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Re-scripting the chase

Published Feb 16, 2012 06:03pm

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Pakistan’s performance against England in the first two one-day internationals (ODIs) in Abu Dhabi has given an opportunity for the “chase demon,” which has caused much pain to the fans and players over the years, to show its detestable face once again. As much joy as a three-nil whitewash of the world’s premier Test side might have brought, it shouldn’t be reason enough to brush aside the shortcomings that the team continues to grapple with in the shorter version of the game.

England are, by no means, a major force in the one-day format – their five-nil thrashing at the hands of India last year, being a good reminder of it. For Pakistan, a side under an admirable new leader, who are trying to become worthy contenders in every version of the game, the defeats and the manner of the defeats, are a bit disturbing but portray an all-too-familiar trend.

With all due respect, apart from the irrepressible Alastair Cook with the bat and Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann (to some extent) with the ball, the English ODI outfit is far from exemplary. Their performance and spirited fight-back in Abu Dhabi after the Test series is commendable, but with the form of both teams and general momentum being carried over from the Test series one cannot blame Misbah-ul-Haq and his men to have been quietly confident of a whitewash prior to the ODI series.

What went wrong then? Is it a mere case of a lax mindset? Overconfidence? Underestimating the opposition? Or is there more to it? A sensible follower would lean towards the latter. Surely, those of us who have followed this team’s ODI fortunes over the last decade or more have become used to such capitulations while chasing modest totals, for that is what scores around 250 are in the modern game. And even though some of us might have resigned ourselves to accept such occurrences as nothing out of the ordinary, none of us (the romantic optimists that most Pakistani fans are) have ever lost hope when a chase of around 250 is on.

(Mohammad )Hafeez will provide a fluent start yaar, and might even score a century. After all, he is a "reformed cricketer" now. Cue: Hafeez plays an across-the-line hoik lobbing it to mid-wicket. Koi nahi Younis (Khan)is there, he will anchor the innings and see us through most definitely. Cue: Younis plays a flick around a straight ball and gets caught on the crease right in front of middle stump for under 10. The stodgers come in, and ensure if nothing else, that the run-rate somehow goes over a run-a-ball and play out most of the middle overs (this is when those in Pakistan start flicking through different channels to see what else is on TV, and those watching abroad at insane hours in the night set an alarm and catch a much-needed nap). You tune back in and it’s invariably four down (on a really bad day probably even six-down) with Misbah at one end and the dashing Umar at the other. Umar Akmal is trying to play his natural game, as best he can with Misbah’s conservative instructions bearing down on him. The required run-rate which had reached an alarming level of eight an over a few overs back seems under control at six-and-a-half thanks to Umar’s exuberance. That flame of hope inside your chest is given a burst of oxygen, as you wonder and rue for the umpteenth time why this kid is coming in as low as number six. Pakistan needs under a hundred by now but a couple of poor overs follow as Misbah hogs most of the strike and fails to rotate often enough. Cue: The required rate reaches eight again, Umar loses his patience and gets caught out to a rash yet perfectly timed shot for a flamboyant 30.

What ever, now the fun begins. (Shahid) Afridi, Faramir-ish with his helmet on, walks out and you get the usual burst of androgenic hormones. Our power-hitter is here now, he will show them. Good he is taking his time and rotating the strike…is what you start tweeting out to the world, while inside that little Pakistani in you is squirming. What is this nonsense from the Pathan!I hate this new Afridi style…come on hit those sixes man, you can finish this in five overs. Unfortunately, Afridi has had enough of it as well. The crowd and chants have proved too much for him as he smacks one over cow corner. Aaaah…that’s better….Crunch!...this one is straight, up and over for a maximum, into the pack of hungry hounds dancing in the stands shouting out for more. Cue: Afridi for some unfathomable reason gets on one knee and swings cross-batted to the leg side, top edge, and that mediocre opposition player who has been getting on your nerves throughout the game gleefully takes the catch. We all know what comes next… Miss-bah (close but no cigar), the solitary Gul raptaa over mid-wicket, Ajmal’s cute little dabs in vain… the script it seems, is so familiar and painful (Mohali) that you wonder why you even bothered to allow yourself to think otherwise.

But this is not the Pakistan of the 90’s and 2000’s. This outfit seems more methodical in its approach, and there is a calm tactfulness about its leader that rightly gives the fan hope that sense shall prevail. It certainly, and most importantly, has in Tests and bowling in general; and there is no reason it shouldn’t while chasing in the fifty-over game. The ODI format has evolved immensely and is a vastly different game from what it was a decade-and-a-half ago. Sadly, the same cannot be said of Pakistan’s tactics while chasing, as they continue to pursue the cobwebbed approach of preserving wickets, aimlessly drifting during the middle of the innings and fantasising to finish big. It is time Pakistan parted ways with this approach from the days of Javed Miandad and Inzamam-ul-Haq, which has mostly brought nothing but failure and a sense of living Ground-Hog Day while chasing anything over 250, and come to terms with the reality of the modern-day ODI game.

They have only to look towards India (who suffered from a similar, probably worse mental block while chasing until the days of Sourav Ganguly) to figure out that fluency through out the innings is key to consistently chasing successfully. Not mistaking this fluency for over-the-top flashy exuberance, as most critics of such change do, but embracing it in a manner that suits the players’ game.

Getting rid of the likes of Shoaib Malik, freeing your most talented batsman (Umar Akmal) of the burdens of keeping, giving him room to breathe by sending him up the order and letting him play his natural game would be a good starting point. Not treating the other promising youth (Asad Shafiq) as the token sacrificial lamb and defining a set role for him in the side as well as adding a batting all-rounder (Hammad) to make the transition from the lower-middle order to the tail smoother, will prove helpful as well.

The major obstacle since the departure of Imran Khan in favour of change and applying innovative approaches has been the lack of strategic leadership. With Misbah in charge that prickly thorn it seems has finally been washed away, and it would almost be unfair to the fans and the team, if revisions are not at least given a shot. Pakistan are pencilled in to play India in the Asia Cup on March 18, let us hope we have learnt our lessons from Mohali, and don’t die wondering if the toss of the coin doesn’t fall our way.

Shoaib Naveed
A cricket nut since Aqib Javed’s bucket hairstyle and Wasim bhai’s poetic action took his fancy, the writer, fit only for a slogger is pretending to be a top-order bat. He blogs here.



The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


Comments (28) Closed



Umair Khalid Feb 16, 2012 07:36pm
Well written mate! Totally agree with you. We won the test matches mainly because of Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman. But they can't always win you matches. We need to bring in some new fast bowlers from the domestic circuit. Umar Gul, Cheema, Junaid, Sohail Tanvir are all crap bowlers. We also need to give chance to some new attacking batsmen such as Ramiz Raja, Ahmad Shehzad etc. I bet they can play better than Younis Khan & Imran Farhat.
shan Feb 16, 2012 07:49pm
Pakistan bating is too fragile, anything above 200 is too much for them. On a slow difficult pitches they are helpless. Too much is expected of Yonuis and Misbah, and both usually fail most of the time. The only match winner batsman in the team in ODI is Yonuis, if he succeeds the team wins or other way around. The first two ODI reminded me of semi-final of world cup.
Muhammad Fuad Bangas Feb 16, 2012 07:50pm
I see the signs of disunity again. When they stick together, they are virtually unbeatable. But when selection dramas rear their ugly head again, down goes the team. I am still hopeful, they can pull their act together. Merit should be the only reason for selection and then play the same combination without too many changes from match to match. We also need to groom a captain to replace Misbah in a year or two. Pakistan Zindabad!
Zahid Feb 16, 2012 08:13pm
Its a good review on our team performance. like it
Adnan Feb 16, 2012 08:15pm
There are some short comings for Pak team but the time they start winning their short comings get hidden only to surface when the team loses a match.Pak team needs aggressive openers like Shazaib Hassan,Nasir Jamshed (to name a few)
Syed Kashif Hashmi Feb 16, 2012 08:27pm
Well wriiten. As long as we have people like Imran Farhat & Shoaib Malik in the team, nothing is going to change. We actually need a young captain in the T20 & ODI format; someone who can bring fresh ideas on to the table. On another note, Pakistan actually chased pretty well during Inzimam's tenor as captain.
raza ullah Feb 16, 2012 10:10pm
Let us be realistic. Pak's perennial weaknesses are going nowhere. Batting and fielding is always poor by international standards and now the fast bowling takes a cake. a country where Umar Gul is supposed to be the best bowler should tell you something. This man does not know how to ball wicket to wicket. He just cannot live on reverse bowling because it is rare commodity. If Misbah is a fan of Shoaib malik then he should retire retire along with him, immediately. I have no idea who selects Malik. Looking at him, I can play better than him ar age 70. Give credit to the Englishmen. After test matches drubbing they learnt fast. We have not simply because learning is not a part of Pak psych. Why are we always scaed to give chance to youngsters like Hammad. They cannot do any worse than so called old and experienced players. I bet more than half of team management does not know the meaning of developing a strategy. Go to schools guys.
Dr. Salaria, Aamir A Feb 16, 2012 10:28pm
All cricket academics, experts, players, administrators, coaches, physios, consultants, organizers, sponsors and scholars know very well that ODI and Twenty20 matches are in essence, a completely different ball game than test cricket. The moment the 'movers and shakers' of cricket in Pakistan will understand this vital point, the Pakistani cricket team will start performing better because only then we might see some significant changes in the squad with new strategy, new blood, new motivation, new aspirations, new technique, new action and maybe a new captain. With due respect to Misbah-ul-Haq, Younus Khan, Imran Farhat, Shoaib Malik and other similar players, they are not only misfit but also unfit to play ODI and Twenty20 games at the highest level any more wherein they can contribute positively towards winning games from their team in a tangible fashion. As long as young blood and young talent is not instilled into the ranks of the Pakistani cricket team with ample opportunity to play and represent their country at international level against other top teams of the world, 'green-shirts' will not be able to change its overall and overwhelming image of 'the most unpredictable team in the world' amongst the global cricket fraternity.
kashif Feb 16, 2012 10:40pm
totally agreed . umer akmal ,asad shafiq and ahmed shehzad shouldnot be wasted like imran nazeer and basit ali .adnan akmal imran farhat and shoib malik have no place in any team tst ,odi and t20 ahmed shehzad asad shafiq and umer akmal should play in every format fast bowling needs attention of coaches .
QURESHI Feb 16, 2012 11:12pm
Super' i wanted to add one thing" TEAM has no sense of responsibility - we have bunch of super heros or i should say superman " there is no superman thing, we have to take responsibility and get rid of OLD heros, i am sure if you give that many chances to IMRAN NAZIR, SHEHZAD, SHAHZEB they will do fine, we have hammad , it is the same old story, MISBAH is simply front face behind is our cruppted system, people like mohammed ilyas, Zaka Ashraf - pushing our country over the cliff.
Hanif Feb 16, 2012 11:34pm
We need to select the right people. Imran Farhat and Shoab Malik should nto be there but we also need a good wicket keeper (Sarfaraz Ahmed), Umar Akam performance is bad, he is not a wicket keeper and neiher a good batsman. They should select players like Fawad Alam, Khurum Manzoor and Sarfaraz Ahmed. Then on top of that we need a young captain. Team is not selected on merit will give these results we should not be surprised.
parveez uk Feb 17, 2012 04:22am
I am a big fan of Misbah, for test but not for one day. He plays too slow, and that puts pressure on other players. I could not understand why they sent in Rehman, before the others. He should go in at number 10. I think the result would have been diffrent.
Shahid Feb 17, 2012 05:07am
That has been Pakistan's approach whether chasing or not. They start out big, reduce to snail's pace in the middle overs and then finish big. Pakistani batsmen need to learn the art of batting during the middle overs i.e emphasize on singles and doubles as opposed to trying to play out the middle overs in order to save wickets. Value of singles and doubles should not be lost on any team.
Kadir TX Feb 17, 2012 08:01am
Pakistan needs young pace squad and new blood for this format of cricket. Umer Gul and company is too old and out dated for ODI and 20/20.
Hamza Feb 17, 2012 09:03am
Farhat, Malik , cheema, riaz and Gul shouldn't have a spot in the tram
Ali Feb 17, 2012 10:13am
In the last two matches if we note that Ravi Bopara was not given out by the Empire while Afridi was bowling and then an easy stumpting was missed by UMER AKMAL. Bopara mad 57 of 62 balls..similaraly in the 2nd one day he could not catch Cook when he was on 28 and again he made 102. Umer Akmal is a best Player but not a wicket keeper. We need a wicket keeper and offcourse let Umer play at no4 Asad shafiq at no5, Afridi at no 6 ,Azhar Ali on 3 and Nsir Jamshed or Ahmad Shehzad an an opener with Hafiz. In short format AFRIDI OR HAFEEZ should be Captain. No Place for Misbah and Younas in one day or T-20
Engr Sikandr Ali Feb 17, 2012 10:24am
Misbah,Younas, should be in tests only. I agree Mr.Kashif that we need a young Captain for T-20 and One days...Hafiz and AFRIDI are the better choices. Hafiz can take over from Misbah as test Cpatain by next year. Imran Faraht is playing since a long without much a positive resutls so shoud be rested along with shuaib. Umer Amin,Imran Nazir,Hammad Azam, Ahmad shehzad should be considered.
Sheraz Feb 17, 2012 10:43am
Pakistan need to change its mind set when it comes to Chasing Misbah's captaincy has been really poor specially in 2nd ODI - He was the main culprit to let England get away with too many singles I bet if it was forced Power play in 50 Overs -England would have never got to 250 as the fielding would have been up Yk need to make place for Asad Shafiq and Asad has to come at #4 - or play as an opener - get rid of useless Imran Farhat - he is just a torture to watch - his 47 in ODI would mean he keeps his place in the team for another 15-20 matches Hafeez need to come at #6 he has been extremmly poor and spinless against the top bowling sides - he contributes with the bowl but do we need some who is a walking wicket against top bowling? get Hammad Azam in at #7
SAQIB Feb 17, 2012 11:38am
In both games Pakistan have been let down by the part-time wicketkeeping of Umar Akmal and their brittle batting. None of our batsmen have yet registered a half-century in the series, highlighting their long tail and need for more all-rounders. Pakistan's fielding will also have to improve substantially if they are to challenge in the 2015 World Cup.
AjmalJP Feb 17, 2012 12:02pm
PAK need to play with specialist wicketkeeper, not having this cost them previous match and meanwhile they are missing a wonderful fielder, Umar Akmal, so Misbah need to change the approach of playing ODIs, Rahman need to be replaced with Adnanakmal, they have good all-rounder combination of spin already in the team.
Hamid Rashid Feb 17, 2012 12:51pm
We need to move on. The ECB did not sack the whole team due to theri miserable failure. Certainly some changes need to be made. A full time wicket keeper with some batting skill is required.NO MISBAH, YOUNAS,SHUAIB for short formate of the game. Imran farhat not required in any format. Umer Akmal need to be brought down in the order may be no 4. Azahr Ali is well suited on no3. Asad shafiq should be kept in both one day and test with down in the order. Ramiz Raja junior, Ahmad shehzad, Nasir Jamshed, Yasir Aarafat are good choices.
Dr. Salaria, Aamir A Feb 17, 2012 01:21pm
With due respect to Misbah-ul-Haq, Younus Khan, Imran Farhat, Shoaib Malik and other similar players, they are not only misfit but also unfit to play ODI and Twenty20 games at the highest level any more wherein they can contribute positively towards winning games from their team in a tangible fashion. All cricket academics, experts, players, administrators, coaches, physios, consultants, organizers, sponsors and scholars know very well that ODI and Twenty20 matches are in essence, a completely different ball game than test cricket. The moment the 'movers and shakers' of cricket in the 'land of the pure' will understand this vital point, the Pakistani cricket team will start performing better because only then we might see some significant changes in the squad with new strategy, new blood, new motivation, new aspirations, new technique, new action and maybe a new captain. As long as young blood and young talent is not instilled into the ranks of the Pakistani cricket team with ample opportunity to play and represent their country at international level against other top teams of the world, 'green-shirts' will not be able to change its overall and overwhelming image of 'the most unpredictable team in the world' amongst the global cricket fraternity.
Waseem(India) Feb 18, 2012 04:43am
Hafeez,Imran Nazeer/Ahmad Shehzad(rotation),Umar Akmal(Wk),Younis Khan,Asad Shafiq,Misbah,Shahid Afridi(Capt),Razzaq,Umar Gul,Saeed Ajmal,Wahab Riaz... Send youngsters like Umar Akmal up the order.What will he do at number 6 or 7.Use some brains. Learn something from India.Learn the way they bat through out the innings without dip in the run rate. You guys intentionally slow down the innings in the middle in a bid to keep the wickets intact which will go no way as the wickets will eventually tumble because of the low run rate.If you have a pace wicket play one fast bowler more. For God sake use some brain and common sense. You already screwed up Semi Final against India.It wasnt a decent total on a batting paradise like Mohali,shud have been a cake walk for any team against the mediocre indian bowling. I dnt know wats with u guys.We Muslims support u although from India we support u more than India. Pls make us proud
Qadeer Feb 18, 2012 12:25pm
no need for Farhats and Maliks in the team I tatally agree, No offense bro but let me ask you one thing are you from Karachi.....?
faisal mahesar Feb 18, 2012 12:34pm
nice way of writings especially in scripit way.. Pak always win because of one or two players mainly three.. like saeed ajmal and abdul rehman did in test... i have never ever seen team work in green shirts. paki should not emphasise on one or two men, whoever is part of team must show his presence in ground.
zaffar nagi Feb 20, 2012 12:54am
What a shame to go down like this.Misbah should not play one day matches.They were playing with 7 player over the age of 30.When will you give a chance to the younger blood?players like Hammad and Anwer Ali and many,many more are being wasted.Stopp betting on lame horses
sid Feb 21, 2012 11:19am
Everybody says umer is such a big talent, so why does not he plays at postion 3. He should come one down if he is so good which i highly doubt. We can never trust the akmals anymore.
Mohammad Merchant Mar 01, 2012 06:27pm
We are over rating Umar Akmal. Look at the result since last one year. Whenever team needs him he did not perform.He has plenty of overs to steer team out of trouble.In ladt T20 also he did not finish. Misbah is not slogger but Ulmal has a tendency to score. He did not have temperment. He is not decipline. He choose to hit every ball to get four or six. If he played as per his potential. Pakistan had won by 7 wickets. He should learn to check his stroke and convert it two by placing in gap.He has the potential but he is not applying on the field. Now is the time he should take responsibility with Shafique to be backbone of Pakistan middle order batting. Otherwise Pakistan future is deem.