By: Naveed Khan
Put aside the grave political unrest in Pakistan and you see a society by and large based on morals. Among these, respect for elders is prevalent and regardless of the social changes occurring in a developing country, it is a moral that society should strive to sustain.
It is with that mentality; existence of rank and respect for those of greater experience, that makes society function. Servants, a concept foreign to most in the West, with their ‘master’, employee with their employer and cricket players with older cricket players.
Izzat, which is honour (or respect), permeates Pakistani society and is a concept which dictates the actions of most individuals. While on a social level, izzat and respect of elders is vital to Pakistan’s functioning society, its drip down into sport is detrimental to team spirit.
For ‘elders’ read ‘seniors’. We often read and hear Pakistani players refer to ‘seniors’ in the side. It’s like an elder brother relationship; a reverence when it goes well, dependence when it doesn’t.
The purpose of a team in any industry is that the components of the team work together to achieve a desired result. It is particularly important in sport; you win together, you lose together. To do this, you go in as equals and this is where the concept of seniority is holding the Pakistan team back.
Fundamentally, younger players coming in to the side or squad – Umar Akmal, Umar Amin, Nasir Jamshed and the like, enter with an air of inferiority even if based on ability, they are at least the equal of more experienced pros.
This has a two-fold detrimental impact. Firstly, a younger player will not be themselves either in squad comradery or in their performances. They will defer to their seniors meaning they are not expressing their obvious natural talent.
Secondly, it leads to these younger players not taking their chances or responsibility. They will naturally look to senior players to get the team out of a hole. The prevalent attitude of deferring to elders manifests itself in ways which hinder the maturing and development of younger players coming into the side.
For Pakistani cricket to move forward, this structure needs to be demolished and a meritocratic selection and retention policy should be the dominating philosophy. Whether Messers Misbah, Younus and Malik are called “bhai” should be neither here nor there.
Younger players need to be treated as equals and quid pro quo they need to act as equals as well. The preferential treatment given to ‘seniors’ by both the selectors and other players must be arrested.
None of this is to say the team must lose respect for teammates; that is vital though the road must be made two ways and newer players be given their due respect.