COVID-19 affected team’s performance: PCB’s cricket committee

LAHORE: Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) Cricket Committee Chairman Saleem Yousuf has asserted that the COVID-19 pandemic was one of the biggest contributing factors for the team’s overall below-par performances in the last 16 months.

The national team came under heavy criticism recently for its performance during the tour in New Zealand. Pakistan lost the Twenty20 series 2-1 and went down heavily in both Tests.

The first meeting of the PCB Cricket Committee of the year took place in Lahore under the chairmanship of former Test wicketkeeper Saleem Yousuf. Umar Gul and Wasim Akram joined the session online, while Urooj Mumtaz attended the meeting at the Gaddafi Stadium.

Speaking during the meeting, Saleem Yousuf said the committee had “carried out a holistic but constructive, fact-based and objective review of the Pakistan men’s cricket team in the past 16 months”.

He admitted that the national team had not lived up to expectations that it would rank among the top three or four cricket-playing nations. “Nevertheless, the committee was of the view that cricket during the COVID-19 pandemic was one of the biggest contributing factors in the side’s dismal performances,” he added.

“All professional and high-performing athletes require an environment where they can prepare their best for the international stage, which was not the case for the last two tours and most definitely not at the last tour where players had been confined to their rooms for two weeks due to the policies of that particular COVID-free country,” the chairman said.

Yousuf further said that because of the pandemic, the team had to face “big losses” after captain Babar Azam, Imamul Haq, and Shadab Khan were unavailable for the Test matches.

“These big losses affected the team combinations that, in turn, resulted in the side’s overall below-par performance against a side that remained unbeaten in the past two-and-a-half years,” he added.

However, the chairman said the committee strongly believed team selections and choice of players in the playing line-ups should have been made better. “The committee also believes more scientific and data-based work needed to be done on the players with improved communication,” he added.

Yousuf said the PCB Cricket Committee would conduct another review of the team’s performance after the home series with South Africa which is scheduled to start from Jan 16.