Pakistan’s Twenty20 series against New Zealand was one for the record books.
Unfortunately for the Pakistan fans, though, Shahid Afridi’s team was at the receiving end on almost all occasions and the 3rd T20 was no different.
New Zealand’s 95-run win in the series decider was their largest in terms of margins of victories and also Pakistan’s worst ever T20 loss. It came just a few days after Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson combined in a world-record 171-run opening stand in New Zealand's 10-wicket win over Pakistan in the second T20.
Pakistan have been left with plenty to ponder ahead of the World T20 in March.
Bowlers are world class, but bowling isn’t
The trio of Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz and Umar Gul are more than capable of making inroads in any team’s lineup in the world at present — on any track.
So, what went wrong in Hamilton and Wellington? The attitude of the bowlers was clearly the defining factor.
Aggression has always been Pakistan’s forte, but in both the second and third T20s, Wahab, Amir, Gul and Anwar Ali (3rd T20) tried to contain the flow of runs instead of looking for wickets.
Wahab 3-30-0 (2nd T20) | 4-43-2 (3rd T20)
Amir 3-34-0 (2nd T20) | 4-35-0 (3rd T20)
Gul 2-18-0 (2nd T20)
Anwar 3-31-0 (3rd T20)
Surely, these bowling figures don’t reflect the true potential of the bowlers listed above. But it is something for the team management, under the leadership of Waqar Younis, to ascertain as to why a quality bowling attack failed to make an impact.
Wasim Akram once said, “You always look for wickets. it doesn’t matter if you get hit for a boundary or two in the process.”
Pakistan must simply continue in that tradition.
Too much variation doesn’t always work
Inconsistency in the batting order and thoughtless bowling changes have cost Pakistan many games recently.
Shahid Afridi’s handling of the bowling line was particularly baffling and perfect example of that tactical error.
Four different bowlers in the first five overs in today’s game reflect a clear lack of planning on Pakistan’s part and it almost seemed like Afridi was rotating his men for fun in Hamilton and Wellington.
Good planning transforms a bunch of men a formidable unit.
The blame for a lack of planning will lie squarely on the shoulders of the team management, but the blame for trying to bowl six different deliveries off six balls, lies with the bowlers themselves.
Against master blasters like Martin Guptill or Corey Anderson, the bowlers must sometimes just stick to the basics. Pakistan were predictably short and their slower deliveries were comfortably deposited into the stands.
Few chances for some, many chances for a few
Pakistan are yet to identify a winning combination for the World T20 in India. Since last year, the team management has been experimenting with different faces.
It is even more evident that a few young players, who could have been a permanent members of the squad today, have got the rough end of the stick in favour of those already tried and tested.
There is still a window — Pakistan Super League and Asia Cup T20 — to put faith in those who have been performing consistently and identify a group of 15 men.
The window is very, very small.
Every match counts
After outclassing the Kiwis in the first T20 and starting their tour with a bang, Pakistan looked like they were set for the World T20. But their attitude in the next two games was clearly different and it is something which the team cannot afford come the world championship.
New Zealand is a team of strong characters. Pakistan should have foreseen them going back to the drawing board and coming back all guns blazing as they have done in past on countless occasions.
Last year in the United Arab Emirates, Brendon McCullum’s men had shown signs of this bounce-back ability. After losing the first Test rather comprehensively, Pakistan had to put up a tough fight to draw the second, and eventually lost the third.
It was a possible because of a strong will to succeed.
This time, too, Kiwis didn’t hold back and made Pakistan look like schoolboys.
Afridi and the coaching staff need to instill belief in the team and they must play each match like it is a decider.
This will be key if Pakistan are to threaten India, New Zealand and Australia at the World T20.