In order to get the best out of him, Umar Akmal must be sent up the order: Moin Khan – Photo by AFP

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In order to get the best out of him, Umar Akmal must be sent up the order: Moin Khan – Photo by AFP

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.

Another player making a comeback was Mohammad Sami. Sami is one of the most talented bowlers in Pakistan. The kind of pace he has is very rare. Pakistan hasn’t produced a genuine fast bowler for a long time, not since Shoaib Akhtar and Sami is the fastestwe have right now. His problem has always been inconsistency and nothing else, as his fitness has always been great. He is lucky to have been given a chance to play in the second T20 after giving away 22 runs in his first match. While he proved himself by taking three wickets in the second match, one match is not enough to justify his selection. Seasoned players must perform consistently for at least a year to retain their place in the team. He is a very talented man but he has a bit of an attitude problem. He doesn’t seem serious towards his game. If, despite being so highly talented and fit, you are not able to hold on to your place in the team, it means you are not focussed, composed and serious. He can become irreplaceable if he stays focussed.

In the first match, another indifferent performer was Umar Gul. The kind of bowler he is, I don’t think he can be very successful in Sri Lanka because he generates pace and relies on the pitch. When he plays in suitable conditions – flat tracks and dry and hot weather – he can be lethal. In countries where the pitches are seaming and it swings, a pace-generating bowler is not quite effective, which is why he was dropped in the second match and Yasir Arafat was preferred over him. Being the senior-most bowler, he will have to adjust to the conditions, which is the sign of a big player.

Nasir Jamshed’s injury has led people to wonder if Imran Farhat will be used to open the batting for Pakistan or will the management try out Sarfraz Ahmed. In my opinion, the specialist opener should be used in difficult Sri Lankan conditions, since they are not ideal for trying out a new batsman. If Farhat doesn’t perform, the case is solved for Pakistan. He has been in and out due to his inconsistency. This is his chance, with Jamshed out. If he doesn’t score, then you can try new boys at opening spot. He should be given a chance, also because right-hand-left-hand combination can be useful for the team. A new player shouldn’t be tried in such conditions; it will only dent his confidence. A youngster shouldn’t be sacrificed in order to save the senior players from looking bad. Whenever a young player made his debut under my captaincy, I always tried to make him play at his usual spot. Even if he failed, I tried to ensure that he was given a proper chance, at least one whole series, to prove himself. If he is not capable enough, he will be pushed out of the team automatically, but captain’s confidence is very important.

Looking ahead to the ODI series, I think Pakistan will have difficulties dismissing their batsmen. In T20 cricket, you have to score runs, so you are liable to take risks. In ODIs, their top order is so good at rotating the strike that they don’t even have to go for the big shots too often. The conditions also favour Sri Lanka as they are able and maintain their fitness despite the humid weather. Pakistan will have to work really hard to win. Our spinners have been doing well in recent series but the quicker bowler will have to help them and basically they have to play attacking cricket, otherwise, the Sri Lankans are quite capable of putting up big scores if they play out their 50 overs. For the bowlers, confidence is the key. If a bowler is confident, he will go up to the captain and would want to bowl. Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene are brilliant players of both fast and spin bowling. The best tactic against them would be to bowl wicket-to-wicket. Whether it is spinners or fast bowlers, your only chance of getting them out is when they miss and you hit the wicket.

As for Pakistan’s batting, they will have to re-think their strategy. You can’t take a bowler like Lasith Malinga on. His pace variations help him take wickets, for instance, the double-paced bouncer that got Umar Akmal in the first T20.You mustn’t try and play big strokes against him. He should be identified as a bowler that you don’t give your wicket to. Even if you score four to five runs against him in an over, it is good enough. He is a wicket-taking bowler, their only one. If you don’t give him wickets, it will make things difficult for the other bowlers. Since they are seam bowlers, Pakistan seems to be having difficulty against them. But the batsmen will have to make adjustments. When it swings, you need to step out of the crease a bit just to cope with it. That way, the ball doesn’t get a lot of distance to swing. Pakistani batsmen will have to adopt similar techniques to kill the swing.

Another important note should be to not hit every ball to the boundary in the power-plays. Power-plays are a wonderful addition for the batting side. Whenever you have batsmen settled at the crease, you should take the batting power-play, regardless of what over it is. Sometimes, teams try to push it to the end and fail in using it to their advantage. This was because batsmen try and hit every ball for four or six. Even if you get a boundary in an over and you go for singles, it is good enough. If you try to hit very hard, you are not able to time the ball well. It is better to use the pace and try to push the ball through the gaps. Poor deliveries should be put away. With such tactics, it shouldn’t be difficult to get eight runs in a power-play over. If you try to hit every ball, you are giving the bowler a chance to take wickets, so when you lose wickets, it builds pressure and you are unable to utilise the power-play.

I have been asked to give my predictions for the ODI series. This is tough, but I will go with a Sri Lankan series win. Although Pakistan is the most talented team in the world, conditions play a big part in this series and they obviously suit the hosts. However, if Pakistan bat first, they must play out their 50 overs and when bowling, they must dismiss Sri Lanka before their the 50 overs are up.

In the first one-day international against Sri Lanka on Thursday, Pakistan dropped a number of catches. Dawn.com speaks to former captain and wicketkeeper Moin Khan about the basics of fielding, anticipation and how this particular aspect of the game can be improved.

Moin Khan played 69 Test matches and over 200 one-day internationals for Pakistan from 1990 to 2004. He will answer a selection of your questions related to this column. Answers will be posted on Monday, June 11.

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Comments (19) (Closed)


Hyder
Jun 07, 2012 06:31pm
Salamunaleikum, A good coach / manager makes or break a player. In case of Umar Akmal both Intikhab Alam and Waqar Yunus are chief culprits in destroying the confidence of the youngster. Moreover in the last 2 years Yunus Khan has not done anything and Misbah's tuk tuk approach has taken away the attacking element from our batting. During the era of Imran Khan, Ejaz Ahmed, Ramiz Raja, Salim Malik had license to go after bowling and now Umar Akmal is left to come after bulk of overs are wasted by Yunus Khan and Misbah. It is a great time to select top young guns from domestic criciket and give them license to develope their game under Dave Watmore. Inshallah by the time next world cup arrives we will have young guns blazing all the way.
Kazim
Jun 07, 2012 07:45am
Moin bhai having a blog is one of the most awesome things to read getting insights from one of the finest wicket keeper batsmen our country has seen. I just find the selection of PCB very different this time. It was a shocker to see the new wicketkeeper batsman in the T20 and the inclusion of Khalid Latif came as a surprise to all the fans I guess. We all missed Asad Shafiq. A sheer talent in the limited overs who had been left out due to unknown reasons. Why wasn't he playing since he is the next Younus Khan of the team who has an excellent temperment and excellent batting techniques. Including Azhar Ali in the ODIs ? Good Choice ? Doubtful choice ? Coming back to Umer Akmal, he should be matured and not thrown away as Kamran has been thrown away. Both brothers are destructive batsmen at any order of the game and in my opinion both should be played. Instead of Farhat, Kamran should be played as a specialist batsman opening with Hafeez. Just a few things I noticed and cared to share
Faisal Jafri
Jun 07, 2012 08:53am
Moin sb I respect your opinion and knowledge of the game, but in Umar Akmal's case it seems that the problem is deeper than the number he bats at. Right now for me he has a questionable attitude and approach to the game. For that reason alone you wonder whether he justifies his place in the team. He was sent in at number 4 in the last T20 and failed to impress once again. The problem is not that he gets out - every batsman will and can get out. It is the way he throws his wicket that is disconcerting for fans. The pattern or manner of his getting out is also mostly similar. He seems to be an immature person who is not learning from his mistakes. Having an attitude and showing a bit of arrogance is justifiable only when you can back it with performance. Viv Richards had a swagger that he could carry off because of what he could do with the bat - it went with the personality there was no pretending. Umar Akmal seriously needs to think where he wants to be in the next few years. On the subject what happened to poor Jahanzeb Hasan who performed really well in the Faysal Bank T20.
Asif
Jun 07, 2012 11:40am
Very good article... Well said about Shoaib Malik and Shahid Afridi.... I think someone should email this article to the management...
malik
Jun 08, 2012 06:34pm
Younis Khan can't play at # 3 he needs to come down the order. Umar Akmal should play at no 3 spot.
raj
Jun 13, 2012 04:55am
AFRIDI is the best and the big explosion as a Opener..No one can take his position and ever think of being as destructive as LALA issss..
raj
Jun 13, 2012 04:54am
shahid afridi is the best 80% Cricket lovers across world watch cricket just to have glimpse of SHER;;;;
raj
Jun 13, 2012 04:53am
Shahid afridi is the best and a living legend other PAK players always play like eunuchs...Younis Khan and Misbha will make a record as most no getting out in one below 20runs score
Mohsin
Jun 07, 2012 10:09am
I totally agree with you Mr Faisal. A player cannot retain the place in a team only on the basis of talent rather he should perform on international circuit. As far as i think Umar Akmal need some shock therapy by putting him out of the team and justify its selection by his performance in the domestic circuit. Umar need some mental coaching rather correcting his technique. Ian Chappel kind of a critics can make him a star.
Moose
Jun 07, 2012 06:58am
Thank you Moin bhai, you have hit the nail right on the head. It baffles me that why such a talented player is wasted at # 5 or #6. I totally agree with you that as a player, one has to be a team player and Umar Akmal ( UA) is guilty of not making the most of his opportunities at #5 and #6. I personally think that UA should bat at either #3 or #4. Given Younus Khan YK is our best batsman technique wise, it is best for UA to shadow him when it comes to cricket rather than Shahid Afridi (SA) who plays a different breed of cricket which no Pakistani will ever match. I hate to compare, but UK is one of the talent which should be compared with Virat Kohli (VK). If you were to see VK record, he has scored every time he has got the opportunity and now when the legends such as Dravid and Tendulkar are fading, he has emerged as a superstar. I could see UA doing the same but he need to perform and wait for his superstar status rather than trying hard to match the shoes of SA. Another case is Ahmed Shezad (AS). A great talent, but he needs to calm down and make the bat talk .... On a light note, it is good to see you sharing your opinion. I have seen you while growing and your determination and sportsmanship was an inspiration... Cheers!
Durdana Ahmed
Jun 07, 2012 06:51am
Umer Akmal needs to be thrown out of the team. He has a bad reputation among his fans.
hasan ansari
Jun 07, 2012 06:50am
I do NOT trust any of Umer Akmal and anyone who defends them. . They have the tendency to drop catches, spare run outs and get out on a duck when Pakistan is in a bind.
Mohsin
Jun 07, 2012 05:27am
Asaalam o Alikum Dear Moin Bhai as we all know that T20 WC is not far from here. What will be the strategy of our team selection criteria as they have to settle their selection before the upcoming series with Aussies rather than shuffling players on the basis of 1 or 2 matches. Your opinion please
Ali Khan
Jun 07, 2012 06:44am
It is definitely an agreed point that the pitches are difficult to play as evident from the T20s and both were low scoring games. However, there are below points that should be taken care of: 1. The bad deliveries should be put to boundaries. As it has been observed that Pakistani players often block fulltosses or drive it towards fielder. 2. I have seldom observed in any team playing twenty 20 and leaving more than 50 dot balls with only few wickets down in any conditions, which was the case in last T20 match. I would suggest that atleast converting ball to a single would also be inevtable to put a healthy score. 3. The batsman should play their natural cricket and should rely on winning performance, because due to three different teams their would be a a tough fight of skills for the place in team and that might lead to promote individual motives of the player rather than following common objective. In such a case player would try to score runs without being considering the runrate or demand of situation.
raj
Jun 13, 2012 04:36pm
mOHD Hafeez is still T20 captaincy pressure not able to cross 30runs in one day....If he cant perform under pressure than why he accepted the captaincy,,learn from great Ricky Pointing and Micheal clarke who always perform as a captain and play as a brave man and with dignity,,,if Hafeez cant perform under pressure than he must remain in the egg should not come out of it,as 1st impression is the last impression..
Ahmed
Jun 07, 2012 09:33pm
I someone still thinks Kamran Akmal is a good cricketer, they should be just shown his stats in last three to four years, 4 half centuries, no centuries, and most of the scores less than 20. This plus 2 or 3 catches dropped each game, meaning his account starts at -50. No amount of batting justifies his place as a keeper/batsmen. And as a batsmen alone, he does not justify position due to his poor batting average. Finally in my mind there is no doubt that Kamran Akmal is a big match fixer, similar dbouts about Umar Akmal. Azhar Ali should not be used as an opener. Khalid Latif is test match material, not T20 material. Unfortunately our selectors have often used T20 ones in tests and vice versa. Finally Gul/Cheema/Arafat/Sami should be used in tests as well. No place for Wahab Riaz.
waqar
Jun 08, 2012 07:00am
i completely disagree.it is not just because of his talent....he has proven ability....22 year old ranked 10 in the world..and averaging near 40...........on which grounds you want him to be dropped.......RUBBISH!drop our best odi batsman....u need not to be biased
Mohsin
Jun 09, 2012 05:30am
Dear Waqar Umar may be drooped due to his incosistency. he has no reliability at all. One innings, he played like he is no one to second, but in next few innings he got out cheaply. Building an innings is the art of a big batsman and not only shot making. Only one hundred in nearly 4 years. And if u talk about Tests, then pleas go through his stats of last 1 to 2 years, you will get your answer clearly i guess.
Mohsin
Jun 09, 2012 05:39am
what kind of a confince he need. he rarely been dropped from the side since his arrival at international arena. As far as your point about younis nd misbah, ya i totally agree with u as Umar has relatively lesser time to bat but the point is that whenever he comes out early he started to play big shots and in the process he looses his wicket. So he just need some pschycological coaching rather physical one.