Pakistan beat Afghanistan by 5 wickets in their penultimate round robin match of the World Cup 2019 at Headingley. Here are the five takeaways from the game.
1. To replace or not to replace?
Fakhar Zaman is now averaging 24.7 runs per innings in World Cup 2019. He has a sole half-century, a 62, which he may as well have kept to himself because it came in a losing cause against India.
We’ve known a while that he may be a flawed batsman but tolerated him anyway because he got his side runs ─ against weak opponents and on easy tracks, but he got runs nonetheless. When the only reason he is in the team vanishes, the purpose of him remaining in the XI does too.
Sides such as the lowest-ranked Afghanistan are supposed to be his bread and butter. Yet, he failed.
If you think about it, Zaman has a history of failing in tournament, but balancing it out with big runs in low-pressure bilateral series.
He has not worked in two straight seasons of the Pakistan Super League, he failed in the Asia Cup last year and he is failing here.
Barring that sole Champions Trophy knock on which he’s based his entire career, Zaman has never worked at the biggest of stages. Fortunately for him, Pakistan are not carrying any other specialist openers and have no other option but to stick with him, especially this deep in the tournament.
2. Captain’s knock by a future captain?
Unless Pakistan win the whole thing, Sarfaraz Ahmed will be a goner. And the moment where he might have conceded the captaincy was when he needlessly pushed for an extra run and got out. When it was his responsibility to play the captain’s knock, someone else stepped up.
That someone else weathered the Afghan spin storm, picked his spots against the one weakling and batted till the end to make sure that Pakistan made it past the finish line.
Imad Wasim is your early frontrunner for the captaincy role in the post-Sarfaraz era.
3. Riaz the braveheart
Another who deserves all the plaudits he’s getting this World Cup is Wahab Riaz.
Playing with a fractured finger, the battle-hardened veteran chipped in with a late 15-run cameo that was crucial for the win.
What heart he showed by playing with the injury and keeping his head while those before him hadn’t! If there ever is a true comeback kid story, it’s Riaz’s.
4. Afghans' chirpiness shouldn’t bother anyone
A section of social media had problem with how chirpy the Afghanistan players were.
Their exuberance, dictated by their brilliant play, was deemed disrespectful by certain people because of a history of Pakistan giving Afghans fleeing war in their home country refuge.
The whole argument is flawed and smacks of racism and ignorance.
Afghan players have every right to compete, play hard and get right in the faces of their opponents.
You do not go soft on an opponent just because of their stature or political favours previously granted by one government to another. Such an expectation goes against the spirit of sports.
5. Hooligans should be punished
At the same time, it was deplorable how some fans behaved at the match.
Footage of clashes and chairs being thrown at rival fans were the lowest point of the day.
Such ugly scenes are not usually witnessed at the gentlemen’s game, but now that they have, strict action should be taken against the hooligans.
The writer is a lifelong cricket fan who lives for the Pakistan cricket team and PSL but is also a realist and has no problems calling spade a spade.