We are on our way home after a very disappointing World Cup campaign. Iím writing this from a transit lounge in an airport. The players are in huddles all over the lounge, and there is an overwhelming feeling of anxiety about the reception that awaits us in Pakistan.
Home should be the last place one would fear going to, but our past experience has led to a situation where everyone is dreading the backlash at home.
It would be hard to convince our supporters, but we are even more disheartened about the way things turned out.
Personally, I am worried about the future of Pakistan cricket. We have been losing non-stop since August 2002, which suggests that itís not a question of form but of ability.
Critics back home may criticise the form of some players, but the worrying part is that this squad did comprise the best of Pakistani cricket. When your best isnít good enough, it means there is a shortage of talent.
For the first time in my 18-year career, I see a paucity of talent in the country. Plenty of young batsmen have been tried out since August, but not one stands out as a special talent. Sometimes itís lack of ability, but most of the time it is lack of application.
No one of the calibre of Inzamam ul-Haq, Saeed Anwar or Yusuf Youhana is on the horizon, and that is a poor comment on our domestic cricket.
| AFRIDI: Uninspiring approach
The other problem was that while the squad is more or less the same as the one that played in 1999, some of the youngsters showed promise then have failed to deliver in the last 12 months. Thatís just too long a period to be out of form, and the selectors must take a long hard look at the likes of Shahid Afridi.
When we spoke to Afridi about his seemingly endless run of poor form, he argued that he was in and out of the team too often.
But thatís the whole point ó Afridiís approach would hardly inspire any captain to persist with him for any length of time.
| Abdul Razzaq, at the Lahore airport Friday, may benefit by taking a break. (AP/PTI)
Abdul Razzaq, who did just about everything right in the 1999 World Cup, is the other major concern. He made his debut under me, and I thought he had it in him to become one of the best allrounders of his generation. He is just not able to pick up his level of performance, and this has really hit the team hard. Perhaps a break from the game will do him some good.
There were times when Waqar Younis would sit to pick the team, in consultation with some of us seniors, and we would be hard put to find XI players since everyone was going through a lean patch.
Our batsmen were in such poor form that playing five bowlers was never an option. However, our bowling was also not firing, so even when we made early breakthroughs, an off-colour Razzaq and Afridi would let the opposition off the hook.
Personally, my aim was to ensure Pakistan did well in my last World Cup, and I failed in that.
The only consolation was that apart from the India match, I was able to make a breakthrough with the new ball in every game.
That game against India will remain with me as one of the greatest disappointments of my career.
Many people have already jumped the gun and announced my retirement.
I have to think about Pakistan cricket, consult my family and friends and only then will I come out with a statement about my future plans.
Right now my judgement has been clouded by our disgraceful performance in South Africa.