DUBAI // Reports of the demise of the Pakistan national team have been greatly exaggerated, according to Mudassar Nazar. Support for the Pakistan side has dwindled in recent times, and not just because of the civil unrest in the country. Many fans have become disaffected due to a perceived lack of star quality, with the retirement of Inzamam-ul-Haq, and the long absence of the pace duo of Mohammed Asif and Shoaib Akhtar.
However, Nazar, who served as the head coach of Pakistan's National Cricket Academy from 2006, is certain the next crop will provide the crowds with plenty of reasons to be cheerful. He said: "It is difficult to say they will reach such great heights [as the likes of Inzamam and Wasim Akram] - but they have the potential. When they played Kenya and Zimbabwe recently - the opposition was not as tough - they showed the inclination, technique and temperament to surpass even the greats.
"One of the fast bowlers, Mohammed Talha, [who celebrates his 20th birthday this week] could become one of the greatest bowlers Pakistan have produced." With Akhtar and the master batsman Mohammed Yousuf also edging closer towards retirement, Pakistan could be set for an extended spell of transition. However, Nazar, who as an all-rounder scored 10 centuries in 76 Tests, remembers when a large turnover in personnel failed to inhibit Pakistan's progress. "In 2003, there was an exodus of Pakistani cricketers - such as Wasim, Waqar Younis, and Saeed Anwar," he recalls.
"Then 80 per cent of the new team were from the Pakistan cricket academy. They all flourished and did well, including the current captain Shoaib Malik. "This is why academies are so important. Once players are part of the national academy, they are well equipped to walk into any national team. "This will be a similar period for Pakistan. I think there are enough good players. In fact, the pace bowling attack will be bolstered rather than weakened. I think there are young players in there who should be playing for Pakistan already." firstname.lastname@example.org