From being Pakistan’s ‘man for a crisis’ behind the stumps to running a multi-purpose sports academy, former Pakistan captain and wicketkeeper Moin Khan has silently travelled a long way in his career as a cricket player, expert and now, coach. He is now back with his second column for Dawn.com, analysing Pakistan’s performance in the Twenty20 series, previewing the one-day-international series and sharing some insight on tackling the Sri Lankans in their backyard.
After the first Twent20 match, it was evident that a lot of Pakistani cricket fans were disappointed with the team’s batting collapse. If they were hoping for a quick turn-around following the appointment of a new captain and the induction of young players, they were wrong. Whenever teams are changed around, they are given some time to achieve the desired results, which is very difficult in places like Sri Lanka. Any team in the world can have a tough time adjusting to the conditions there. The ball seams around, there’s moisture on the pitch, it’s damp, hot and humid. For new players to adjust in such conditions is a tough task. Experienced players are still able to make adjustments relatively quickly, which is evident from the result of the second T20, where players like Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik handled the situation well for Pakistan. I know there was a lot of excitement over the inclusion of young players but you have to give them more chances to judge their performance. The selectors will have to stick to these boys to show their potential. That’s the way it is done everywhere in the world.
It’s the same with a new captain. In the case of Mohammad Hafeez, I think it was a case of double the adjustment for him as he was playing under tough conditions and was making his captaincy debut. Maybe he wasn’t able to cope with the pressure; it’s difficult to say on the basis of two matches only. He will have to be given some time to make his mark as a captain. Once you have decided to hand over the reins to him, you have to back him. If you keep on making changes, you will not be able to achieve good results in such a short span of time. Hafeez is a sensible cricketer and he must be given time, which will give him the opportunity to learn from his mistakes and not repeat them. The players, especially seniors, responded really well to his captaincy. Shahid (Afridi) has proved by his performance that he is backing his captain. Since is a former captain, it was being said that he may not be comfortable playing under Hafeez. People have this perception that Shahid doesn’t accept anyone else as a captain, which is wrong. It was a very good sign for Pakistan cricket and from Shahid that he performed well and won the match single-handedly. He earned Pakistan some respect by helping level the series after the loss in the first match. I would also like to mention Shoaib Malik here. He was a very calm man in the middle when Pakistan were losing wickets in quick succession. Earlier, when he didn’t perform well in the first match, it was being said that the players who have been tried and tested over and over are being given chances again. Malik is a very high-calibre player. He is a very sensible guy. We have seen some great performances from him in the recent domestic T20 tournaments and let’s not forget his performances for Pakistan. As they say, form is temporary but class is permanent. He was able to justify his selection in the team in the second match and should be given time. He is one of those players who have made their mark for Pakistan and knows that if he doesn’t perform, he will be out of the team. Such players should be backed by the management and selectors instead of to trying to push them out of the team.
Another such player is Umar Akmal. He is a very highly talented cricketer but lacks maturity. He shouldn’t be so hasty in his stroke-play and should calm down a bit. There has been some discussion over his batting spot. Apparently he wants to bat up the order but isn’t being given a chance there. Firstly, he should be ready to play wherever the captain wants him to. And not just play, he should do well at all spots as a professional player. However, I do believe that he really should play up the order. The way he is able to take singles as well as hit boundaries, he could be really useful at higher batting spots. His shot-execution is excellent. His defence is also strong. I feel that he should bat at number three or four, so that his best performance can be extracted. But again, it depends on the composition of the team and the captain’s strategy and the combination he wants. Personally, I think Umar can do wonders at number three.
Coming towards Pakistan’s bowling in the T20 matches, I would like to mention Sohail Tanvir’s contribution. Whenever a player is out of the team for a long time and gets a chance to make a comeback after going over the mistakes he had made in the past, a positive approach is required and you only find out about it when he is reselected and he performs. Tanvir made his comeback in favourable conditions and he did well. The ball was seaming and it is difficult for the batsmen to play under such conditions. However, his real test will come in the future, whenever he will have to play on flat tracks. He has also had fitness issues, so he will be mindful of that. The kind of cricketer Tanvir is, his talent is very limited. He is unable to generate a lot of pace because of his bowling action, which makes it very important for him to maintain his line and length. He should try and vary his pace, like all other good bowlers do in limited-overs cricket. That, I feel, is the only way he can survive. Although he didn’t give a good performance with the bat, he does have the ability to be a good all-rounder. In order to keep his spot in the team, he should keep on performing in the future. He is lucky to have been picked for the ODI squad on the basis of Nasir Jamshed’s injury. If he performs, he will be able to retain his place in the team. Otherwise, he will be out again.