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Hard times ahead for Pakistan after Hamilton humiliation


KARACHI, March 31 (AFP) - Pakistani cricket will take a long, hard look at itself after a humiliating innings defeat against underdogs New Zealand in the third and final Test in Hamilton.

New Zealand's romp, comfortably its biggest win ever, underlined the need for change in the way the game is administered here.

Coupled with a crisis over the captaincy, complaints about coach Javad Miandad and India's suspension of cricketing ties, the rout in Hamilton capped a terrible start to 2001 for the 1999 World Cup finalists.

"Losing to New Zealand is disappointing and we are definitely at the crossroads, but we are doing our best to systemise our cricket," Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Lieutenant General Tauqir Zia said Saturday.

Assisted by successive Pakistani capitulations with the bat, New Zealand on Friday cruised to an innings and 185-run defeat in the third Test to level the series 1-1. They had already won the one-day series 3-2.

"We missed some five to six senior players through injury but it was a pathetic show by our team in the last Test," said Zia, referring to injury problems with Wasim Akram, Saeed Anwar, Azhar Mahmood, Moin Khan and Abdur Razzaq.

He said injures alone could not explain the team's recent performance, which has produced six series losses, including four at home, out of the last nine played.

"Losing to New Zealand is a big shock," said former Pakistan captain Imran Khan, who described New Zealand and the West Indies as the weakest teams in the world.

"The Pakistan team's decline began when they replaced Wasim Akram as captain."

Veteran allrounder Akram became ineligible for the captaincy following a match-fixing report released here last year, paving the way for keeper Moin Khan to fill his shoes.

But Khan, who seemed confident in the role at first, has come under fire especially following England's historic Test series victory here late last year.

His early return from New Zealand due to injury before the last Test has forced officials to find a replacement for the upcoming Sharjar series, most probably batsman Izmamam-ul-Haq.

But former captain and coach Intikhab Alam blamed Miandad for the team's plummeting fortunes.

"Results show that Miandad has flopped as a coach and with him in charge Pakistan is losing series after series. A great player is not always the best coach," he said.

"The Pakistan team's problems are manifold but the team management, I mean captain and coach, selection, the lack of replacements for senior players and a lack of fitness are the main ones.

"How do six or seven players get injured at one time? It shows a lack of planning."

Another former captain, Zaheer Abbas, agreed that Miandad, who has been at the center of a bitter team feud over earnings, must accept his share of responsiblity.

"It's time we think positively and stop this rot. Look at the Indian team, how well they are doing against the world's best team," Abbas said.

"We have lost to every team in the world and when you lose like this the coach must share equal blame."

On a positive note, PCB advisory council member Ramiz Raja said steps had already been taken to bring up fresh young players from the huge pool of largely untapped talent here.

"We are planning for the future but it will take some time," he said.

"We have set up an academy and have hired an English curator ... and with this kind of planning for the future the team's showing will also improve gradually."

The team returns to Pakistan Monday for a week's rest and no-doubt some painful stocktaking before heading to the Gulf for the Sharjah tri-series starting from April 8, involving Sri Lanka and New Zealand.

Pakistan will then tour England in May, playing two Tests and a one-day tri-series including world champions Australia.





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