James Sutherland

Pakistan v Sri Lanka & the nostalgia of cricket in Pakistan

Pakistan and Sri Lanka are producing some cracking cricket during their three match series in the United Arab Emirates. The 2nd Test in Dubai is sparsely spectated though, and this leads me to ponder why.

The UAE is Pakistan’s home base and the obvious neutrality of the venue is one reason why there’s few spectators, but can more be done to attract a crowd?

It’s a real shame Pakistan cannot play at home. As a youngster growing up in Australia I fondly recall Australia’s tours to Pakistan, particularly Australia’s defeat in 1994, which I followed via press updates and eventually through Wisden. Pakistan toured Australia in ’95 so their players were familiar to kids at the time. We recreated the battles in the street by imitating Akram, Malik, McDermott and Boon.

During the ’94 tour Pakistan won a nail biter by one wicket at Karachi with big performances from Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Saeed Anwar, Inzamam-ul-Haq and current England spin coach Mushtaq Ahmed.

In the following Test Saleem Malik scored a double tonne, which ensured a draw at Rawalpindi. Michael Slater, Damien Fleming, Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan excelled. During Pakistan’s epic 2nd innings every Australian player – except Ian Healy – had a bowl. Yes, even Mark Taylor and David Boon rolled the arm over. In fact, opening batsmen Taylor and Slater took wickets! The third Test at Lahore was also a draw. Pakistan won the series 1-0.

They had some good players. I imagine that tours there were extremely challenging, but equally rewarding. I think Australia’s last tour occurred in 1998, a 1-0 victory for Australia – Peshawar providing the scene for Mark Taylor’s 334 and a big series performance from Ijaz Ahmed and the introduction of youngster Shoaib Akhtar.

In a nostalgic and perhaps rose tinted sense tours to Pakistan and the West Indies seemed to be the epitome of tough international Test Match cricket. It’s a massive loss that international cricket isn’t played in Pakistan and West Indies struggle from poor governance and administration, un-helped by the ICC and India’s selfish scheduling of T20 tournaments.

In Pakistan the instability and threat of violence means that cricket seems an impossible and a luxurious frivolity in comparison to the issues facing their people. I hope that cricket can return to Pakistan in the near future, because that will mean things have substantially improved.

Pakistan v Sri Lanka, UAE 2013-14

The first Test in Abu Dhabi was a draw after a mighty backs-to-wall fight back from Sri Lanka forced Pakistan to hold out on the last day. The Dubai Test is through 2 days and the cricket being played is world class standard. Both teams possess excellent cricketers so it’s a shame there’s less than 3 men and a dog watching.

Surely the Pakistan Cricket Board, the ICC and local sports officials can do more to get punters into the grounds. The UAE is well known for having large populations of tradesmen and labourers from the sub-continent. Strike up partnerships with large employers, subsidise tickets, provide adequate public transport, improve advertising and promotion, get the players out there engaging the people and get them through the gates to watch the amazing cricket being played by these teams.

The ICC’s Future Tours Program has Australia scheduled to play Pakistan in October this year. What can Cricket Australia do to help the PCB get on the front foot and promote the series?

Probably a heck of a lot more than it will do under James Sutherland, that’s for sure.

Pakistan-Australia Test series set to be downsized

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Reacting to the Ashes defeat in 2010-11 – Deja Vu in 2013?

I recently located a piece (maybe it’s a rant) I’d written in the wake of Australia’s humiliating 3-1 defeat to England in the home Ashes Series of 2010-11. It’s interesting to see how little Cricket Australia has done between then, and now (the selection panel and coach have changed). People are writing similar things two and half years later. How can Sutherland keep his job?

13 January 2011

James Sutherland, Tim Nielsen and Andrew Hilditch have avoided taking any responsibility for what is happening in Australian cricket. We’ve just been absolutely hammered by our bitter rivals on home soil and their reaction is not in perspective. Sutherland is more interested in appeasing sponsors with flash in the pan 2020 matches than promoting the specific interests of Shield and Test cricket. Hilditch is only interested in his interpretation and personal standing. Nielsen is not a leader of men in the same mould as Andy Flower or Bob Simpson and subsequently cannot establish a tough winning culture. Our team were absolutely rattled against England, psychologically battered.

The current misguided PR and PC driven culture of Cricket Australia is reflected in the dressing room and it is taking an enormous toll. The focus is all wrong and it stems from these administrators. Test Match cricket is a technical game, but it also requires strength of character, because it is often a game of tactical and psychological warfare.

England utterly dominated the technical and psychological aspects. Did the administration give our players the best opportunity to prepare and execute these skills? I think not. Some might say these observations are knee-jerk, but there are many of us who have been highlighting problems with systems, structures and cultures in our game since 2007 and earlier. These “leaders” have not taken any responsibility, they do not listen and their reaction to this loss solidifies the fact they are not up to the massive task of restoring Australian cricket back at the top. While I’m at it, Australian fans need a serve too.

We have been butchered by a travelling army of English fans and they have utterly embarrassed this nation by turning each and every Australian ground into a manifestation of England. Their support was first class, Australia’s barely existed – and at a time when the team needed it most. Anyone who doubts the compelling impact of this support, well, go and ask the players of both teams. Australian cricket requires change and improvement on and off the field, and on both sides of the boundary fence.

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