Comment: Unpredictable Pakistan do not have margin for error now

Updated June 26, 2019

Email

Pakistan players and support staff warm up with a ball game during a training session at Edgbaston in Birmingham, central England, on June 25, ahead of their 2019 World Cup group stage match against New Zealand. — AFP
Pakistan players and support staff warm up with a ball game during a training session at Edgbaston in Birmingham, central England, on June 25, ahead of their 2019 World Cup group stage match against New Zealand. — AFP

EDGBASTON: Pakistan cricket team, after winning the last match against South Africa, is theoretically in the run for the last four. If they manage to beat New Zealand today at Edgbaston, they will further boost their chances.

The important thing for Sarfraz Ahmed and his men is to analyse why Pakistan team is almost every time in such a do or die situation in big tournaments like the World Cup where they do not qualify on merit but more so due to luck.

The honest truth is that they always suffer from lack of confidence and do not cash in on opportunities that come their way in the league matches and eventually end up huffing and puffing at the crucial stages of the event.

It must be remembered that preparation is the key to success and this Pakistan team arrived in England a good 25 days prior to the World Cup and got enough time to prepare and acclimatise.

But the earlier blunders that were committed prior to the England tour had already dwindled their confidence. For instance, resting the key players in the Australia ODI series in the UAE was an absurd decision by all counts. That was the series which could have been ideal preparation for the mega event to do asses the players.

The top management and the selection committee should have utilised that series which they didn’t. It was sheer lack of wisdom because that delayed the finalisation of Pakistan’s World Cup squad and so many last minute changes had to be made in the team.

It is surprising, indeed, that the selection committee which has been working together for the last two years failed to finalise the World Cup 15 and announced a tentative squad which clearly sent a wrong message and shook the players’ self-belief.

The 4-0 drubbing by England in the build up series for the World Cup further dented the players’ morale. Several changes and late inclusions in the final team were made which was a poor reflection on the selectors. Mohammad Amir came in, Junaid Khan went out, Wahab Riaz came in out of nowhere to replace Fahim Ashraf, Abid Ali and Yasir Shah were left out and Asid Ali made a late entry into the final 15.

I must say I sympathise with all those players who were dropped in that sketchy manner. And it was for this reason that Pakistan entered the tournament amid uncertainty and doubt that resulted in the shock defeat to the West Indies in the opening game.

To be bowled out for 105 was the pits for Pakistan. They realised they could not get any worse than that. With their backs to walls, they regrouped and bounced back to beat favourites England that stunned the world.

But then Pakistan is known for pulling off such miracles. The win over England was a great booster and should have revived Pakistan. They were overawed by Australia and India and decisions such as batting first and leaving out key slow bowlers cost them. Their attitude, their performance, their selection of playing eleven all went awry.

The main problem is that we never set targets nor inculcate cricketing values in the players. Once again one feels that lack of grooming and coaching from the grassroot level is not happening.

It is imperative, therefore, that the mafia dominating Pakistan cricket for at least two decades must go now simply because they are not aware or interested to know about the ground realities and the factors afflicting the game. Their sole objective is to save their seats, so the performance of our teams will remain as sketchy as in this event.

Pakistan need to deliver one hundred percent now and there is no margin for error. I wish them all the luck and hope they make the semis and then lift the trophy.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2019