final last year. But out of the blue he came and shuffled things around. ‘Get him out, throw this person out. Get your own guys in’. You guys are seniors, elder to me, but next time onward, please… whoever becomes the chairman, think about the nation. Wasim Khan and Ehsan Mani had worked so hard to get the high-performance centre together and build a system. They changed that too and made it into a National Coaching Centre. Not a single camp has been held there for 8 months. Why do you have to make unnecessary changes? Just leave it,” Akram went on.