Wednesday Jun 12, 2019
TAUNTON: It’s cold and wet and the high street in the main market in Bridgwater is already wearing a deserted look. And it’s just 7 in the evening. Then a group of young men appear from a nearby takeaway place. They are members of the Pakistan team. Wahab Riaz, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali and a few others walk quickly in the direction of their hotel, carrying plastic takeaway bags.
“That’s their biggest source of entertainment these days – food,” a team official told as he watched the boys walk away quickly in the rain.
So no night clubs, no curfew breaks?
“None at all,” says the official. “This is perhaps one of the easiest Pakistani team to manage in a long time,” he added.
Pakistan’s cricket teams haven’t always been like this. Many of the former stars were pretty fond of the nightlife in their heyday. Shoaib Akhtar enjoyed quite a reputation. More recently, the likes of Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad frequently posed problems for the team management.
But the current World Cup squad doesn’t really have any such characters. Or maybe there are a couple.
“Well, I won’t say that there are any players who like to party in this Pakistan team. Some of them do like to talk about it. Wahab Riaz, maybe Imad Wasim. But I don’t think that they are really serious about it.”
So what’s reason behind such trouble-free behaviour?
Team officials believe that it has mostly to do with skipper Sarfraz Ahmed’s influence.
“Look, Sarfraz is a very religious man. He is very disciplined and when your captain is like that then it is quite natural that other boys will mostly follow suit,” said an official.
So is Sarfraz as religious as Inzamam-ul-Haq was during his controversial stint as Pakistan captain?
“Not really. Sarfraz is not an interfering captain. He likes to lead by example but the players aren’t forced to follow him when it comes to religious matters.”
It was quite different when Inzamam was captain.
I still remember the 2007 World Cup in West Indies. Inzamam was skipper and the Pakistani team were frequent visitors to religious centres in Kingston. Before that, it was a similar routine during the tour of England in the summer of 2006. The net result was that there were clear divisions in the team with players Shoaib Akhtar dissenting against the captain.
“There are no such issues in this Pakistan team. Almost all of them pray but neither of them is over-zealous,” said an official.