A view of the National Stadium Karachi. — AFP/File

A view of the National Stadium Karachi. — AFP/File

It has been quite an embarrassing last few months for Pakistan cricket. First their performance in the last World Cup and now the humiliating whitewash against Bangladesh in the ODI games and the T20 match last Friday makes us all think that there ought to be something wrong somewhere which has brought our sudden downfall and a slide down the ranking.

It has, as I see, become customary that when we do well — as we did recently in the home Tests in UAE — we tend to gloat on our success to such an extent that we forget the fact that in order to maintain the standards in every format of the game it is important that we keep a constant and close eye to improve even more no matter where we play and whosoever is the opposition.

And quite opposite to that, when we do poorly — whether in Tests or limited over games — the critics and the cricket officials start blaming the game at domestic level, its infrastructure and the facilities that we lack compared to other countries like Australia, England, South Africa and India.

After the initial hype, I notice little improvement or progress achieved in various areas while things have remained stagnant with no one really making an effort to improve them.

People at the helm often tend to forget, of course, that this same much maligned domestic cricket in our country has over the years been producing the stars of the game.

When I played in the fifties, and at Test level, there used to be not more than half a dozen first-class teams playing at domestic level. One-day cricket was non-existent and standards were really high. Now things have changed. There are more teams, more opportunities and facilities abound.

In every city and in every locality I notice cricket academies are functioning and professional trainers and coaches are there to help and train the youngsters. Then why such moaning and groaning about the declining standards?

In my view things should have been rosier and improvement at all level should have been visible. So where have we gone wrong and why is it that things tend to remain stagnant instead of moving forward.

Rhetorics do not help but actions do and unless those who control the game are not able to divert their attention to find faults in their system of managing and organizing the game from grass-root level, I fear things will continue to rot and stagnate, giving opportunity for critics to slander them.

During my younger days in Karachi, school, club, college and university cricket were the breeding grounds of producing players who played for Pakistan. Grounds like KPI, Karachi Gymkhana, Agha Khan Gymkhana, Patel Park, Polo Ground, KGA ground and Jehangir Park near the Empress Market were the hubs for local tournaments.

The famous Rubie Shield school tournament produced cricketers like the legendary Hanif Mohammad, Wallis Mathais, Mohammad Munaf, Ikram Elahi, Intikhab Alam, Antao D’Souza, Mushtaq Mohammad and the writer of this article.

Jehangir Park served as the centre point for all these tournaments, clubs like Kathiawar Gymkhana, Pak Mughal, Pakins, PWD, NTR (National Tyre & Rubber Co) all regularly practiced at the Jehangir Park.

Encroachments at the Park destroyed all that. Now I am glad to know that the Commissioner of Karachi Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqi has ordered the clean up of the playing field at the Park to revive the game there. It is important too that youngsters are provided lot more venues to improve their game in every nook and corner of the country. Academies alone will not do.

Karachi grounds like Muslim Gymkhana, Hindu Gymkhana, KPI and Jahangir Park need to be restored back to their original past and glory for a healthy future of Karachi and Pakistan cricket.

The PCB needs to look into it seriously to revive school, college, club and university cricket to keep the production line going.

The writer is a former Test fast bowler

Published in Dawn,

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