Why the U-19 disaster is bound to occur again

Published: August 25, 2012

The state of affairs of sports in Pakistan has been such lately that our dismal performances don't come as a surprise anymore. PHOTO: FILE ICC/GETTY

Pakistan under-19 cricket team’s dismal performance in the ongoing Under-19 World Cup shouldn’t come to us as a surprise.

The state of affairs of sports in Pakistan has been such lately that this was bound to happen eventually. Having said as much, we still feel disappointed because of the recent excellent performances by our U-19 team in the event. While Pakistan’s senior team had their worst World Cup campaigns in 2003 and 2007 (they came back home after the first round on both occasions), the U-19 team brought home the World Cup in 2004 and 2006. They were semi-finalists in 2008 and runners-up in 2010.

The same was not to be true this time around. They finished at number eight. They won the pool matches against Afghanistan, Scotland and New Zealand while they lost to India in the quarter-final, to West Indies in the 5th place play off, and to Bangladesh yesterday by five wickets. While there were some impressive individual performances, these clearly weren’t good enough to have influenced the results.

Yes, we lost, but should we really take this seriously?

I believe that we must!

Too long have we taken our inabilities comfortably without considering the causes and determinants of it. This ‘talent’ that we keep banking on is bound to run out sooner or later and here is why:

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB):

The first name that comes to mind for the dismal performance of the U-19 team is is the PCB. This is after all the governing body for cricket in Pakistan and the team selection, preparation, coaching and so on is their responsibility. The conditions in which these talented youngsters train and practice are pretty ordinary everywhere except in the National Cricket Academy, Lahore. The game in this mode has gone beyond mere talent. Scientific methods are used to train, plan, practice and analyse the game, whereas our cricket at grass root level doesn’t even have grass.

We used to win at the U-19 level on the basis of sheer talent that we have in our country. I fear that this solacing statement that we have talent might one day become an unsubstantiated claim. The raw talent needs to be polished well enough to be able to compete at the highest level. These boys are meant to be the future of Pakistan cricket (and make no mistake; the likes of Umar Akmal and Muhammad Amir, inter alia, came through to the big stage via U-19 cricket). Investment at under-19 level means long term investment. It has the potential to reap winners. It is high time that the PCB realise this.

Schools and colleges:

I believe that sports should be made compulsory in all high schools. Our medal-less performance in the London Olympics 2012 can also be attributed to the declining interest in sports at education centres. We should focus on creating all-rounders and not just A-graders. Ensuring every student’s participation in one sport or the other, engaging qualified coaching staff (for example ex-players), and valuing sports in general is a must. Many schools in urban areas do not even have proper playgrounds. Having appropriate sporting facilities should also be made mandatory for all schools and colleges. And I don’t just say this because it will produce great players for Pakistan in the future, but also because playing sports is great for one’s health, especially in the developmental phase.

The tuition culture:

Strenuous academic routines that have monopolised the evenings of most students have been seriously detrimental to sports in Pakistan. They have school-work in the morning and tuition in the evening, with no time to spend on activities that exercise their physical abilities.

“Parho gay likho gay bano gay nawaab, khelo gay koodo gay bano gay kharaab.”

(If you read and write, you will become a king. But if you play and jump, you will be spoilt)

This mentality needs to be altered.

Education is important but sports should not be ignored in the process. Sadly, fun and play have been put on the back burner for far too long.

Gone are the times when children would play in their gardens and the streets. Healthy outdoor activities are a thing of the past. Children need to be allowed to have a life outside just academic achievements. Their milestones need to be redefined. They need to be allowed to exercise the abundance of other skills God has gifted them with. After all, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Negligence of parents:

Most parents today do not encourage their children to play sports. Indoor activities such as watching TV, playing video games and computer games are the favourite activities of teenagers these days. Parents feel comfortable having their children within the secure environment of their homes, such is the condition of Pakistan today.

Engaging in sports is essential to the physical as well as mental growth of a child. Parents must realise this! A bit of suntan and bruises here and there won’t hurt them.

All this can’t be done in one day. We all must take responsibility for the miserable performance of our U-19 cricket team. PCB has to plan and execute short term as well as long term measures to ensure that such a disaster never happens again. We must all work to change this culture and make sports a habit. Our society could use such healthy activities that enhance tolerance, sportsmanship, merit and equality.

We must widen our horizons.

Read more by Aleem here or follow him on Twitter @aleemzubair

Muhammad.Aleem.Zubair

Muhammad Aleem Zubair

A chartered accountant in Lahore who loves cricket, food, poetry and music . He holds expertise in Auditing & Business Advisory, teaches and conducts corporate training every now and then. He tweets @aleemzubair (twitter.com/aleemzubair)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ahmed

    Highly generalized and awash with token rubbish statements. Pakistan have been outstanding at U19 level for the past 6-7 years, regularly reaching the final 4 stage and even becoming champions. Even the current batch co-won the Asia Cup and beat the current finalists Australia in a 3 ODI series. Pakistan was one wicket away from being in the semi-final after crushing all its opponents in the group stage. The West Indies – another extremely strong U19 side that had beaten the other finalist India in the group stage – also narrowly lost their quarterfinal on the last ball of the match. After such a soul-crushing defeat to our arch-rivals it is only natural that the boys would not be mentally geared up for the final few games.

    The writer is clearly someone who has read the scorecards of the matches and come up with this hogwash instead of looking at the state of affairs in their proper context.Recommend

  • Faisal

    I Won’t blame the U-19 guys. They were doing terrific till the PAK-INDIA Match. And what it seems from here is, they lost their confidence as well as heart after that defeat and couldn’t get hold of themselves again. Otherwise, there performance was Very good during this year and I still believe that this U-19 team has the super stars of future like Sami Aslam, Zia-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Imam-ul-Haq and others. We need to support the team rather than criticizing them, which is the easiest thing to do in Pakistan now a days. Recommend

  • Fazal

    The article addresses many other issues beyond U-19 cricket team. Very valid points highlighted regarding declining interest in sport at colleges and universities and tuition culture. Unfortunately we are producing A grade or 1000+ marks machines which later on complain about unemployment or dearth of opportunities. Sports can be of massive help here. Almost all of the players in cricket and hockey teams right till early 1990s has a bright sports background in school and colleges. Cricket rivalry between Government College and Civil Lines College used to produced some of exciting matches and many of our great cricketers have come form these colleges. About 10 years back seats were allocated to students for admission on sports basis. Unfortunately grounds of all the universities and colleges are now used for wedding functions.
    Teachers and parents need to understand , that a bright career in sports is equally good as is in medicine, engineering, accountancy, law etc. Great sporting nations take pride in their sportsmen and medal counts in after Olympics is used as a measure for dominance over rival countries.
    Before blaming everything on government first the parents and teachers need to take responsibility of encouraging children for sports and to take up a professional sports career in case one is really good. School and Colleges sports… it is basically the Grass Root Level!! Recommend

  • Nauman

    The purpose of under 19 cricket is to identify future stars not to win tournaments. We have been doing well in under 19 world cups since 2002 /2003 and yet apart from three or four players no one has actually made any mark in the current line up. In fact in the current team I do not think we have any player from the world cup winning teams. While winning piece of silverware is always good but lets not forget the purpose of under 19 teams. We have identified three decent players in this team (four if you count Babar Azam from previous world cup). Instead of holding inquiries efforts should me made to hone these players.

    The performance of the team was decent, it is not as bad as people are making it out to be. As Ahmed said after the defeat against India in quarter finals the remaining games were pretty much meaningless.Recommend

  • mubariz

    our under 19 team played well but because of that match o f pak and india in which pak lost took their confidence that took them to wuater final and also lost hopes but we should appriciate them they put a fight and win and loss are part of cricket pakistan team is talented and wiil remain talentedRecommend

  • http://twitter.com/justpti Ahsan Hayat

    Very well written and highlights what we should be looking in Sports.
    “Parho gey likho gey bano gey Nawab” that’s our mentality, we only want to produce nawabs but fail to produce humans :)
    But Just to point out Pakistan U19 won a series against Australia last month, it was just before U19 World cup and they did great in it as I followed it closely. Recommend

  • Hasan

    Does the author even follow the Pakistan under 19 cricket scene? Does he know for instance that a majority of the players were from the Pakistan under 15 circuit and were worked upon strenuously by tours to Australia, South Africa and the Asia Cup, all of them won by the Pakistan team incidently? Does the author know that Sami Aslam, Babar Azam, Ziaul haq, Usman Qadir, and Ehsan Adil are all products of the youth system that the PCB has been working on years? They fought back brilliantly only to loose by a wicket against India. After such a loss, it can be expected for them to be deflated. Also in the later matches, the rest of the players were given a chance, which, unfortunately did not work. It’s sad to see people whose blogs get published who don’t have an Iota of knowledge about the Under 19 scene and make judgments only after watching a couple of matches! If you are a fan and love Pakistan cricket, then follow it all year long and not when something is on TV! Even Haroon Rashid the manager of the cricket team admitted that this lot is the most talented he has ever coach and I for once am really excited by the potential of the kids. Babar Azam, Sami Aslam Ehsan Adil and Zia to name a few! Enough of these blogs where people who have zero knowledge think its their right to comment on our losses. First play and follow cricket to know how hard it is and then make judgements!Recommend

  • http://India VP

    “Parho gay likho gay bano gay nawaab, khelo gay koodo gay bano gay kharaab.” I used to listen this very same “KAHAWAT” from my father…………Same mentality from parents towards their children, whether India or Pakistan. Long live the Indo-Pak culture, down with hate mongers and religious fanatics.Recommend

  • Sidewinder

    i am pleasantly surprised that none came with a stupid reasoning of BCCI flaunting its clout to defeat Pakistan or a match fixing(by loser or winner ?) as it happens most of the times Pakistan loses. btw some cliches people would often hear from Pakistanis
    1.we are the most talented people,its different thing that none of the talent gets a chance to prove his/her mettle.
    2.a Muslim cant kill other Muslim,all those doing such things are aliens ,zombies and Indians.
    3.we are the most hospitable tribe in the world,its different thing that we dispatch people to Hospitals most of the time.
    4.there is no compulsion in our religion,you will only have to part with your life.
    5. Bollywood is an idiotic film industry,they should learn from Lolly wood.Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/shahan03 Shahan

    With all due respect, I think the writer has got it all wrong. There were a lot of things that the PCB had done right with this batch of U-19 players. The hunt for talented players had started a few years back with the first ‘Hunt for Hereos’, a programme aimed at U-16 players. Sami Aslam, Babar Azam, Imam-ul-Haq, Zafar Gohar, Saad Ali and Faraz Ali came from this programme (there may be more players but I am not sure about that). Those players who were over-age were simply not allowed in. One example that I personally know of is that of Omar Siddique. He used to open the batting with Babar Azam and had created quite a name for himself in Lahore’s cricketing scene. But he was found to be over-age and was not allowed to play for the U-16 squad. Moreover, while the team was in Australia, they had to cook their own food and wash their clothes themselves. This would have undoubtedly helped the team in having a sense of camaraderie and team-spirit which is so very crucial for a cricketing team like Pakistan. [Source: http://www.espncricinfo.com/icc-under19-world-cup-2012/content/story/578347.html Yes, our bowlers should have been able to get Sandeep Sharma (the tail-ender) out in the match we lost to India but effort the team put in throughout the tournament was simply spectacular.Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/aleemzubair Aleem

    Ahmed, Hassan and Shayan

    Thank you for you comments. You guys clearly are very knowledgeable passionate cricket followers.I meant no disrespect to the talent of the boys and I am sorry if it sounded like that. I named a couple, you named more than that, good. And as far as the role of PCB is concerned, if after a major debacle like this one, if someone says that there is room for improvement there somewhere, I think some weight has to be given to that!

    Moreover, I would love to have your comments about the sporting culture in general that has been discussed.Recommend

  • vickram

    Whenever Pakistan loses, it is always due to match-fixing or due to some unscrupulous arm-twisting by BCCI. Otherwise, no way the talented Pak team can lose.

    I hope this rule applies to the Under-19 team also !!

    PS: Pak players deliberately under-perform so that they don’t have to face interviewers who ask them questions in English and force them to speak angrezi ! (Heard from Khalid Butt of 4manshow) Recommend

  • Shafi

    Pak is going down towards drains not only in sports but also as a country. Cut back facilities from cricket and hockey and invest money on individual evens like boxing, squash, wrestling, swimming etc. For those who is prasing U-19 cricket team for outstanding performances Pakistan team is always good against team like Afgan, Ireland or NZ not anymore always against Bangladesh.Recommend

  • ovais khan

    @vickram:
    its not only bookies who usually makes indian team to win in critical times to cover deficiencies(except indian batting giants) talent can be factor for paki team to loose also and it means u know its BCCI’s another business
    as far concern for english speaking to be honest it is present in our team no doubt indian speak better english then paki player m not intent to discredit BCCI but indian board and paki players are easily getting involved in wrongful activitesRecommend