Pakistan's T20 World Cup 2021 campaign came to an end on Thursday night, and here are our five takeaways from their campaign:
1- Death of a dream is as painful as a real death
It's almost unbelievable how a sport — a leisure activity featuring bat and ball — that has no real consequence on the workings of the world or a common individual's well-being can deliver such elation or cause such grief.
The Earth hasn't missed a beat, life goes on as usual, but for diehard Pakistan fans life isn't the same anymore after what happened last night. The memories of Matthew Wade will haunt us forever.
2- Babar, Rizwan world beaters but still have room for improvement
In Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, Pakistan arguably have the most reliable opening batsmen in world cricket. They sit number one and two on the World Cup 2021 scoring charts, with Babar boasting 303 runs and Rizwan 281.
That said, going forward, the duo can work on upping their strike rate a little, even if it costs them a fraction of their reliability.
Babar's career strike rate for T20Is is 130.09 but during the World Cup it dropped to 126.25. Rizwan's career figure is 128.80 but was 127.72 in the World Cup.
Among the top five runs scorers in the tournament, the Pakistani duo's strike rates were by far the lowest. For a clearer picture, Jos Buttler's strike rate was a whopping 151.12 and David Warner's was 148.42. Even Sri Lanka's Charith Asalanka's scored his 231 runs at a strike rate of 147.13.
Babar and Rizwan's reliability up top is a gift from heaven but with a batting that goes as deep as number nine, there is no point in not taking greater risk. Often during their run to the semis, Pakistan lost only a few wickets. The ones they didn't lose could have been used to add an extra 15-20 runs in each game.
3- Priority should be to perfect the same system rather than start anew
Granted that a big tournament has been lost and a massive opportunity has escaped us, several more are going to come our way thick and fast in the next two years. There is another T20 World Cup to be played next year. Then there is an Asia Cup featuring India, and then there is the 50-over World Cup in 2023.
The practical question to ask is how much of its core Pakistan's Class of 2021 would retain. Surely now, Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik would be gone as it is unheard of in Pakistan cricket for 40-year-olds to be retained following major tournaments but then again you never know. But the core of Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, Shaheen Afridi, Shadab Khan and a few others must be groomed further, and the same system should be capitalised on rather than build new setups from scratch.
There were question marks over Babar's captaincy until recently but he's shown some signs of life lately. With the right minds and right pushes behind him, Babar can do a decent job of leading this side long-term.
4- The dropped catch can be ignored, the continued selection can't be
It's ungentlemanly to castigate a man after a rare, big moment mistake but then without a mention the post-mortem wouldn't be complete. Had Hasan Ali hung on to the catch, we'd still be looking forward to Sunday's final.
But even if you ignore the grassed opportunity, he had an uninspiring tournament with the ball, picking up just five wickets in six matches and conceding 207 runs in his combined 23 overs for an economy rate of nine runs an over.
It's one thing to give confidence to a player and not make him worry about his place in the side but it's totally another to stubbornly continue with someone who had looked out of sorts all through the tournament. In hindsight, the playing eleven could have used a mid-tournament course correction. And if that was never on the agenda, then what was the point of carrying Mohammad Wasim with the team?
5- Cricket stays the single most unifying force in Pakistan
Despite how it ended, this sport in general, and this team in particular, provided the best, most interesting/entertaining 20 days the nation has had in a very long time.
When was the last time the entire country put aside their plethora of political, ideological and all other difference aside and just throw their weight behind one single cause? We can't think of any other single event. That's the power of cricket in Pakistan.
To all those, of which there must only be a few left, who belittle sports and find it unimportant, this is the answer. Cricket in Pakistan is the single most binding force. Here's hoping that some day, somehow such a power of unification can be displayed in other facets too.
Header photo: Pakistan's cricketers leave the field at the end of the ICC men’s Twenty20 World Cup semi-final match between Australia and Pakistan at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai on Thursday. — AFP