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Habitual restructuring hurting Pakistan cricket: Usman Khawaja

Habitual restructuring hurting Pakistan cricket: Usman Khawaja

Australian opener Usman Khawaja believes that repeated restructuring in Pakistan cricket could be the cause of their poor performance in the ICC T20 World Cup 2024.

Pakistan were knocked out of the tournament’s group stage for the first time in their history after they lost their two opening games. A stunning super-over humiliation for the Green Team at the hands of the United States was followed by a six-run loss to bitter rivals India in a game where they failed to chase down a paltry 120-run target.

Subsequently, after rain distributed equal points in the match between Ireland and the USA, Pakistan were indirectly knocked out of the tournament.

The Green Team did win their remaining two games of the tournament, a sluggish performance against Canada and a nervy chase against Ireland, putting an end to their worst performance in a T20 World Cup.

While speaking at an event in Melbourne earlier this week, Khawaja, who was born in Islamabad but plays for Australia, said: “I have seen this happen. I was surprised by the USA game a little, I think Pakistan should have still won,” he said.

“Last over when [Haris] Rauf was bowling, there were a lot of runs, I thought Haris would close it,” he said, adding that he was surprised why Shaheen Shah Afridi was not given the super over.

“There is no easy game in the World Cup. It happens to the Australians too, you just lose,” he said.

“You just have to accept and move on, concentrate on what you can try in the next World Cup,” Khawaja said.

He said he saw a lot of talent in Pakistan but — as an outsider — he thought the Pakistan team was habitually restructured.

“Selections change, selectors change, the staff is changed and then players are also changed. I think when that happens, it is very hard to win cricket games,” Khawaja said.

“Stability is needed, if the players don’t have stability it is very hard to perform,” he said.

“When I look at the Pakistan team, what I see is that there is never any stability and as a player I know how difficult it is to play like that,” he said.

While responding to a question on Babar Azam’s captaincy, Khawaja said the decision was Azam’s to make.

“If he wants to captain then he should captain,” he said, adding that Pakistan’s expectations were always slightly “high”.

“It is a very tough game. Only one team wins. If you don’t win the World Cup […] then that is the exact same […] if you were knocked out in the top 8,” he said.

Speaking on Pat Cummins’ consecutive hat tricks, Khawaja said that the Aussie pacer was the “best bowler in the world”.

“It’s not luck that he is the best bowler in the world,” he said, adding that the T20 format offered more opportunities to bowlers as batsmen were more concerned with quick runs.

“You either get smashed or you get lots of wickets,” he said.

He said he was worried about the English side as they were following a similar play that helped Australia and Pakistan reach the finals in the 2021 and 2022 editions of the tournament.

“I am worried about England more than anyone. The way they started the tournament, struggled a little bit, almost out. I have seen this play before. Australia did two World Cups ago and we won,” he said.

“I saw Pakistan do it in the last T20 World Cup, they should have been out, they somehow snuck in and they made the finals, so I am worried about England,” he added.

Khawaja questions why Australia can’t face Afghanistan bilaterally

Khawaja questioned why Cricket Australia was willing to play Afghanistan in ICC tournaments but not in a bilateral series, adding that it was disappointing for someone like him who wanted to see the game grow.

Cricket Australia in March postponed a men’s T20 international series against Afghanistan later this year, saying the situation for women in the Taliban-ruled country was not acceptable.

The Aussie board said it had received advice “that conditions for women and girls in Afghanistan are getting worse” and so had taken a decision to “postpone” the three-match series scheduled in August at a neutral venue.

Cricket has surged in popularity inside Afghanistan in recent years, fuelled by sporadic triumphs over bigger nations on the international stage.

But under the Afghan Taliban’s style of governance, women remained effectively barred from the game.

Khawaja said he understood the decision was taken for the rights of women, something he stood for as well, but added that his contemporaries on the Afghanistan side were not different either.

“I have seen tweets from Rashid Khan, Nabi and Mujib who also stand up for women’s rights,” he said.

He said he spoke to Rashid on the issue where the wrist spinner told him that such decisions do not hurt governments but rather the people who love the game.

“People who love the game get happy when they watch cricket,” Rashid said according to Khawaja.

“If we are playing with them in the ICC then why can we not play them here,” Khawaja said.

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