Is it perverse that a close win in a good game makes me dwell on defeat? I can’t seem to get my mind off those four ODIs sandwiched between the test and T20 series. Those four straight losses. That hurt didn’t it?

Is it ungrateful to quibble over a few soon-to-be-forgotten ODIs (a dying format some would say) in the broader scheme of things? We already wiped out the best test side in the world against a mountain of odds and circumstances stacked against us, so wouldn't it be a little overcritical to draw attention to the subsequent failings? Surely our boys deserve some respite given the monumental achievements over the last month or so (if not the last 12).

At the risk of being cynical though, victory can breed complacency and the particular quirk with Pakistan is that our defeats seem to perpetuate this complacency. After a while defeat, or at least its causes, become a habit you learn to live with and when victory finally does arrive it drowns the pain you’ve been suppressing. The same old faults keep getting papered over by our familiar strengths so that there is no aggregate improvement from one series to the next. Three tests won here, four ODIs lost there, but hey we ended on a high, so what does it matter? Our bowling will still be good enough to pull us through, right? Probably win us the odd sensational away win against Australia or South Africa. Get us to the semi-finals of the World Cup. But what then? What happened to the rest of those series? What happened at Mohali?

This isn’t about being ungrateful. It's about having a legitimate expectation. It's about accrued development and not blowing away momentum. It's about identifying mistakes and weaknesses which were apparent even in the recently concluded tests series but were concealed by Ajmal and Rehman’s excellence. And most of all because, yeah, it hurts every time it happens.

When you have a team which is as good as Pakistan in a particular department, a reliance on your strengths can become counterproductive. Stocking the team with slow bowlers was the management’s game plan and it fell flat. What would have been even worse was if we had actually drawn the ODI series and this was interpreted as a vindication of that one-dimensional strategy. Such a strategy is partly to blame for the survival of Shoaib Malik.

Currently, there is no value added by Malik to the limited overs squad. Hafeez is a better bowler and it’s arguable that Hammad Azam could have scored at least the same runs Malik has scored, given the number of opportunities Malik has been the recipient of. But yesterday’s victory, attributable completely to the bowlers, will add some superficial gloss to Malik’s innings and serve to call attention away from the fact that he is completely pointless as a middle-order batsman.

This is the danger with settling on a winning formula and waiting for it to pay dividends. Its indiscriminate application in every setting dulls you to its inherent weaknesses which are never addressed due to the overall vindication success brings. For example, Misbah’s recreation of the test team in ODI colours was just plain stupid. At one point you feared he might beseech the umpires to break the game into four innings for a more rigorous application of his doctrine.

Azhar Ali is a very good batsman but there is no place for him in the 11 if you are going to play a potentially stodgy middle order featuring Misbah, Younis and Malik. We don’t need more than one anchor. Azhar is certainly part of our long term ODI plans but his inclusion in the team necessitates an aggressive batsman balancing him out. Imran Farhat doesn’t fit the bill since his aggression is tenuous and, at times, he doesn’t even qualify as a batsman.

What hurts the most about those four losses is how they could perhaps have been avoided by utilizing the same personnel at our disposal but in different roles and capacities. I firmly believe that, minus a couple of unwanted passengers, this is a very good squad. A world beating one in fact.

Yesterday’s T20 side for example struck a good balance between defence and attack, seam and spin. In fact, shifting this line-up to the ODI sphere, Azhar Ali could walk right in at the expense of Malik’s spot (in which case Younis would have to miss out which is a pity given that he is a better ODI batsman than Misbah). It has already been argued here that Umar Akmal should not come any later than one down. Potentially our best batsman, Umar has been wasting away in the lower middle order for years now and it's about time he was forced to either sink or swim. The luxury of this side is that in case you want an extra finisher as a backup for Afridi you could bring Awais Zia lower in the order and perhaps let Asad Shafiq open the innings, who arguably played our classiest knock in all four ODIs from that position.

The point though is to move away from repetition of a predetermined strategy or mindset for every game. Mind you, adherence to the strategic status quo will certainly bring about a level of success. The question is, are Misbah and co. content with maintaining that level of success. Are we content with merely winning the odd overseas test? Perhaps even drawing a series or two. Are we content with another satisfactory showing at a major ODI tournament? I'm glad to say I'm not because I legitimately expect better from this crop of players. Yet I don't see us breaking the self-imposed glass ceiling of success unless we are willing to admit to ourselves that just being good isn't good enough.

 

Farooq Nomani is a Pakistan-based lawyer who would not represent the PCB due to a conflict of interest. He blogs at whatastupidity.blogspot.com

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Updated Feb 24, 2012 03:36pm

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Comments (23) (Closed)


Mumtaz niazi
Feb 24, 2012 08:40pm
ODI team should be based on young players
Khalid Muhammad
Feb 24, 2012 09:40pm
Our current ODI set-up in not sustainable until next worldcup. We need to plan it from this point onward. It is very obvious, watching all 4 one days, Misbah is not an an aggressive captain ; his defensive field setting against good quality team would backfire 80-90% of the time, the way opposition freely took singles and doubles put lots of pressure on the bowlers. He is a good solid defensive batsman, but how many of those we need in the team? Azhar could be groomed in that role. If Misbah was young I would have kept him in the team until next worldcup, knowing he is going to be too old by that time keeping him in the team is a joke. Make Afridi captain, take out Misbah, give an honest assessment if Younus can last until next worldcup, if not then take him out too and bring Youngster in so that they have enough exposure by the worldcup that they can confidently compete. No, Imran Farhat, Malik is needed in the team. We have spent enough on them without any big results. Bring young fellows, which will also bring better fielding overall. No disrespect to Misbah but he doesn't fit in ODI squad.
Bilal Ijaz
Feb 25, 2012 01:26am
What a terrible article. Why Dawn allows its bloggers to focus on one player and bash him non-stop is beyond me. In case you missed it, Shoaib Malik was the highest scorer in the last game. And it was only due to his contribution that Pakistan had a target to bowl at. And yet this guy spends two paragraphs slamming Malik! Similarly, in his previous piece, this blogger said that Malik only gets selected because of his political connections. I have two questions about this. 1) Does the writer have any proof? If not, then he really should be sued for libel by Malik. 2) Also, why doesn't the writer ever write about the number of politicans that Shahid Afridi went to to beg to get back into the team? He went and begged everyone from MQM, ANP and PML-N. But this blogger never writes about that. Why is that?
Muhammad Safwan Akra
Feb 25, 2012 02:06am
Awais Zia is better as opener because power play is in effect. If normal field would have been in place he was out on a first shot. He seems to be emulating Afridi forgetting that Afridi in his youth was muscling sixes which were in reality plain edges. He doesn't seem to have that much power. One more player to look out is South Africa's Richard Levy who scored fastest T20 century against NZ a few days back.
Ahmed
Feb 25, 2012 02:07am
We need some quality quickies, some better wicket keeper-batsmen. Adnan Akmal though better than other two "butter-fingered" Akmals, is a poor batman. Maybe invest in Sarfaraz. Malik, Farhat and Kamran should be things of past. Umar Gul needs to be told that he cannot blow hot and cold. Wahab Riaz is useless. Junaid Khan, Cheema, Tanvir Ahmed, all showed promise but need to be persisted with.
kg
Feb 25, 2012 03:37am
Please stop saying umer is our best batsman...he is at best a slogger. People like afridi have corrupted a whole generation of young cricketers. Thats why all of them can just play 20/20...asad is our best young talent. Hammad and ramiz jr should be given proper chance as they are our future...
Irfan
Feb 25, 2012 05:15am
BINGO... finally someone with cricketing sense!! I wish PCB and our so called experts and former players had similar pretty much straight forward observations for those with good knowledge of modern cricket. Good to know Farooq that I am not the lone warrior here! Stay in touch at irfanbashir.shaikh@gmail.com
Syed Wasim Ali
Feb 25, 2012 05:35am
Agreed. Both Shoib Malik and Imran Farhat need to be rested for good.
kozmoz55
Feb 25, 2012 06:42am
There are a few interesting points in the whole article. Every one knows that Pakistani team sticks to premature plans and lacks the capacity to make subtle changes to them. Its a dilemma that none of the captains except Wasim and Imran have been able to strtike the sweet combination btw offense and defence. Its a wake up call for PCB to start training young players and teach game plan with emphasis on specific roles. If we stick to the "trail and error" plan that our 60 years old unqualified coaches have given, we will be losing series to B grade teams in the not too far future.
Vipul
Feb 25, 2012 11:39am
nice article..analysis...
Mehmudah Rehman
Feb 25, 2012 02:38pm
I agree with this article on most points - Shoaib Malik's inclusion is pretty unbelievable ! I enjoyed the 'Imran Farhat doesn't qualify as a batsman bit' v true! However, Misbah needs to be shown support. He's a proven performer, and he will learn from his mistakes. Cook was excellent with strategy, Misbah waited for things to happen. An why is our fast-bowling looking so off-colour apart from the occasional Umar Gul brilliance?
wajahat
Feb 25, 2012 05:39pm
Well, there are factual inaccuracies and false assumptions in your analysis. Afridi's sixes were edges? I don't think that is true.
mahboob sarwar
Feb 25, 2012 07:28pm
The blog is presented by Farooq Nomani as he is the champion and needs to be appointed a captain. Analyze the teams performance in a befiting manner rather being critical. Misbah is the real captain after Imran Khan. Give him his due.
Mansoor Iqbal
Feb 26, 2012 09:57am
I with you there 100 % .
Mohammad Merchant
Feb 26, 2012 09:08pm
I think we as supporter of Pakistani team always wish our team should win all matches. This is not possible with any team. England bowled well and their fielding was excellent. Pakistan loose the match because our top batsmen want to finish the game in 10 overs. In both T20 matches we lost half of the side within 10 overs. We gave away lot of runs due slow in field and our running between the wickets was poor. T20 and ODI are short forms of cricket. In these version planning,selection of team, bowlers bowling as per batsman weakness and batting with correct technique and relying on rotating the strike are most imortant. I think main mistake of our batsmen is that they love to hit fours and sixes. Instead they should bat as per quality of bowling.They should go for runs with shots in power plays and try to find a gap in field during rest of overs. Bowling changes should be as per weakness of batsman instead of set pattern. I suggest this team for 3rd T20. 1) Imran Farhat 2)Shafique 3) Umar Akmal (wk) 4) Hafiz, 5) Misbah 6) Shoaib Malik 7) Afridi 8) Hammad Azam 9) Umer Gul 10)Saeed Ajmal 11)A. Rehman .We need specialist opens against good fast bowling.We should start opnening bowling with Hafiz or Rehman at one end and Gul from other end.Hammad, shoaib malik,Afridi and Saeed Ajmal should be used to take a wicket or ristrict the runs. Fielding should be as per bowler and his planning to buy a wicket or restrict runs as per situation of the match. Bowlers should use the crease and try to avoid getting hit sixes. let their batsmen should work hard or innovate shots to get runs. Our batsman should try to get singles and double and atleast a boundery in an over.
Expat in Michigan
Feb 26, 2012 11:56pm
I am not sure why some are attacking the blog. It is definitely a very objective analysis of the current situation. Shoaib Malik and Imran Farhat should be rested for good. Groom youngsters if, we seriously contemplate winning against the better teams. Misbah is not fit to captain the ODI squad, in fact he does not even qualify to be a member of the team in that format period! I know some will cry foul but let's be realistic please. So whatever it's worth we need three Captins, Misbah for the tests, Hafeez for the ODI and Boom Boom for T20. BTW for the Malik supporters an average of 24 in two T20s and one over for 10 runs are the stats. Surely these do not qualify for his inclusion in the team, but guess what he will find a way to be there as a passenger.
Shehzad Zafar
Feb 27, 2012 01:02pm
By giving Hafeez the captiancy you are inviting another Waseem Akram who destroyed the pakistani cricket. People who live outside country should leave pakistan alone.
Osman
Feb 27, 2012 04:06pm
- Support Misbah as a captain - even though he only has Plan A in a game and cannot think beyond that. - Despise Shoaib, Farhat and Wahab - best to do away with parchi culture from all forms of life. - Need Fawad Alam in the Test and One Day teams - as a 12th man initially and then in the team if required - T20 need to get rid of Awais Zia who cannot bat. He is worse than Shahzeb. Would rather play A. Shehzad instead of him and Abul Razza
cricketlover
Feb 28, 2012 01:56pm
It does not appear that there is a set formula as such since Misbah marshalls on-field while Mohsin directs the proceedings from the pavilion! He sent in the wrong batsmen at the wrong time during the last T20 against England. This mismanagement of valuable resources is not acceptable.
Shahid Ali
Feb 28, 2012 04:20pm
if Umer was sent on 4 and Afridi 5 with Hammad azam on no 6 we could have easily won the match and series yesterday.
inaam from LONDON
Feb 28, 2012 09:48pm
the 3rd t20 match against England as very exciting to say the least. i really felt that we would have beaten the Engies, but due to silly mistakes and poor decision making we lost the match! i think we should NEVER let Misbah play in the one days and t20 match, he is slow one day play who stands well in the crease. Yesterday he was very slow to score, and kept missing legistimate deliveries! then smiling like a pratt. if you can't bat get out quick, or try some think like umar.
sahar
Feb 29, 2012 12:50pm
Misbah will be 38 now after few days and he is not Jasuria or Murli or Sachin to be given chances until he is forty. He can be Captain of test till end of the Year but no place in ODI or T-20. Rest up to the PCB. Misbah is waiting for Shuaib to click with the bat and then he will hand over to him. Players power as usual..misery of Pakistan Cricket from ages..
Ali Kh (Dubai)
Feb 29, 2012 03:25pm
Zafar that is very irresponsible of you to comment something like that. So what if we are living outside country ..our hearts still beat for Pakistan and we love our motherland like you do :)