Dean Jones

MANY people queried my decision to apply for the head coaching job for Pakistan. After Pakistan’s recent whitewash of England, you know why.

I always knew Pakistan had a very talented squad. I just thought that when three players got caught for match fixing, then no player would get involved again and the team would play to its potential. If any Pakistan player gets caught again, surely Pakistan will be banned from international cricket for many years. So I just thought the timing was right for someone to come in and get the players prepared and let them go and play some aggressive cricket.

Pakistan might have surprised a few people with their performances, but not me.

Australia and Pakistan are the new feared teams in world cricket. Both teams have gone through a period of crisis. Australia was stale, needed new leadership and new blood. Pakistan, on the other hand, had to deal with spot fixing and lost its captain and best youngster in the process.

Both Australia and Pakistan have handled the adversity well. Pakistan, in particular, was lucky to have a wonderful old hand in Waqar Younis to steer it through some turbulent waters. Initially, Waqar was there to help his team deal with the humiliation — and there was lots of it. He handled the press well and led his young team out of the wilderness.

This horrible mess ended up hurting Waqar deeply and he had to resign his post due to poor health. So Pakistan needed a coach and a captain who could carry on with the good work from Waqar. The first great choice was naming Misbah-ul-Haq as its skipper. What a fine job he has done. He has won nine of 15 Tests as captain and he has an air of grace and calmness to him. Misbah has worked out exactly what attack he needs for all conditions.

For matches in the subcontinent, Misbah realised he needed three quality spinners. He now has three fantastic spinners with great variations — Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman and M Hafeez. He also has wonderful pace bowlers to choose from, including Umar Gul, Aizaz Cheema and Junaid Khan. And let’s not forget their keeper, Adnan Akmal.

This kid can talk underwater with a mouthful of marbles and can upset even the toughest Test batsman.

Three months ago, Pakistan appointed Mohsin Khan as its interim coach until it decided on a new permanent coach. Mohsin has done a brilliant job and has put pressure on the man who had been touted to get the job, Dav Whatmore.

Many past players and fans believe that Mohsin should be allowed to carry on as coach. I am told he wants the job.

With all the great work the players have done on the ground since their humiliation, it has been the Pakistan Cricket Board that has performed badly. It has been four months since the PCB advertised the position of head coach and still we haven’t received official word. Mohsin has now put serious pressure on the PCB. I hear the players want things to stay the same and the PCB is stalling on naming Whatmore.

PCB chairman Zaka Ashraf has said that Pakistan wanted a qualified coach so it can win the World Cup. So “whitewashing” the No. 1 Test team in the world 3-0 is a fluke? So because Moshin doesn’t have a piece of paper to say he is qualified as a level-three coach, means he can’t do the job? Pakistan’s recent results tell me otherwise.

At the same time I feel sorry for Whatmore, who was expected to take over from Mohsin. He has resigned his job as head coach of the Indian cricket academy and also resigned from the head coaching position of Kolkata Knight Riders. Whatmore is caught between a rock and a hard place, and could miss out on the Pakistan position as well if this pressure keeps up for Mohsin to stay on as coach.

Putting aside all coaching matters, Pakistan is flying at the moment but still has a few weaknesses. Its tail-end batting is still poor. Plus the team’s overall fielding is awful, but that has been a problem since Imran Khan was a boy.

They still have some experience on the sidelines, such as Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik, while they still have a young superstar waiting for another chance, Umar Akmal.

Now we are hearing talk of a M Aamir comeback. Amir, who has just been released from jail after being found guilty of spot fixing, will be 24 when he has served his five-year ban from the game. Now whether Amir should play is another question. But when you get chairman Zaka Ashraf saying he will be welcomed into the team, then the question is answered. Maybe it should be a question for the PCB chairman to answer in five years’ time.

I thought it was a poor answer and poor timing considering all the great work his team has achieved recently. The players are the ones who had to deal with the humiliation. They are the ones who have played with class and dignity. They are the ones who lifted themselves from the rubble to become a team that is now feared around the world.

Maybe the chairman should look at his current players first and foremost. Saying that Aamir would be welcomed with open arms is a slap in the face to this team.

Let’s not forget, Aamir didn’t care too much for his team in the past. Nor did he understand what an honour and privilege it was to play for his country, and instead put money first.