What's wrong with criticising Hasan Ali's performance?

Published November 15, 2021
Hasan Ali's dropped catch in the semi-final of World Cup 2021 against Australia was one of the turning points of the game. — Twitter/ESPNCricinfo
Hasan Ali's dropped catch in the semi-final of World Cup 2021 against Australia was one of the turning points of the game. — Twitter/ESPNCricinfo

Pakistan's run to the semi-final of the World Cup 2021 has been an enlightening experience. The five-match winning run that came to an abrupt halt on Thursday night in Dubai has taught us some incredible lessons that demonstrate the confused state of our national intellect.

It's one thing to stoop low and denigrate a player's personality and private life, or even attempt to cause damage to his well-being. There should be zero tolerance for all those things.

That said, since when has it become a sin to critique a tournament-long show of mediocrity that culminated in an act that derailed the entire campaign? Since when has it become okay to not condemn the fact that a bowler leaked 207 runs across 23 overs in six matches and picked up just five wickets?

Read: 'It was just not his day': Babar Azam backs Hasan Ali after costly blunder in semi-final

And since when has it become a crime to question why a bowler who had seemed out of sorts the entire tournament was continuously retained despite one show of mediocrity after another?

The argument, and a rather shallow one, is made that Hasan was Pakistan's best bowler since returning from a serious injury that sidelined him for more than a year.

And while that may very well be the truth, by that logic, no out-of-form player should ever be dropped because they must have been superb at some point in the past.

To expand on that point, why was Mohammad Amir dropped? Surely, the peak of his past was higher and sharper than the combined peaks of all our current pacers. And why was Wahab Riaz made to put his analyst hat on all through this World Cup when he had been excellent against India in 2011 and against Shane Watson in 2015?

We know how flawed those Amir and Wahab analogies were, but so was sticking with Hasan, just because he was Pakistan's top wicket taker in 2021 — a year when a majority of the team's bouts were with Zimbabwe, the West Indies and a South Africa side clearly in transition. The away series in England was the only real test all year, and Hasan's five-for at Lord's in an ODI certainly deserved plaudits.

One would argue that you only play the teams you have in front of you and you only pick the players that you have available. You cannot pick a Dennis Lillee for Pakistan's national duty in 2021, which would be a totally valid point, and I absolutely do agree that Hasan's name being among the first names on the team sheet by the Oct 24 clash with India was right on merit and as justified as anything ever.

But by the end of October, or three matches into the campaign, it was pretty clear that this was not going to be his best tournament. Yet, he was still retained and made to bowl his full quota of overs in all but one outing.

Another flawed argument given is that Fakhar Zaman, too, was out of sorts but eventually came good in the semis. The lesson here being to try a non-performer so much that he eventually proves useful on some odd day.

What's again missing is a scientific procedure that uses empirical evidence to determine if someone is being good or bad. Hope and living on past glories that could someday be restaged is the name of the game here.

However, it still is the prerogative of the captain and the coach to play whoever they like. If it pays off, the laurels are all theirs. If it doesn't — which it did not in Hasan's case — how come the newly 'woke' crowd is so quick to save them from the mandatory stick?

Read: Hasan Ali thanks fans for support, vows to come back stronger

The collective urge for unnecessary wokeness, stemming largely from pseudo intellectuals on Twitter, is somehow enabling failure. In the ruthless world of top level sports, winners are remembered and revered, losers are forgiven and forgotten, but dropping clangers (pun absolutely intended!) is never normalised, which we appear to be doing here.

Did Loris Karius get another chance with Liverpool after his Champions League final blunders? Is LeBron James' 2011 finals meltdown not held against him in Goat race? Or did their fans see it, absorb it, and brush it under the Tum Jeeto Ya Haro carpet?

At this level, or any other professional level, the catch Hasan grassed was inexcusable and so was his overall performance in the entire tournament. Add that to his horror show in World Cup 2019 and suddenly the memories of his superb work in the Champions Trophy begin to fade. There is now a new pattern of him failing against the top sides when the limelight shines the brightest, and it cannot be taken lightly.

Also not to be taken lightly is mob dictation that discourages post-mortem examinations, critical analysis and calling a spade a spade.

The author is a sports writer based in the UAE.



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