By Muhammad Asif Khan
The odds were indeed with Pakistan even before the start of the first One day international match between Pakistan and England in Abu Dhabi, but the outcome somewhat shook the followers. After the whitewash in the test series the fans were pretty confident of a smooth sailing in the ODI series as well, and perhaps the mindset was the same in the team’s dressing room as well, however the result of the first encounter acted as an eye-opener instead.
It goes without saying that test and ODI are different ball games altogether hence the strategies in both the formats should also be dissimilar. The Englishmen understood this philosophy better than their counterparts and it was evident in the changes to their ODI lineup. One the other hand, Pakistan surely missed a few tricks which eventually cost them the match.
The Pakistan line-up showed the defensive mindset of the skipper and the management which tried to include as many batsmen as possible. This strategy needs an alteration and the captain, Misbah-ul-Haq should take the field with absolute clarity about the respective roles of every individual. The opening pair seems fine, but the problem starts from the all important number 3 slot. Since two new balls are used these days therefore we need a solid batsman at the position. In the available lot, Umer Akmal is the one who can be sent to this position but in this situation Umer Akmal would not be able to keep wickets. In the first match as well, keeping wickets for 50 overs took its toll on Akmal and he suffered with cramps during batting.
The other big decision for Misbah to make is to retain Shoaib Malik for the 2nd ODI or not. During his batting in the first ODI, Shoaib Malik was clearly out of touch, hence if the skipper wants him to play again, then he should also provided him (Malik) with sufficient time on the wicket to settle down and build the innings otherwise he would be a waste again. When a batsman is out of form, he needs to be sent up the order so that he could spend time at the wicket and gain confidence in the process.
Also, as mentioned above, packing the lineup with batsman would not serve the purpose as long as the basic flaws exist. By looking at the dismissals the top Pakistani batsmen were trapped LBW as they were falling towards the off-side by planting the front-foot way before the ball was delivered. These basic flaws in technique would keep on hurting us I am afraid.
Other than the ongoing series against England, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) should also start devising a long-term strategy for the next ODI world cup. In view of the current ages, the likes of Misbah, Younus, Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Saeed Ajmal and probably Afridi will not be around for the mega event scheduled in 2015, therefore a few tough decisions need to be taken right now to secure the future. No other way but to inject young blood is the recipe for a better future.