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Behind the Scenes with Team Pakistan

Intent on turning it around

BRISBANE–February 23, 2015: Having lost two out of two games in ICC World Cup 2015, Team Pakistan arrived here late in the afternoon Sunday. Quite predictably amongst the seniors and juniors alike, the mood was grim and the morale low. As the team coach motored out of the airport, head coach Waqar Younis decided to call off Monday’s morning training session, allowing the boys to relax, do their own workouts in the hotel gym and generally work the trauma out of their systems – each their own way.

This turned out to be an inspired decision, and as the team meeting called by manager Naveed Akram Cheema Monday evening commenced, the environment was slightly relaxed. Mr Cheema began with a rather wholesome pep talk before opening the floor, encouraging everyone to speak his own mind frankly. He also communicated PCB Chairman Shaharyar Mohammad Khan’s message: the Chairman and the Board was absolutely behind the team, no matter what, and the latter only wanted the team to shake off negativity and go out there and perform without any pressure whatsoever.

Subsequently skipper Misbah-ul-Haq spoke with the eloquence and conviction of a man who has been visited by adversity so many times, on most occasions conquering it.

“We have been unlucky… But look at South Africa, look at England. India beat the favourites South Africa far more convincingly than us – the two sides that were more familiar with the conditions than us. We need our luck to turn, the rub of the green to come our way. Our luck would change, but for it to materialize we would have to concentrate on the next game and approach it with energy, optimism and sense of responsibility”.

Citing many a personal example from our recent cricketing history that everybody in the room was aware of, when he said no one should lose hope, we would turn it around, there was none in the audience who was not inspired.

Waqar Younis, another war horse who has been there and done that several times over, took a pledge from the boys that each would give their all unrelentingly to the team’s cause. “We have to go in there with intent, foster a sense of togetherness; whatever fine-tuning we need to do, we shall in the next few days”.

Mushtaq Ahmed, Shahid Afridi, Sohaib Maqsood and Yasir Shah also shared their varied experiences. “Do not even discuss the criticism back home among yourselves”, he advised his mates. “This negativity, this criticism would happen, this has always been happening. We ought to do what we are here to do – and do it well”.

By the time the hour-long session ended, Team Pakistan seemed to be mentally ready to conquer its demons starting on the morrow with its first training session at the Allan Border Field here

(The writer is General Manager, Media, Pakistan Cricket Board, on assignment with Team Pakistan as Media Manager).