Pakistan must put their act together before it’s too late

Phew! What a close shave that was for Pakistan. The batsmen were self destructing at will and had done enough to lose the game and open a fresh can of worms. An unexpected loss against the minnows and against heavy odds could have been interpreted as intentional by the rumour mongers and portrayed Pakistan in bad light.

And it wouldn’t have been difficult to convince the cricket world to believe it as true gospel, as unfortunately it has developed a jaundiced view to everything regarding Pakistan cricket.

Canada, who were not only raw with their skills but in an unfamiliar territory to create history, got tensed up and could not close out the game.

Pakistan batting was technically poor. Most of the batsmen were caught on the crease, playing across the line and falling prey to their own mistakes rather than opponents’ craft. In fact the team technicians read the pitch poorly and blindly made the decision to bat first on a moist track. Good teams are not only about bat and ball but about good support staff who can prepare a brief for the captain consisting of healthy options and intelligent analysis. Remember, big thinkers of the game and not big names make for a winning formula in the dressing room.

In seaming conditions, the openers were quickly thrown out of rhythm. Ahmed Shehzad’s brazen aggression at times borders on cockiness.

His pattern of attack on the day was ill suited for the conditions. He takes uncalculated risks and gives the impression of a spoilt millionaire at a roulette table! Nobody wants him to sacrifice his aggression but lot of people want him to curb his urge to be a kamikaze pilot on a suicide mission.

Hafeez is a utility article. Bit like a sofa cum bed he adjusts and adapts to the demands of the game. He has not yet set the world on fire in this World Cup but Pakistan must not panic and think to uncouple the two openers. In the 1992 Cup, in our losses to India, South Africa and West Indies, we made the mistake of trying three different opening combinations which unsettled the entire team.

Afridi as a leader had a mixed outing. While his sleight of hand once again amazed the batsmen, his captaincy spell was rather flat. In a low scoring game with choices curtailed, a constant dose of pressure and aggression could have earned Pakistan an early win. But Afridi, in the middle overs, unwisely chose to sit in and attacked with just four fielders in the circle.

Most captains in ODIs seem to operate with a rigid mind and a set routine to clog up runs and through it suffocate batsmen. They don’t seem to have a plan for unconventional situations that demand for out of box thinking.

Andrew Strauss, the other day against Ireland was caught out because of lack of intent to pick wickets. Afridi needs to be more innovative as a leader, bit like his batting and bowling, and open up to all kinds of plans rather than following a basic dated one. Trying to super impose a particular game plan on all situations cannot work.

Good thing about the win was how Pakistan fought tooth and nail till the end. They were feisty on the field and did not surrender to the pressure of the situation. Umar Gul looked to be at home with the new ball and Saeed Ajmal did not look rusty in his first outing.

Daryl Harper, the umpire, though was completely out of tune and had four reviews turned against him. His time is up as it’s not a one off instance of poor umpiring but a trial of shocking 18 months out in the center.

Umpires are like players and can have good and bad days on the field, but when a lean patch in the late years of a career start to stretch to longer cycles, then it is time to hang up the boots and exit gracefully.

—The writer is a former Pakistan captain.

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  1. March 7th, 2011

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