Pakistan mull ways and means to lift team’s morale

Zeeshan Baz

LONDON: Pakistan’s cricket team arrived in London on Monday evening with its World Cup campaign in complete disarray.

An embarrassing 89-run defeat against old foes India at Old Trafford on Sunday has left Pakistan in such a precarious situation that even victory in their remaining four World Cup group games won’t guarantee the team’s progress in the semi-finals.

But the near impossible task of reaching the last four is just part of Pakistan’s growing list of woes as they take a brief break from World Cup duty.

There have been whispers of discord within the Pakistan team since their humiliating seven-wicket loss against the West Indies in their World Cup opener in Nottingham on May 30. But those whispers have now grown into full-blown allegations of disunity and groupings within Pakistan’s World Cup squad following the team’s back-to-back losses against Australia and India.

In fact there were widespread reports following the defeat against India that Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed minced no words in telling his players that early World Cup exit won’t just hurt him, it will hurt the entire team.

There were even insinuations that by taking on his players, Sarfaraz has given weight to allegations that a group of players in the Pakistan dressing room is working against the team in order to derail the country’s World Cup campaign.

Such reports were followed by talk that in the aftermath of the Old Trafford thrashing, the Pakistan team was painting a picture of children from a broken home.

“It’s all wrong,” says Raza Kitchlew, Pakistan team’s media manager.

“There are always such reports whenever we lose a big match. I can tell you for sure that there is no disharmony in the team. The players are naturally disappointed with their own performances but to say that there is infighting in the team would be totally false,” he added.

So Sarfaraz didn’t warn his players after the loss against India?

“There was certainly a dressing down from the captain to the players after the match but that happens every time the team loses after playing badly,” he said. “But I must make it clear that he (Sarfaraz) never used the words attributed to him in some reports. What he and Mickey said after the game was aimed at lifting the team’s performance in the forthcoming matches,” he said.

“All of them know that all is not lost and Pakistan can still qualify for the semis. So instead of drawn into a negative mindset efforts are being made to lift the team’s morale.”

Raza claimed that the team is completely gelled but when it travelled from Manchester to London in the team bus, three of the senior players were missing. The senior trio of Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez and Wahab Riaz travelled on separate cars instead of joining their team-mates in the bus.

“Well, all of them were travelling with their families. Wives and kids aren’t allowed on the team bus that’s they were travelling in cars which were following the team bus,” he said.

Pakistan have checked in a hotel in Reagent Park, a stone’s throw away from Lord’s where they will be looking to revive their World Cup hopes with a win against South Africa on Sunday.

The players have been given a two-day rest and would be resuming their training sessions from Thursday.

But there is no respite for them as the Pakistani team continues to be flayed on the media. They are especially worried about the venomous attacks hurled at them on the social media.

Mohammad Amir, Pakistan’s only real star performer at this World Cup so far, has urged the fans to refrain from using abusive language.

“Pls dont use bad words for the players yes u guys can criticise our performance we will bounce back InshAllah we need ur support (sic),” Amir pleaded on Twitter.

Such was the disappointment of the fans following the defeat against India that even the players’ families were dragged in. Using a video that shows Pakistani players Shoaib Malik, his wife Sania Mirza, Wahab Riaz, Imad Wasim and Imam-ul-Haq at a sheesha bar as the basis to attack them, fans accused them of violating team curfew the night before the game against India. Even though Pakistan Cricket Board rubbished the report, the storm surrounding it grew fierce forcing Malik to clarify that the videos were from June 13 and not 15.

Malik also questioned the credibility of the Pakistani media.

“When will Pak media be accountable for their credibility by our courts?! Having served my country for +20 years in Intl Cricket, it’s sad that I have to clarify things related to my personal life. The videos are from 13th June and not 15th (sic),” Malik tweeted.

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