Pakistan's comprehensive ten-wicket victory over England in the first Test in Dubai would have filled their loyal supporters, who stuck with the team through thick and thin, with immense joy. It would have also given them a chance to divert their attention from the ongoing political rumblings in the country to something they have always loved and enjoyed passionately.
Seeing their side performing well, and that too against the No. 1 Test team in the world, is a matter of great pride. But it was not only the 11 players out on the field who made the victory possible. It was also the backroom staff, especially the coach Mohsin Khan, who played a key role in scripting one of the finest wins Pakistan has ever witnessed. However, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is still hell-bent on replacing him with Dav Whatmore. It defies logic.
When Mohsin - a former opener, chief selector and administrator - took over as interim coach following Waqar Younis' resignation following the tour of Zimbabwe in 2011, Pakistan was in disarray. The drubbing in the World Cup semi-final against India was followed by a disappointing tour to the West Indies where they drew the two-Test series 1-1, while just managing to win the ODI series 3-2. That tour also gave birth to the much-talked about altercation between then captain Shahid Afridi and Waqar, which ultimately resulted in the former relinquishing his job and taking a premature retirement. Waqar followed suit, giving up the coaching job citing health issues a few months later.
No foreign candidate was ready to apply for the job and the locals who wanted it were not considered good enough to take up the challenge. Mohsin, who had already seen some of the upcoming talent by being the batting coach at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore and by serving as the chief selector in 2010, was therefore asked to take charge on an interim basis.
Those who have been following Pakistan cricket for some time would agree that the trouble with them is not the talent; in fact, they have it in abundance. Rather it is the capability of taking the best out of the raw talent at their disposal, and keeping the team politics at a distance, which makes the Pakistan’s coaching job one of the toughest. And Mohsin seemed to have done wonders in that respect.
He has been able to give the dressing room a sense of calmness which was very much the need of the hour, following the trauma players had suffered and the stigma they were carrying after the spot-fixing scandal that shook the cricket world.
Though 56, Mohsin came in as a breath of fresh air, for both the players and for the team management, who had seen enough of foreign coaches. Mohsin, together with the captain Misbah-ul-Haq who has an equally calm demeanor, applied a no-nonsense approach. They decided to take it one series at a time, beginning with the 'home' contest against Sri Lanka, played in the UAE.
The faith shown by Mohsin and Ijaz Ahmed, the batting coach, on youngsters like Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq and Umar and Adnan Akmal paid off when they clinched the three-Test series 1-0 and the ODIs by a 4-1 margin. Next, Pakistan cleaned up Bangladesh 2-0 in Tests and 3-0 in ODIs on an away tour.
Keeping the players motivated is a tough ask for a coach who knows his replacement is around the corner. And Mohsin, who represented Pakistan in 48 Tests and scored close to 3000 runs with a respectable average of just over 37, has done well in spite of being under that pressure.
That's why the logic behind replacing Mohsin with Whatmore, who met the PCB officials for the post of head coach recently, appears counter-productive. Giving the charge of a side that is building into a cohesive unit to anyone new will be a travesty to Mohsin's achievements. Instead of toeing the expected lines of undoing the good work yet again, the PCB would be better suited giving Mohsin further opportunity to see the saplings he has sown grow and take shape.