x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Job of coaching Pakistan is no laughing matter

In a country where the urge to purge compounds the instability, finding a successor to Younis will be difficult.

The next coach after Waqar Younis will have no security of his tenure, especially in the next few months when the administration of the country's cricket board also is due for an overhaul.
The next coach after Waqar Younis will have no security of his tenure, especially in the next few months when the administration of the country's cricket board also is due for an overhaul.

The day Waqar Younis announced his resignation as the coach of Pakistan, I asked him whether he had recommended anybody as a successor.

He laughed a laugh I couldn't fully interpret, before saying no, he had not.

The effect was unnerving, for he was either laughing at the fact that he was in no position to recommend anyone, or at the prospect of doing so for a job which had just claimed him, and has claimed seven different men - some twice - over the last decade. Neither interpretation leaves the heart warm.

With due respect to no country, coaching Pakistan is the most exasperating, insecure and potentially, the most rewarding appointment in cricket.

The talent shines brightest among the world - imagine the bounty of discovering Umar Akmal and Mohammad Aamer in one year in a functioning environment. But the air is polluted and corrosive so that it is a deal you would not wish upon your best friend or your worst enemy.

So the search begins for a new man, a task as ever cast in two lights: should he be foreign or local? It is a limiting debate and now a haggard one, rerun more seasons than the television sitcom Seinfeld.

The coach of Pakistan can be either; both have succeeded and failed (and that is only if judged on results alone, itself a limiting measure which discounts the development of an individual for example). But he can only be a success if Pakistan allow him to be.

Coaches need time for their ideas to take root, they need uncluttered space in which to operate, they need to be allowed to build and nurture working bonds.

In particular, the equation with the captain and senior players is a delicate one, where there must be authority, direction but also compromise. This is how humans function and the world works. There must be stability; little use the coach who does not know who the captain is tomorrow, which players were arbitrarily banned yesterday, or whether his boss will still be around the day after.

The scene does not look bright. For a start, the committee constituted to find the man would have felt outmoded even in the 80s.

Laughably, one member - Zaheer Abbas - offered his own services, before retracting, a conflict of interest lost upon him.

Another, Naushad Ali, is a decent and likeable man, but it is difficult to see what he brings to the process. And the only good thing about Intikhab Alam's involvement (does history record a board committee he has not been involved in?) is that it rules him out of the post.

The three are actually part of a problem; they are too self-absorbed, with too much to say, but nothing substantial to offer.

And it is somehow appropriate in these times that the man who least represents this, Ramiz Raja, is only on board as a consultant. He provides a much-needed concession to modernity, though not with the requisite authority to influence proceedings.

After the first meeting of this committee, applications have been invited. The names of Tim Nielsen and Dav Whatmore came up, as did Javed Miandad (vetoed immediately, it is believed).

Other, fresher, local options have also cropped up, though there is wariness at the potential of personality clashes when any combination of Pakistani cricketers and former cricketers find themselves bound in a hierarchy.

Any of Rashid Latif, Moin Khan, Aaqib Javed, Jalaluddin could bring tangible benefits but just as easily, combustible situations.

A couple of foreign names have made inquiries and most of the current side, it is believed, are in favour of an outside name.

One of the ideas already floated in the appointment is to conduct a secret team ballot to seek their thoughts on what kind of coach they want.

If it is to be from the outside, the appointment may - not necessarily - require creativity to circumvent the security situation.

When Mickey Arthur was being sounded out last year, he had suggested an arrangement which saw him link up with the side only when they were on tour; it is not an easily workable option.

It could take time and, with Pakistan facing Sri Lanka in next month in the UAE, an interim appointment is likely.

Time, in fact, presents another problem. Word is that Ijaz Butt is not keen on prolonging his chairmanship of the Pakistan Cricket Board beyond October, when his three-year term officially ends.

Now, a new administration in Pakistan generally brings with it a broom, and the urge to purge after this shambolic one will be greater. What guarantee is there for a new coach that he will not be swept out under a new regime?

And at 37, there is less guarantee that Misbah-ul-Haq will be captain of a team, he can build with in even the midterm.

What chance indeed that we may not be having this very discussion again very soon? Short enough to make you laugh a laugh, you may not understand yourself.


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