The Next Steps

the next step2

Once the dust settles down is when the hard part begins. After all the joys and travails of the trials the part that seems worthy of envy from the outside starts. Having been one of those who criticise from afar thinking I could do this better, now I don’t wish the responsibility of selection on anyone.
After the TCT Open trials finished it was time to sift through the debris, and try and select around 200 cricketers from the 20,000+ that appeared. Here you don’t have any numbers to rely on, no evidence to fall back to, all you have is the Eye Test and the questionable belief that you can actually spot the diamond in the rough. And even making those selections requires a heart of stone. The selectors for this received over 700 phone calls in just the three days prior to the selection being made public – with sifarishs ranging from a mere groundsman to former Prime Ministers. And in the midst of it all there are dozens of stories that break your heart. And you end up questioning how you can encourage a teenager to continue to pursue his dream while telling him that, for now, he isn’t good enough to even make our shortlist. Or for that matter, how do you reject someone who begs for selection saying, “agar main yahan select na hua to mere parents meri shaadi kara deinge”!?

In addition to the obvious problems of competition of places we had also decided that this tournament would be more than a mere marketing exercise. Here was a chance for us, fans who criticise the running of the game in this country, to try and improve what the norm is. While there was obvious preference given to those that had played regional cricket – their fitness and professionalism levels are chalk and cheese compared to the best possible club or tape ball cricketers – we made sure that the players selected had not played departmental cricket before. Sure you could gather up better talent by including department based players but ideologically that would defeat the purpose of trying to create new avenues for budding players. After all what is the point of having a player development program where the players will not be developing any further because of it. Thus one of the ideas we came up with was the 10% of the players selected would be 16 or younger. These kids would gain the experience of playing with grown men, sharing a dressing room with them, and given early exposure to the world they want to be a part of.

The tournament itself followed those selections. Pace bowling was the one consistent high point across all the teams. There were enough fast bowlers with potential to fill all 12 teams and still have those who could feel hard done by. Batting followed the formula that has become the norm in Pakistan – every batting unit was propped up by two or three high quality players who carried the rest of the unit. And what happened to spin wasn’t surprising either – the two highest wicket takers in the tournament by the end were leg spinners, but off spinners were taken by anyone and everyone.

What pleased us most was the universal desire to learn. This was particularly the case with the islamabad united players. We tried to make sure that at least half the teams had access to players that had already played the PSL, so they could impart their knowledge to the next generation. And as the coup de grace Shadab Khan and Rumman Raees played on the final day – one captaining The Best of Rawalpindi, the other the Best of Islamabad.

But this is just the start. For as much as this was a chance to find and develop young player this was a chance for all of us at Islamabad United to learn the lessons we had no other paths to do so. Hopefully next year this will be even bigger and better.
Until then, we have some players to help in their development.