Thursday, 16 February 2012

Time to pull the socks up

By Muhammad Asif Khan

After the white wash in the test series the green shirts were truly off-colour in the first two ODIs played in Abu Dhabi against England. With successive dismal performances at least a million hearts were broken however we should not be dejected to death because this series is not the end of the road for Pakistan Cricket.

In two back to back One Day Internationals (ODIs) nothing but the strategy was missing. Initially the team’s think-tanks did not constitute the appropriate combination, and then three changes in the squad, which played the first match, was a clear indication of panic in the camp. Later on the application from the players, on the field, was below par as well.

If Shoaib Malik was included in the first ODI then he should be given another go, it was unfair to give him just one match. My point is that with his experience he deserves a better treatment after all Malik reached the U.A.E on Captain’s request, so no point in dropping him after just one match. Shoaib Malik is a kind of player who could stay at the wicket, and with the kind of form he is in at the moment, he should be sent up the order so that he could play without pressure. I believe that Shoaib Malik should be given a fair chance and should be dropped – may be forever- if he would fail to deliver.

Another bamboozling move was of keeping a non-regular wicketkeeper in the side. In T20s this strategy seems fine but in ODIs we need to go back to the classic way. Umer Akmal is an asset to the team but after hundreds of sit-ups behind with wickets, his performance in-front of the wickets is hampered. There are a few more adverse effects attached to this methodology. It is obvious that after spilling chances, poor Umer Akmal would not be on top of his game while batting due the blunders, while keeping, at the back of his mind. Even a bowler’s confidence is shattered on a mistake by the unskilled mate behind the stumps. All in all, it is not a smart call of taking a risk in the name of strengthening the batting line-up. Pakistan should indulge a regular golveman for the remaining ODIs. If top 5 five batsmen fail then even a number 6 or 7 would not be able to take the side home.

After the two ODIs, Misbah-ul-Haq was heavily criticised for his “slow” batting, many even recalled his Mohali innings too, but we have to realise one thing that this had been his nature. He is not a big hitter and needs a person to step up the pace while he would provide him with the support by rotating the strike. No other recipe but an appropriate combination, protective approach and application on the field is the way out for the Pakistan team against England. Without getting further panic the think-tank should stick to the basics. A regular wicketkeeper, five batsmen and four regular bowlers would be enough on the slow track of Dubai.

After having the combination the mindset would play the key role in the match for which the skipper should exhibit a bit of aggression in field placing and bowling changes.  

It is said that every disaster has an opportunity in it to avail and after this series, Pakistan have to feature in the Asia Cup and later another important encounters are scheduled. Most importantly the World T20 Cup which is to be held later this year. For the shortest version, the captaincy is the slot to be taken care off. Presently, Misbah-ul-Haq is leading the green shirts in the T20 format but he has not been emerged as a fitting individual for the job. In Test cricket you can get away with a quiet attitude, but T20 or even ODI needs improvisation where the 37-year old skipper has been lacking.

Currently, Shahid Khan Afridi is surely the peoples’ choice to lead the Pakistan team in T20s but in view of the past experience, the all-rounder might not be in the frame of mind to take the reins of the team. This would be a tough call for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to make. They have to spot a person sooner than later. If not Afridi then Muhammad Hafeez would not be a bad choice for the post.

Not just the T20 but for the ODIs as well, we need to groom a new skipper. Fortunately we have ample time in hand before the next world cup in 2015. However, by that time, a lot of contemporary stars would not be around as they are beyond 30 years of age therefore this is high time to devise the strategy of blending the youth with experience. A long list of things- to-do for the PCB but planning is war is always done in peace time.

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