WHEN Luke Ronchi, the former Kiwi batsman and Islamabad United opener, dismantled the Karachi Kings with an exhilarating knock in the first playoff, it did not come as a surprise to many.
Yes Ronchi was absolutely unstoppable on Sunday, but the way Karachi Kings had bowled to him throughout the tournament, such a hammering was definitely on the cards.
While Ronchi made hay under the lights, the fans and critics kept on wondering whether Karachi Kings had a definite bowling plan for him, or any bowling plan at all for Islamabad United?
The stats reveal that Ronchi prefers to play against the pacers, especially in the Powerplay overs, and yet only a single over was bowled to him by a spinner and that too by a half-fit Shahid Afridi.
As if that was not enough, Ronchi’s cause was further helped by Karachi Kings’ poor fielding efforts. He was dropped thrice off three different bowlers, including twice off two consecutive deliveries at one stage.
The pacers kept feeding short balls to him without having a square-leg in place which was a blunder of sorts. All Ronchi had to do then was to oblige and put the bat on the ball. Of his magnificent 94 not out, a whopping 78 runs came in boundaries. That’s how good he was and that’s how poor the Karachi Kings’ bowlers were.
The irony is that this wasn’t the first instance where Ronchi had dominated Karachi Kings with such aggression. In the league-stage match played at Sharjah Cricket Stadium earlier this month, he had scored a 37-ball 71 against the same opposition. There was no reason why Kings couldn’t have come up with a better bowling plan against him. But as it eventually turned out, they only helped him better his record against them.
Even in the match against Peshawar Zalmi, Kings’ bowlers were smashed all-around the park by Kamran Akmal, Saad Nasim and Darren Sammy.
To be fair to Kings, one could say that they had also been unlucky insofar the injuries to their key players are concerned. Having said that, a professional bowling plan and homework of rivals batting by the team management could have avoided the embarrassing defeats that came Kings’ way in the later league games.
Karachi Kings’ bowlers have had mixed results till now and were often taken to cleaners as they showed vulnerability when under attack.
One look at the bowling consultant of Kings, though, tells you why their approach resembled that of the Pakistan team in big games. Ex-all rounder Azhar Mahmood does the job for both, and quite a bad job at that.
Despite having good bowling resources, Azhar has repeatedly failed to utilise them for both Kings and Pakistan. Comparing Kings with Pakistan then would not be totally off the mark since both would be brilliant one day and horrible the next.
Pakistan’s clinical performances with the ball in the Champions Trophy do seem like a flash in the pan now when one makes a close analysis. Pakistan had not conceded more than 236 after conceding 300 in the opening game against India and the batsmen didn’t find the targets too challenging.
However, in the ODI series against New Zealand last month, they failed to restrict New Zealand to anything below 250 apart from one game that was affected badly by rain and was won by New Zealand by eight wickets.
It is time for the Pakistan Cricket Board to, perhaps, review Azhar Mahmood’s performance as bowling coach because he seems clearly unable to come up with clever or sound bowling strategies, ones that actually work in favour of his teams and not the oppositions. And if he is quick to claim the credit when the bowlers succeed, then he should also hold himself responsible when they fail miserably.
Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2018
Correction: An earlier version incorrectly mentioned that Rumman Raees was a part of the Karachi Kings squad. That error is regretted.