WITH the countdown for the World Cup already under way, the recent performance of the national cricket team in the Asia Cup has not given the fans the confidence boost they were hoping to enjoy. Was it a wake-up call or a plain and simple disaster ahead of the marquee event? Well, it is anybody’s guess, really.

The way Pakistani outfits have been behaving historically, things might have been entirely different had the critical moment towards the end of the game against Sri Lanka gone our way. Pakistan could have easily won the encounter, and who knows what might have happened subsequently.

In any match one team has to lose. It makes sense to get over the past, and to look to the future. But this act of getting over the past does include learning due lessons from it. Pakistan had entered the tournament as favourites, being the top team in the format globally. So, what happened?

First, the team, led by Babar Azam, seemed a little over-confident as if the Asia Cup was in their pocket already. Against India, the captain could not read the pitch correctly. After winning the toss, he opted to bowl first on what turned out to be a flat pitch. Rohit Sharma, the Indian captain, could have only thanked his stars on hearing the decision at the toss.

The team management and the selec- tors could never decide with confidence whether to rest Fakhar Zaman, the opener, when even the man on the street knew the man was seriously out of form. There were other options, like Abdullah Shafiq. It was intriguing that even when Abdullah did play in the match, Fakhar was not rested.

As fate would have it, just before the crucial match against Sri Lanka, two of our ace bowlers had to be left out owing to injuries. That was a big blow. The two replacements produced two sets of performances; one was acceptable, but the other was an embarrassment.

Throughout the match, Sri Lanka was mostly in control. To their credit, Babar’s men dragged the game to the last over, and had there been an experienced bowler at their disposal, Pakistan would have had a great margin to cross the line. But that did not happen, and the Asia Cup remained a cup too far for Pakistan.

Now all the big-wigs must sit together and devise a future strategy. We should get the best combination selected and try that out in a few matches so that the trial-and-error phase may be over well ahead of the World Cup.

We do not have the luxury of too much time at our disposal, mind you.

Jamshed Ishrat
Islamabad

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2023

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