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Miandad's bombshell

IT IS another indicator of the nature of cricket in Pakistan that Javed Miandad's resignation has come without any warning. The unpredictable has long become the norm in Pakistani cricket circles, both as far as the team and the establishment is concerned, and the departure of this veteran, whose contribution to his country is second to none, is something that has saddened even many a hardened cricket fan.

Long-time supporters and fans of the Pakistani cricket team should have been used to this type of happening by now -- the team is well set to go, everything appears to be under control and then a pivotal figure quits or is thrown out. Everybody was under the impression that Miandad had sorted out the problems in the team and, that under Wasim Akram, they would prove to be the dark horse in the World Cup.

Alas, it was not to be. Miandad cited the appointment of the South African Pybus as one reason for his exit and there has also been some speculation that he and Akram were not exactly willing to sleep in the same bed. Given the way things run in Pakistan, it is more likely that the latter reason has more bearing on Miandad's decision.

It is hard to find a team which has more talent in its ranks than Pakistan. And, the surprising thing is, despite the politics, the groupism, the allegations which hang over the team, more and more talent seems to be coming to the fore. There is seemingly no nursery to nurture and breed new players, yet they seem to spring from the woodwork every second day. The sad aspect is that some of them fall by the wayside or else are cast thither -- Aaquib Javed is an example. And unless one subscribes to the ruling philosophy of the day, then one's chances of staying in the team on merit also seem to be minuscule -- witness the case of Aamer Sohail.

Miandad is more than just a symbol of dogged resistance as far as Pakistan cricket goes; he was always an agent provocateur and fought back using both orthodox and unorthodox means. Remember, it was he who took up his bat to assault Dennis Lillee despite the fact that he would definitely have come off second best had any fisticuffs ensued with that bowler. He earned grudging respect from other teams and while he may not have been the most graceful batsman around, he was known for playing his heart out for his country. He has the runs and the record to prove it.

Pakistan cricket has been lacking just that dogged spirit of late. At least, they did, until they went to India for the Test series and the Asian championship. Thereafter, the team seemed transformed from the one which had gone under to both Zimbabwe and Australia at home. The same spirit has continued to date. And a lot of that resurgence, which has seen the odds on the team winning the World Cup change dramatically, has been put down to Miandad.

How will things be under the new regime? That is precisely the problem that Pakistan cricket has faced -- the lack of stability zones. Too much change tends to unsettle any human being and cricketers are just that. Barely has the team grown accustomed to one man when he leaves and another comes in. No matter what new-fangled theories are spouted, humans are basically creatures of habit. Miandad had basically become a habit for the team. Now they will have to listen to a different kind of piper who plays a different tune. All one can say is that it is not the best thing which could have happened, certainly not with the World Cup just three weeks away.

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