Sharjeel Khan can really smack the ball. Anything at him, in his area, just leaves quickly off the bat. He’s not always a long hitter of the ball, but they go far enough, and in some ways he is the perfect Powerplay batsman.
He clears infielders, can make a good ball disappear, likes most lengths, can play spin as well, and is unafraid to take it to the bowlers.
New Zealand saw slogs, hoicks, pulls, drives, and slaps. Australia saw a few more of the same.
The problem with Sharjeel is that he is limited. When the ball is within, as the cricketers say, his wheelhouse, he’s a machine made of boundaries. When the ball is outside off stump, he’s a tailender at the top of the order. It’s not that he can’t play good shots, it’s that he’s, at best, a 50/50 chance of hitting the ball.
There will be an effortless cracking cover drive, against a droopy half angled cover drive play and miss. If he was innovative and quick between the wickets, he could find other ways to hurt teams, instead he’s usually out, having impressed for a short amount of time
Pakistan as a team is much the same.
You watch Mohammad Amir swing the ball, with that incredible energy the ball leaves out of his fingers, and you just sigh. You see Wahab Riaz’s power pace rocking the stumps and you get excited. You see Sarfraz Ahmed’s infectious personality and energetic footwork and you cheer for him. And you see Mohammad Sami move the ball off the seam, at pace, and you wonder what could have been.
But then you see a Pakistani batsman run between the wickets. No you don’t, well not often. You see them waddle, amble, stroll, they don’t run the first one hard, they hardly run the first one at all.
You see their outfielders 15 metres in from the boundary, not to attack, but because they simply cannot stop twos in any other way.
You see Shoaib Malik in the field, not bowling, seemingly never bowling, despite the carnage going on for other bowlers.
You see Shahid Afridi going up the order, for whatever reason, facing less than ten balls, and then leaving again. You see a team that seems to not understand the way T20 cricket is played.
Waqar Younis said that in the future Pakistani may have to pick players for their fielding. That’s a band-aid.
What really needs to happen is that Pakistan needs an overhaul of the way they look at their cricket. They cannot ride the freakiest single skills of their players anymore Analysis and professionalism have meant that average players can learn and adapt, and just being good is not important enough. Their cricket is talented, but stale.
Imran Tahir is a perfect example of what is wrong with Pakistan cricket. Tahir learnt his cricket in Pakistan, but played around the world.
In domestic cricket in South Africa and England he was a laughable fielder, as he would have been in Pakistan domestic cricket before that. Now he is not laughable. He is earnest, and a bit fumbly, and certainly not a star fielder. But what he does is attack the ball, catches three times better than he ever did before, is fitter than when he played domestic cricket, and is no longer a liability in the field.
A man who was once a punchline in the field would be one of Pakistan’s best fielders. Even when he celebrates a wicket he moves quicker than most Pakistani players.
So why isn’t that happening with Pakistan fielders? Why aren’t Pakistani batsman hitting the ball where fielders aren’t and improvising? Why aren’t Pakistani batsmen screaming through for each run? Why aren’t Pakistan making the most use of their all-rounders when they bowl?
Why, why, and why, have they been able to be this bad, without anyone stepping up their professionalism?
Cricket teams talk about controlling the controllables, but Pakistan ignores the controllables. When they lost to Australia they had more dot balls, and less boundaries, despite batting quite well with wickets in hand all innings. That simply makes no sense. Most of their cricket is like this.
Recently, Wasim Akram said they should be 0/25 after six. That's essentially saying they had no top order, and no middle order, so they had to play safe. Ignoring the fact that if they did that, they would essentially be declaring their matches unwinnable. That is where Wasim thinks they are.
In their four games they have shown signs; a big total against Bangladesh, some quick bowling against India, Sharjeel against New Zealand and even their platform against Australia, they have shown there is talent.
This is not a terribly skilled side. But it is lazy, and it is playing poor cricket, and it refuses to move with the times. They are the analog team of T20s digital age.
A bit like Sharjeel whipping the ball off middle stump to deep mid wicket, you know that eventually, the opposition is going to work them out, put the ball in their weak spot, and send them on their way. It’s a matter of when, not if.
Pakistan, like Sharjeel, can really smack the ball. The problem with Pakistan, like Sharjeel, is that they are very limited. They are very, very limited.