Some sixteen months ago, Pakistan cricket team won the Champions trophy and the hearts of millions. The heavens resounding with applause, there seemed to be no end to the hopes of the nation from the young and exuberant team. And the team didn’t disappoint either — not in the shortest format at least. The consistency across formats and countries however remained in question. So, in the shortest format, the results came in favour, whether the team played in virtual home conditions of UAE, similar ones in Zimbabwe or alien and unfriendly ones in New Zealand. But in the longer formats, the team struggled: losing to NZ 5-0 in ODI’s and to Sri Lanka 2-0 in tests. Test victories in Ireland and England raised the bar of hopes higher. But come Asia Cup and consecutive defeats against the arch rivals again caused a lot of pain. And if those losses were not enough, the team ended up getting ousted by an under power and underperforming Bangladesh side. Comparing the current Pakistan team with that of 1990s and early 2000s, what strikes the fans first is the lack of the X-factor — the game changing players we had in those days like the two W’s (Wasim and Waqar) and Shoaib with the ball and Inzimam ul Haq and Saeed Anwar with the bat. The current batch, though good enough on paper, is found lacking at points where a single handed performance might topple a big opposition. Modern cricket is all about professionalism and working on skills. If batting was our everlasting headache, it has become even more severe in recent times. Modern cricket demands great versatility and adaptation on the batsmen’s part. The comparative performances of the Indian captain Virat Kohli in England in 2014 and 2018 provide unique instances of this. Pakistani batsmen, on the other hand, have been found wanting on the count even in the home conditions. None deny Fakhar has been our most prolific scorer at the top, but the technical glitches remain obvious to the perceptive eyes and have been exploited by all the strong oppositions. The requirement was to work out and overcome the technical problems like batsmen from top sides do all the time, but our dilemma remains: once a batsman performs and goes on to thrash some minnows, he stops working on his technique and evolving with the time altogether. While top sides have think tanks in cricket boards as well as expert circles, we just take the minute details for granted. Lack of communication among team members and the management became common talk during the Asia Cup, but the problem is a bit more serious when one looks at the situation objectively Another count on which Pakistan seems to struggle is the decline of communication and thinking in cricket both off and on the fields. While top sides have think tanks in cricket boards as well as experts circles, we just take the minute details for granted. Lack of communication among team members and the management became common talk during the Asia Cup, but the problem is a bit more serious when one looks at the situation objectively and finds the real issues — technique, skills, fitness levels, comparative ability to rotate the strike etc — missing from talks and analyses on media. These fine details make up the bulk of discussions of foreign analysts. But unfortunately most of the indigenous analyses remain confined to suggestions for replacement of younger players with long underperforming older ones. The need of the time is to point out the technical issues of players even when they are performing well against the lesser sides so that the weaker areas do not go unattended and left to be exploited by stronger sides. The aforementioned technical issues and analytical flaws are often seen translated into the performances on the field. Players coming out over-confident from their heroics against weaker sides, oblivious to their flaws and poor techniques, get exposed against the stronger sides. Our top and middle orders, for instance, are often seen struggling to manoeuvre the field and rotate the strike when the boundaries are not on offer. Now, this area has been covered by almost all the teams in modern cricket. But as it is not brought into discussions often enough, the struggle for runs continues in crunch matches. Looking at Pakistan’s cricket over the last two decades, one is startled to notice the large number of players capped, given a brief stint on the field and eventually dropped and forgotten for no obvious reasons. Aizaz Cheema, Fawad Alam and Sohail Khan remind a few of many such instances. Such irregularities point to some serious flaws in the selection process. For one, that our domestic cricket is not yielding players with the ability to develop their skills or show the maturity required at the highest level. Also, when these players do make it to the highest level, they are not guaranteed their place and after a few nervy outings they are just scrubbed off the field. These selection issues translate into on field performance every other season and consequently we see PCB capping players from U-19 in emergency on the verge of some ICC events. Add recent inclusions from PSL to the list, and it becomes obvious how panicky our selection process can get when put to pressure. No issue with taking players from junior levels or indigenous leagues, but the standard should be grooming a few of such exceptional cases among a bunch of mature and solid players coming through tough domestic competition for a place in the team. Packing up the whole team with inexperienced or league picks turns the whole situation topsy-turvy. If Pakistan cricket is to make its mark and aspire for the zenith across the formats and conditions in modern day cricket, it can only be made possible with professionalism at all levels. From selection of the team to display of skills on the field, a radical move towards professionalism is the order of the day. It has turned things around dramatically for other cricketing nations like New Zealand and India and it can do the job for cricketing reforms in our country too. The writer is an Assistant Professor of English at GCU, Lahore Published in Daily Times, October 8th 2018.