The Pakistan batting lineup, brittle as ever, has suffered from similar lapses for quite a while now.  -File photo
The Pakistan batting lineup, brittle as ever, has suffered from similar lapses for quite a while now. -File photo

**Pakistan was rescued yesterday by one man’s dazzling performance. The mercurial Shahid Afridi scored 76 and claimed seven wickets to pummel the West Indies in a comeback performance of epic proportions. He walked in the middle when the Pakistan's score was a sorry 47-5, and combined with captain Misbah-ul-Haq for a record-breaking sixth wicket partnership of 120 runs.

Starting his innings in typically aggressive fashion, he took the fight to the West Indian bowlers, who never looked to threaten the flamboyant all-rounder, before repeating the act with the ball. At the end of the day, Pakistan completed a stunning come-from-behind 126-run win.

Afridi's brilliance in Guyana, however, should not mask what was once again a pitiful effort with the bat by Pakistan. Out of the six batsmen before Afridi, only two made it to double figures. The first being the skipper, who by now, is used to facing the brand new ball and the other Umar Akmal.

Ahmed Shehzad, also making a comeback, played a gentle out swinging delivery from a bowler playing only his fourth ODI onto his off stump, unsure whether to play or leave. The heavily experienced Mohammad Hafeez was bowled while offering no shot, perhaps out of fear of getting out in the slips. Asad Shafiq too played a poor shot to edge one to makeshift wicketkeeper Johnson Charles who pulled off a stunner whereas, Nasir Jamshed was unlucky to be on the receiving end of a harsh umpiring decision.

The Pakistan batting lineup, brittle as ever, has suffered from similar lapses for quite a while now. Maybe taking a leaf out of the captain’s book, they have failingly tried to play slower than their natural abilities would allow. It could be the constant fear of failure or the lack of faith shown by selectors in the young squad that has encouraged otherwise flamboyant batsmen to play in a much more reserved manner than they would prefer. Take Shehzad for example. Naturally a very aggressive batsman, in Pakistan colors he seems unsure of his range. He seems overawed by the circumstances facing him and prefers to simply survive the initial spell from any bowler, however inexperienced he may be. His dismissal proved just that point - his instincts pushed him to offer a shot, his caution advised him to sway his bat away and the confusion cost him his off stump. A batsman must never play anything but his natural game.

In the last 42 completed innings by Pakistan within the past two years, the overall strike rate has touched 100 merely two times. The batting has not fared well even with a lower benchmark, going over 80 only fourteen times. Compare this with India, whose success in the past two years has been phenomenal. India’s strike rate has crossed 100 nine times in their past 49 innings, with 34 innings being scored at a strike rate of above 80. The comparison goes to show the method both teams have adopted and the results are there for all to see.

Perhaps this current Pakistan lot is hoping to emulate their compatriots of yesteryear. The team of the 90s planned their batting in such a way that wickets were preserved for the initial 30-odd overs while the later batsmen propelled the team in the last 10-15 overs. However, if that is what the Pakistani think-tank has proposed, it is an outdated strategy. In the current day and age of teams frequently posting 270-plus totals as a result of two balls per innings and the luxury of powerplays, the Pakistani team should look to play aggressively throughout the innings, much like their Indian rivals.

A worrying statistic that proves the lethargy of the Pakistan middle-order is the run-rate of scoring by the first six batsmen. In the past two years, the top six have scored at a collective run-rate of higher than five, only ten times. In the same time period, England’s top six have scored at a rate higher than five, twenty times.

Pakistan’s predicament may have been brought about by a natural fear of the swinging ball. With home pitches being placid and offering very little swing to the fast bowlers, it can be disconcerting for a young batsman to face a bowler who can make the ball swing both ways- as was the case with the West Indian bowler Jason Holder yesterday. To that, the only solution one can propose is for the board to facilitate for the batsmen the opportunity to play county cricket. That is the only way they can learn to play a swing bowler and not look like lame ducks while doing so. These are measures that must be taken at the developmental level, however.

Pulling Pakistan out of this rut of low self-confidence is the job of the team management including the captain and senior players. A change in captaincy in favor of the more extravagant Afridi would be too disconcerting for a young side that has just settled down. What the management can do, however, is to alter the batting line-up. The aggressive Umar Akmal could be pushed to a number three batting position in place of an out-of-form Mohammad Hafeez. It is a position Akmal has frequently, and openly, requested. The management could also reassure the young batsmen of their spot in the team, at least for a certain amount of time. This would allow the likes of Shehzad to play their instinctive game, without fearing the axe that is constantly looming over their heads. A more reassuring, hands-on approach from Misbah could also be the key. A captain that is in touch with his young stars can only be of benefit to them.

Pakistan must, by now, learn that changes are to be made. Not to the team, but to their approach to the game. The team must grow out of this reclusive mode and play with the flair that has been the hallmark of successive Pakistani teams. After all, as the saying goes: fortune favors the brave. Just ask Afridi.

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Comments (45) (Closed)


Raja Zaffar
Jul 15, 2013 04:08pm

boom boom afridi, Always steps up when needed. In your face to all the cricket experts, Remember this performance by Afridi, before you criticize him. Pakistan Zindabad

ishrat husain MDFACS
Jul 15, 2013 04:21pm

agree 100%.sararshies need to be thrown out,work at the grass roots.kids in high schools and college level and university level need to be nurtured ,watered,given sunlight and the right weather so they can mature,i am talking from the age 15,in india people like gambir ,yuvaraj,,sachin and sewag have no room in the team because there is a constant flow of new kids who r picked on performance ability and raw talent and not on safarish.we should let them go if they dont perform,and please pick up kids from karachi to khyber and not within 40 miles of lahore which 90% team is from.pakistan is full of TALENTED kids ,not just in cricket but also in SQUASH, GOLF but no encouragement and supports system,lets support and groom these kids since they r the ones who will replace us.

Syed W. Ali
Jul 15, 2013 04:23pm

Thanks for a good article. I am with you on change away from the defensive philosophy. Though it begs the question on how we arrived at this defensive philosophy. The falling wickets in the top order forces the middle order batsmen to play hold-and-regroup, and overtime, this becomes a habit. Why the failing batsmen in the top order are not relegated sooner to 5th and 6th batting order is a mystery to me. Take SriLanka as an example. When Tharanga wasn't in form, he was pushed down the order. Yet we were stuck with Tauqeer and Imran Farhat in the top order for what appears to be eons. And we are doing the same thing with the professor and the whole team takes the blow each time he fails to perform, a consistent phenomenon for a while now.

I am hopeful that the rise of Team India will influence greater demands from PCB than what has been the case till now. The level of accountability needs to come from a black/white metric that demonstrates greater transparency into the selection process.

imtiaz
Jul 15, 2013 04:29pm

hafeez should be drooped from the team and give chance to imran nazir

Daniyal
Jul 15, 2013 04:32pm

Batsmen have to get rid of this fear of failure if they have it. It's their job to handle fear and presure. If they can't handle the presure or have continously under fear of failure then they should not be selected.

Sana
Jul 15, 2013 04:48pm

Incredible one man show by lala... :p

misbah
Jul 15, 2013 05:26pm

@Raja Zaffar: he wont perform for the next 20 games,besides west indies was weak.he almost got out when gayle dropped a difficult catch

Naeem Fakir
Jul 15, 2013 05:27pm

A very frank analysis, that has three basic debates running at that same time.

First clearly visible point has always been that Misbah is a steady, dependable, batsman and has saved the day countless times by his measured batting. That is not what Captaincy is about. I watched Afridi lead the team in the past with an Iron hand till the defeat by India. You could see the frustration in his face. ON THAT DAY they were listening to someone else and actually threw the match. Let Misbah retain the captaincy but Make Afridi the Vice captain with all the actual Planning and running of the game. He is cunning, a cajoler, a Yeller and a praiser , he is all over the team.

Second Point is that even the Indian team took on its newbies and nursed them through the good and bad games till they lost the fear of losing but gained the experience of how to play the game.We have time till the Next Champions trophy, Pull in couple more youngsters into this line up and let it be know there will be no more changes till then. With that security these Youngsters will go flat out without the fear that this may be his last day.

Third Point is that this Team needs to play more first class cricket at home and Abroad to gain the nuances of the game. Indians players make up are a great dependable team, they have played in IPL and Domestic matches and have cohesiveness that a great side requires. They make slight changes to tweak the end result of the game in their favor but not wholesale slaughter like we do.

Afridi, Misbah and the other venerable and experienced Players are nearing the end of their Careers, it is they, not the Coaches, who are actually the trainers of the Youngsters and have to pass on their years of experience to them.

The worst fear that the Pakistan team has is of losing, DON"T, this is only a game and not a war.

Shehzad
Jul 15, 2013 05:35pm

Welcome back Afridi. This just proves that he need a break to clear his head. However lets see if he can sustain over longer span. Also for the same reason we need to bring Razzaq back. He also has lots of fire power and can single handedly win games for Pakistan.

Ahmed
Jul 15, 2013 05:42pm

Ramiz Raja was pretty much speech less after Afridi's performance. He had no choice but to say few good words.

Noor
Jul 15, 2013 05:54pm

After a long time a extra ordinary performance does not cut it .We have o see the consistency in his play . No Show Off .Afridi has no choice and no excuses as he is senior most player in the team .

Noor
Jul 15, 2013 05:56pm

@Raja Zaffar: Take it easy .Hold your so called temporary Joosh .They have to long way to go .People like U will criticize if they fail .So my friend hold you horse .Nothing Zindabad as yet .U have monster teams to play with .

Ahmed
Jul 15, 2013 06:10pm

I would like to remind the author what Misbah said in the post-match presentation that this was one of the most difficult pitch he had ever played on and he went on further to specifically mention that he could not blame the batsmen for their failures due to the pitch...so the question arises...what's the point of this article? Senseless criticism???

Humza
Jul 15, 2013 06:32pm

never agreed to a cricket analysis more - exactly what we need. I hope someone at PCB reads this and takes note.

Afif Naeem
Jul 15, 2013 06:44pm

A very appropriate picture for an article on Pakistan cricket team's batting failure. Hafeez is a third class batsman, who does not deserve to be included in the team.

GAUTAM
Jul 15, 2013 06:50pm

@Raja Zaffar: ONCE IN A BLUE MOON

Johar
Jul 15, 2013 06:50pm

You hit the bull eye. Even the the earlier selection was geared toward those who would agree to a slower game. I believe it's the coach and capton asking players to hold the wicket instead of scoring runs playing their natural game. However, umer akmal needs to be replaced as soon as possible not with the other akmal though.

GAUTAM
Jul 15, 2013 06:51pm

ONCE IN A BLUE MOON

Moeen
Jul 15, 2013 06:52pm

I suggest having the new Australian debutant Ashton Agar as Pakistan's batting coach !!!

M A Baig
Jul 15, 2013 07:00pm

To shut up the voice of criticism their is no better sound than BOOM BOOM. Had our team been full of great cricketers and they had dropped Afridi, it would make sense. But with a team like this, how can you leave him out. Take his performance out of yesterday's match and we would have collected one of the worst defeats in one day cricket history.

Que
Jul 15, 2013 07:02pm

Let me remind the readers again: Among the top seven batsmen only three batsmen scored double figures: Afridi 76, U Akmal 19 & Misbah 52 & rest did squat! Among the three who scored double figures two were dropped for Champions Trophy!!!! This is beyond insane!!! Misbah's captaincy needs to be handed over to Shahid Afridi for ODI; Umer Akmal needs to be T20 captain & Younis Khan needs to be test captain!!!! The quicker this gets implemented the better it is for Pakistan's cricket!!!

Salar Khan
Jul 15, 2013 07:22pm

@Ahmed: and which pitch is easy for Misbah and co?

Majid
Jul 15, 2013 07:59pm

...and the merry go round (joke) continues. No long term strategy in place.

Don't worry Imran Farhat and the Akmal brothers will be back again soon. Don't be surprised In 5 years time when Shoaib Malik walks upto the crease again.

SYED
Jul 15, 2013 08:00pm

@GAUTAM: Even IF, its a record breaking performance! Copy that first !

sali
Jul 15, 2013 09:02pm

Pakistani selectors select the team based on public opinion, domestic record and player power. Players like Shoib Malik, Hafeez, Imran Farhat, and many others tried and failed players just don't even have basic technique to survive quality international bowling. A video tape analysis by Haneef Mohd will throw them out on technical basis.

ailly
Jul 15, 2013 09:23pm

Ahsan Chawla, well written article to please shoe-licking gentlemen currently occupying some batting orders in the Pakistan cricket team and its lack-luster selection. Sheer lack of game knowledge and the arc of selection is no where in this article. Sad to see Dawn is left with such writers like our cricket team without genuine selection policy. What if Afridi had not played the kind of innings where we should have ended up.... may be 100/ 120 runs at best.

I have incessantly requested through these very pages, problem is not with team or players but with the top management of PCB and their person to person varying policies which are killing our cricket.

Still astonished to see, Akmal ( Umer ) in the side. What a pity to see him back, a man who preferred to fake an injury and stayed out of team on the pretext when Kamran Akmal was dropped. Umer will do this very soon in near future if Kamran remains out of side. So where do we stand with our flickering policy.?

Last and most irritating comments are comparing our players with Indian players or their method of playing ODIs. India is riding on wave of luck. Just wait and see how Indian batting line will fall like nine pins on a seaming wicket. Hafeez is a constant schemer still hoping he will be made captain, if it happens that will be last nail in our cricket coffin. Afridi had played another reasonable but senseless knock, as his way of getting out and the timing was silly to talk about. He will never learn the art of staying long and score more runs.

usher
Jul 15, 2013 09:32pm

Pakistan needs more test matches this is the only way to improve and refine batting skills.

usher
Jul 15, 2013 09:47pm

@imtiaz: good joke

optimist
Jul 15, 2013 10:33pm

Pakistan cricket needs to get out of the timid approach of the captain Misbah and Hafeez. Time to bring in aggression alongwith soemone who can play in a crisis situation. The best ODI batsman for a crisis situation is Fawad Alam with an average of 40+ while ehfaeez average is merely 27. Fawad is a great fielder plus a make shift change bowler. The other player who can make a comeback is Abdul Razzak. Both razzak and Fawad have played many match winning innings. The selection committee neds to give explanation why they didn't select Afridi and why they selected Imran Farhat for the CT tour..

Anees Ahmad
Jul 15, 2013 11:09pm

It was not an easy pitch to bat on, but batting needs to improve upfront.

mohammad
Jul 15, 2013 11:43pm

need to replace all three initial batsmen by new. HAFEEZ SHAZAD JEMSHEED AND SHAFIQ NEED TO GO.

neer nayan
Jul 16, 2013 12:00am

Congratulations! Shahid Bhai, what an impressive way to silence one's irrational critics! Your fans expect from you many similar additions of spectacles to the wonderfully fascinating World of Cricket!

Rashid
Jul 16, 2013 01:52am

@Ahmed: Yes lets just blame the pitch and call it a day! Sensible

Wizarat
Jul 16, 2013 02:29am

Pakistan's batting have been atrocious for a long time, the players do not have a proper training regimen nor are they willing to be coached. An attitude correction is a must and the players must perform themselves instead of blaming Allah for the results.

Sam Revenant
Jul 16, 2013 02:30am

Move Hafeez down the order and ask him to speak less often. He is always giving advice and an annoyance to everybody.

Abdul Razzak Polani
Jul 16, 2013 10:59am

It is now time to introduce new boys. Some players are repeatedly given chance but they failed again an again. Misbah may be retained as player for the time being but new captain should be tested.

Munawar
Jul 16, 2013 12:46pm

Agree 100% with the analysis. Persistent failure of all batsmen proves something other than their individual talent or skill which they have proven in the past. Reason for failure is their approach meaning coaching and game strategy. I agree, tuk-tuk does not suit the naturally agressive players. This is not their natural game and could be the main reason for their failures. Hafeez, Ahmed Shahzad, Nasir Jamshed and Umar Akmal are all agressive players.Just free them to play their natural game and they will be back in FORM and deliver what they are supposed to deliver.

Rida Kazmi
Jul 16, 2013 01:45pm

Shahid Afridi had made the difference on last Sunday's match, but we should appreciate the innings of Misbah ul Haq. Although it was defensive but was an intelligent innings too.

The conditions are not too good for batting and I believe that if Pakistan manage to play all 50 overs then we have a strong bowling attack to destroy the West Indies batting line-up. every player should understand their responsibility in upcoming matches because every day will not be Afridi's day.

Best of luck Green Shirts - Pakistan Zindabad

rahul
Jul 16, 2013 01:55pm

Terrific all round performance from Afridi, deserve all the praise. On a slow/sluggish/gripping pitch, batting was never easy. Afridi took his chances under controlled aggression mode, scored 76 off 55. A win for Pakistan does not tell whole story, as you pointed out " the rest of the Pakistan team combined to score 120 off 245 ", take out Misbah's 52 off 121 balls & 28 extras, REST OF THE PAKISTAN TEAM COMBINED TO SCORE JUST 40 off 124 balls ! Surely batting remains the grey area and it's high time that the coach/selectors come up with solutions.

fida sayani
Jul 16, 2013 02:15pm

@Sam Revenant: he should be kicked out of the team. the guy is a nuisance and mean looking when fielding and nervous when batting.

Saleem H
Jul 17, 2013 12:41am

You rightly said batsman should play their natural style and Afridi's innings is the proof of that.

Two lessons to take from here:

1) Play your natural style regardless of the results -- because luck favors the bold. 2) Pakistan should hunt for 3 or 4 Afridis and inject them into the team. Play them consistently, at least one of them will fire and produce results for the team. Every time Afridi has done something, he had carried the team single handedly.

So, yeah, we need more Afridis into the team for all formats.

Saleem H
Jul 17, 2013 12:58am

@Ahmed: If so, then why was Afridi successful and not others?? !!

MAC1960
Jul 17, 2013 11:19am

Afridi's playing can be described like "Tir or Tukka", sometime it is on target and sometime not. In first match he performed well but in the 2nd he failed like many others. Bowing which was perfect in first match did not work well in the 2nd, just look how many extra Pakistan gave and that resulted in the loss of the match.

Indian
Jul 17, 2013 01:13pm

Why was Afridi not in Pakistan's team for Champions Trophy? Can some one answer this question?

mohsin_shafiq211350@yahoo.com
Jul 18, 2013 02:06pm

i'd like 2 say that whole of the pakistan team should be changed with new tallented batsmen and only a single old player i.e afridi or hafeez should be captain among them.