It is depressing to see Jamshed moulded into the defensive mindset, of forcing him to survive by playing dull cricket. -Photo by AFP
It is depressing to see Jamshed moulded into the defensive mindset, of forcing him to survive by playing dull cricket. -Photo by AFP

The Iftar-party conversations are of Pakistan’s batting being starved of vigour and craving inspiration.

Some thought the magic wand that would replace Shoaib Malik, Imran Farhat and Kamran Akmal after the Champions Trophy stood at solving all the issues. However, Pakistan’s faltering run-chase in the second One-Day International – where the team failed to reach the magic 200-run mark for the fourth time in five matches – aptly illustrated the faltering and alien strategy that the team management has forced down the players’ throats. A change of personnel merely wasn’t enough.

Just like in England, Pakistan’s loss in the West Indies was not poor just because the batsmen failed to score. It was the manner of failure. Chasing has never brought out the best from the Pakistanis but even batting first, the aggression and the intent to impose themselves on proceedings, on the opposition bowlers, just wasn’t there.

In last 42 ODIs batting first, Pakistan managed a 270-plus score just eight times and managed to reach 300 just three times – it even failed to reach 200 seven times in that period. That surely can’t be down to lack of skill but instead, the approach – the defensive mindset perhaps. On display in Guyana were two attacking batsmen – Ahmed Shehzad and Nasir Jamshed – defending unnecessarily, often resulting in hesitant prodding and close shaves, unlike their true selves and ability that got them to where they were. There were no shots on offer and a complete refusal to take singles either – a trend in recent times.

Pakistan’s run-chases have always been similar to Karachi’s monsoon – a huge mess lies in wait and all preparations fall flat in the act. Every time Misbah ul Haq opts to field first – to check if his batsmen have learnt a lesson or to teach them one – the problem, often, presents itself in a larger, bolder and brighter font. But to confine the young attacking openers to dead-batting all that is thrown at them, the team management might as well force Shehzad to bat left handed and for Jamshed to give up the game altogether if that is the ‘guidance’ handed out to them.

It is especially depressing to see Jamshed go down that path – of him being moulded into that ugly defensive mindset, of forcing him to survive the first 10-15 overs by playing the dullest cricket of his short career. It’s as hideous as Azhar Ali diluting his pure cricket by jumping down the track and meeting thin air. Jamshed burst onto the international scene by carting Zimbabwe bowlers to all corners – especially cow corner – in a warm-up match in Karachi. Now, he’s battling heart versus orders, often ending up in a tangle. The team management even wanted him omitted from the Twenty20 squad last year, with a view of making him ‘a complete ODI batsman’.

Up until the tour of India, Jamshed’s 22 ODIs fetched him 955 runs at an average of over 50 and a strike-rate of 89. Since the loss in Delhi, Jamshed’s 11 ODIs have seen him score just 239 runs at 21.7. Shocking has been the drop in his scoring rate which stands at just over 56. While the matches have taken place in South Africa, England and now the West Indies, dearth of stroke-play, of taking singles, curbing his natural instincts of driving, flicking and pulling instead of an over-cautious, dead-bat approach has severely hampered his ability and average.

Jamshed, from the flicked maximums over extra-cover off Nathan McCullum to being caught in the slip or at the crease - as the words of the coach and captain resonated in his head - does not look a happy man. He has been forced into shackles given Pakistan’s frailty with the bat and the tendency of falling in heaps. He has hit just three sixes in the last 12 ODIs (an average of one every four matches), having his 13 in 21 before that (avg: one six every 1.6 matches).

Jamshed did end up reaching 50 against the West Indies in Guyana and at The Oval last month but the manner in which he scratched and laboured to that landmark remained far from pleasing. Playing for the national side does force one to take up responsibility and value his wicket but the strategy and planning should be questioned when talent and skills are being banished. Going steady is perhaps the need of the day in alien conditions but persistence with that approach is not only unnatural and uncharacteristic of most Pakistani batsmen but also a plan that has failed too many times in the past.

In their opening match of the Champions Trophy, Pakistan played 52 dot balls in the compulsory Powerplay. While chasing against South Africa, the score stood at 18-2 after the first ten and in that same failed chase, Pakistan failed to score off 168 of the 270 deliveries. In the West Indies, not much had changed. Misbah has done well as a batsman with the scoring and rescue acts time and time again. He is also fast becoming one of the best fielders in the side but the one-track planning for all conditions and imposing that on youngsters like Jamshed, Shehzad and even Asad Shafiq has not helped the individuals or the team.

Old faces gave way to young blood post Champions Trophy humiliation. A new wave of effort was guaranteed and not immediate success. The change now needed is of the mindset, an improvement in how a plan is devised and implemented on the field, not just personnel.

In Pakistan, parents try and force their young ones to use their right hands to write, eat and greet (even if the kid is left-handed by birth). Sometimes it works. More often though, they give up and let nature be. With Jamshed, and others, the aggression should be allowed to grow, to follow its natural path. The hunger should be kept alive, responsibility and reliability will follow suit. After all, time, patience and persistence are great teachers.

Faras Ghani is a freelance sports journalist and author of 'Champions, again.' He tweets @farasG

Published Jul 18, 2013 05:40pm

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Comments (19) (Closed)


Bilal
Jul 18, 2013 06:18pm

Have you sat in team meetings which is how you found out that the team management is telling Ahmed Shehzad, Nasir, etc to play "defensively"? Here's a radical idea - maybe these batsmen aren't as good as you think they are? Didn't Ahmed Shahzad average in the mid 20s before this so-called "defensive" team management take over?

Constantly blaming Misbah and perpetuating this myth that he orders batsmen to bat "defensively" seems to be the favorite pastime of Pakistani fans and sports journalists.

Lastly, I have to say that despite Dawn clearly being the best paper in Pakistan, the quality of Dawn's sports writing is abysmal.

God have mercy on the sports writer who builds his case by citing how many sixes a batsman hits per game.

Raza
Jul 19, 2013 12:51pm

Misbah's defensive strategy is letting us down,before only he was defensive, now other batsmen are following him. We cannot win matches with a 40 or 50 strike rate from so many batsmen.

Effy
Jul 19, 2013 12:53pm

I feel pity for Pak cricket lover, I dont understand the logic of Misbah being captain of the One day side when he is the most defensive captain in cricket history, where is the Imran Khan of yesteryears who taught Akram, Waqar and Inzi to be fearless and crush the opposition ? Look at Misbah how he has turned tigers like Shahzad and Jamshed into kittens.....shame on Misbah and Pak selectors

Nauman
Jul 19, 2013 01:07pm

@Bilal: Absolutely spot on Bilal.

Unfortunately, watching crass forms of tournaments like the IPL has all but removed the beauty of watching a balanced game consisting of strategical skills laced with aggression. Everyone wants Bruce Lee action and sensationalism of Indian TV serials. Spectators and journalists alike are the new fast food and fast trash generation.

Truly, Dawns sports coverage is well below par and it is unlikely technically skilled players like Hanif Mohd of past or journalism of the like of EW Swanton will ever surface again.

niazi
Jul 19, 2013 01:24pm

could not agree more wholeheartedly with Mr. Bilal's comment. Has our erstwhile writer any notion of critical batting principles called “technique” &” temperament”? He non-nonchalantly removes any doubt on these principles by stating "That surely can’t be down to lack of skill". My dear writer, you obviously have never held a bat in your hand or played any competitive cricket else you would have known that when a ball is swinging or seaming, it is technique which allows a batsman to get behind the line of the ball and to play it aggressively (or defensively), along the ground through gaps in a field – the only way of setting a competitive total in such conditions. Our erstwhile batsman, though perfectly competent on placid pitches, stand like a deer caught in headlights when it comes to playing on a pitch that shows any kind of lateral movement reflecting lack of any sort of competent technique.

Zoab
Jul 19, 2013 01:46pm

Shehzad and Jamshed should play there natural game. Let misbah be the defensive one. Hafeez is not good enough to play at 3.

When batting is so weak, why we play so many bowling options? Hafeez, Afridi, Ajmal, Wahab, Asad, Irfan. Hafeez and Afridi play the same role.

Please get Haris Sohail in the game. In place for Hafeez or Afridi.

Najeeb
Jul 19, 2013 01:58pm

I totally second the statement of the author. The problem with Pakistan batsmen is not the talent but the lack of support and confidence to playtheir shots due to "defensive mindset" imposed on them by their skipper and management. Take the example of new Indian opener Shikhar Dhawan who comes and play with a positive mindset and take his chances. I sincerely believe Nasir and Shezard are as good as him but due to presuure imposed on them, they aren't performing. Pakistan ODI tresults can never prosper under Misbah leadership for sure. Though he should be retained as a fourth down batmen but certainly not as a captain. That being said, I know he will never be changed in the near future so I don't see Pakistan ODI very good in the short run.

nasim khan
Jul 19, 2013 02:30pm

@Bilal: You seem to be an ardent fan of Misbah, u probably wish that misbha scores 50 of 100 - 130 balls, and then whether team loses or wins he should never be blamed, u must open your eyes and see the world, there are plenty of examples, that showing captain showing and leading from the front and one of the best example is at the moment is MSD, look the way he approaches the game, he has let the players express themselves with their utmost and natural capacity, and even if some one says that he also does tuk tuk tuk, then see the records, he has won the matches 7 times time out of 10 times.

niazi
Jul 19, 2013 02:39pm

@Najeeb:

Again, you miss the point completely. It is NOT playing defensive that is the issue. It is the sheer incompetence of our entire batting line-up, barring few people like Misbah, Younis Khan, Azhar Ali (Both of whom are not playing) & Asad Shafiq. The others are totally clueless and irrespective of whether they play 20 matches or 200, they will continue to be flat track bullies.

niazi
Jul 19, 2013 02:44pm

@nasim khan: Dhoni is leading a team which has batters better than ANY we have (And even then the average score in the recent tri-series was 230). Expecting nin-compoops to put up better displays by espousing wishful thinking of "Agression" is bound to set the stage for further lowering totals. Instead of not reaching 200's, the team is going to end up struggling to reach 100. Or do you think that scoring involves swishing at air? LOL

Atif
Jul 19, 2013 03:38pm

Misbah has ruined Pakistan cricket so badly that it will need years to get back to the respectable level. Misbah has turned trademark of Pak Cricket of Pace bowling attacks to defensive spin wizards leaving out aggression from there, and for batting, for years he preferred to be at no. 6 to face old ball and to be 'not out' showing that I am still there to play, not anyone else...when such a coward and nerd person is the captain, what else you could expect from the team.... a total mess up........

niazi
Jul 19, 2013 05:03pm

@Atif:

Your utter lack of cricketing knowledge is astounding & only exceeded by your audacity in actually seeking to put forth entirely bewildering comments. May I point out that when Misbah was handed the reigns of the cricket team, we had just suffered the ignominy of a 3-1 defeat in England, which was actually chicken feed compared to the spot-fixing scandal? If anything Misbah has been able to inject much needed steel into this batting line-up, at least so as to ensure that we do not get regularly dismissed for less than 100. And to call him a coward is totally uncalled for! He is the only one in our batting line-up who has shown spine consistently against all attacks. You my dear are are a nitwit with juvenile perceptions, that unfortunately you chose to share with the world at large!

asin
Jul 19, 2013 05:12pm

pak batsmen shud bat like indian batsmen..fearless!

once they get over their fear they will b fine..someone shud train them

Rashid
Jul 20, 2013 09:19am

@Nauman : You're right there should be no bruce lee...we should just bat out the 50 overs and maybe start scoring from the 51st! Why are top Test teams today scoring at run-rate of over 3 then?

Ishi
Jul 20, 2013 09:20am

@Bilal: Yes the ODI batting performances should be analysed by the number of dot balls a batsman plays you joker! Very good analysis!

Mike
Jul 20, 2013 10:36am

I see a great future in this kid "Naser Jamshed", just give him time and let him play his natrual game. He has all the skills, wrists, technic, talent, and power to become a great batsman.

Mike
Jul 20, 2013 10:40am

@Atif: Go and chill out, you have no clue of what you are talking about. I think without Misbah in the team, we will not score any runs over 120.

Sami
Jul 20, 2013 03:22pm

There is a lot do with coaching when building big totals. Talent meaning 4s and 6s don't get you to 270 plus totals on regular basis. With Talent, improvisation(taking 1s and 2s) and patience(batting all 50 overs) gets team to score 250 plus. Out of last 42 ODI's how many times Pak has batted for all 50 overs???

Srilakans still have those kinds of bats with Mahala Javerdana and Sangakara. Young Nasir Jamshed, Umar Akmal and Ahmad Shahzad has all shorts from the book but who can coach them to play what short at what time. Answer is experience/time and a good batting coach......

CricketEquipmentUSA
Jul 21, 2013 09:25am

The traditional thinking of batting all 50 overs should not interfere with batting approach. I would have rather 240 runs on the board in 30 overs all out rather than 170 for 8 runs in 50 overs. The natural game of playing aggressive cricket should never be compromised by playing to survive for 50 overs.