Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Dismal show – a timely wake-up call

By Muhammad Asif Khan

With the thumping victory in the test series the confidence of the Pakistani team and management was sky-high and rightly so, but in the One day series the men in green failed to devise an appropriate strategy hence plunged into an abyss, from where they have to make afresh effort to lift the spirit. The intention is not at all to criticise the team because prior to the ODI series they had put up a splendid performance despite being under pressure because of successive unwarranted events.

The set of players we have is excellent however the slump in the home-like conditions was astonishing. The reasons for the dismal performance were multiple, out of which foremost was the lack of adjustment to the demand of the ODI, after the historic clean sweep in Test series.

To win a match two factors are essential - Composition of the team and Application on the field – and unfortunately we failed in both aspects. Starting with the selection again two areas were most talked about, first was the inclusion of Shoaib Malik and second was playing with a non-regular Wicket-keeper. Shoaib Malik’s late induction was debatable and in fact a wrong and unjust move, but having said that when he was included in the opening ODI then should have given a full series because two wrongs don’t make a right. After sitting out for two matches, the confidence of Malik was obviously at the rock bottom. The second slip-up was banking on a part-time wicketkeeper. The move was reflective of the defensive mindset of the think-tank which prompted them to incorporate as many batsmen as possible.

Later on the players were below-par in the application phase too, where the entire blame could not be put on the bowlers because, apart from poor fielding, the batsmen did not provide them with enough runs in the last two matches, while in the first two encounters the totals were gettable but the batting was disappointing. On paper, our batsmen were capable enough but failed to deliver when it mattered. In the first ODI the top 7 batsmen collectively scored just 73 runs, followed by 195 in the 2nd, 163 in the 3rd while 214 runs were scored by top 7 batsmen in the final ODI. A few batsmen got the start but failed to capitalise on the opportunity.

Moreover the fielding of the team diminished the chances even further. We failed to grab reasonable opportunities while on the other hand England grabbed even half chances. In a test we have the room to make a come back after a mistake but ODI is a different ball game altogether where the margin for error is almost zero.

Furthermore, the captaincy of Misbah-ul-Haq was heavily criticised as well. Again it’s not a new thing, after the ODI debacle it was on the cards but we should not act in haste. First of all a vice-captain should be identified then be groomed under Misbah for a few months. A replacement in a hurry might trigger panic. Who could take the credit away from Misbah who took the reins at a very tough environment? Many might disagree but I believe Misbah does not deserve a rough treatment after one bad series.

The ODI series is history now and we should move forward but with a lesson. A strategy should be drafted to replace aged players with young blood. Again, overnight changes would not work and hasty decisions would not be fruitful. Look at the other teams around the world, almost all the top outfits have systematically groomed young players by giving them chance through a rotation policy. Pakistan should do the same.

The thumping defeat at the hand of England was not the first such event in the history of Pakistan cricket. It was indeed a disaster, but at the same time was a wake up call too because every disaster has an opportunity in it to put the act together. Therefore we should move forward with a clear and most importantly an honest methodology.

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