LAHORE: On the third day of a mundane Test match on an unusually placid surface at Lord’s in 2008, the most significant developments were taking place in the visitors’ dressing room. South Africa’s bright young star, a fresh-faced 24-year old AB de Villiers, had been batting without much discomfort alongside Ashwell Prince. Out of nowhere, he scooped aimlessly towards mid-on off a harmless Monty Panesar delivery. He had made an untroubled 42 up till then, but getting out like he did on a batsman’s paradise, particularly with the sort of talent he possessed, had Mickey Arthur incandescent with rage. The Proteas coach sat the batsman down that evening, and in front of the entire squad, gave him a harsh dressing-down (the hairdryer treatment, as Sir Alex Ferguson might have called it). De Villiers was told, in no uncertain terms, that his talent, though seemingly boundless, couldn’t justify his place in the side while his attitude and commitment remained cavalier. De Villiers sat on the balcony next day, visibly sulking. In his next Test innings, he scored 174. In the 41 Tests he played before Mickey Arthur took him to task, he averaged 39.6. Ever since, he has averaged 58.1. To imagine our so-called star batsmen Umar Akmal or Ahmad Shahzad, dropped last week from a 35-man training camp ahead of Pakistan’s tour to England, could similarly be stung into action following their omission might be optimistic, but chief selector Inzamamul Haq could have done a lot worse than set down the marker. Head coach Mickey Arthur hadn’t been appointed when the decision was taken, but one can imagine him fully approving of it. That Pakistan cricket has boundless talent has to be one of the most oft-repeated statements in the country, but the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) persistence with players not maximising their potential inevitably makes one question it. If, after all, there are many talented batsmen from within Pakistan to choose from, why has Pakistan continued to field Umar despite his obviously stunted development as a cricketer? The PCB was criticised as being prudish when Umar was initially dropped following an off-field incident, but the truth is his displays with the bat haven’t been up to international standard either. It isn’t simply a case of a player being out of nick – almost everyone is, at some point – but the utter predictability of his and Shahzad’s dismissals betray an inability to learn from their mistakes, arguably the greatest sin in any sport. Throw in disciplinary problems, and you have players who are neither great individual performers nor good team players. A combination like that simply doesn’t cut the international ice. However tough Inzamam and Arthur fancy themselves to be on discipline, though, they are ultimately employees of a cricket board that has undertaken more backflips than Nadia Comameci during her prime. This is an institution that, just this year, dropped Shahzad from the World T20 because he had failed to take “consistent chances” to perform, before recalling him less than four weeks later for the odd showing in the Pakistan Super League (PSL). It is crucial, now having brought two hard taskmasters in, that the board doesn’t overrule their authority by mollycoddling these players. Arthur, in particular, has shown in the past he isn’t afraid to take tough decisions or bruise big egos; players like Herschelle Gibbs were cast adrift for not towing the line, and Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Johnson, Shane Watson and James Pattinson were sent home from a tour of India for what was essentially a failure to do their homework. Most importantly, the majority of players Arthur upbraided went on to become world beaters in their respective fields. De Villiers has arguably been the best player in the world since feeling the whiplash of Arthur’s verbals, while Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Johnson also enjoyed purple patches since the “Homeworkgate” admonishment. The other big precedents before us are that of Kevin Pietersen of England and Andrew Symonds of Australia. The duo’s careers were cut short due to disciplinary issues. Therefore, now the PCB finally seems to have officials who’ve told the team exactly where it stands on discipline, and that fitness and fielding standards are non-negotiable. Let us give them a pat on the back. They have their eye in. It is now imperative they convert this start into the sort of score that sends out a statement. It is hoped that the PCB will stay the course on discipline to show all and sundry that no player is bigger than the game.