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Falling short: tactic or nerves?

Published Mar 20, 2012 10:25am


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-Photo by AP

When Pakistan ripped England apart in the UAE test series a little over a month ago, one couldn’t help but wonder how the likes of Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Hafeez, Umar Gul and Aizaz Cheema would fare against the top batting side in the world, India.

But as the Indian side achieved a mammoth target of 330 in the 48th over against the same attack on Sunday, it wasn’t a question of how but what the hell just happened?

Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq simply replied with a, “we did not have any answers” when asked about the loss to India in Dhaka and Virat Kohli’s magical innings of 183 off 148 balls proved that Misbah was right to a great extent.

India’s run-chase and the fireworks that ensued, however, begged one straightforward question: was Pakistan’s tactic to bowl short a battle plan or just a case of nerves?

Of Pakistan’s fast bowlers, Aizaz Cheema, in particular, was quite giving in his spell of 8-0-60 and bowled the short-pitched, leg-stump line regularly even with the fine-leg up. Umar Gul’s 8.5 overs produced quite a decent dose of half-trackers as well and his length was particularly baffling, keeping in mind his preferred mode of operation. Wahab Riaz was listless and clearly no role was defined for him in Pakistan’s six-man bowling line-up.

The shorter length has been a preferred strategy for teams playing against India of late, but the utility of it seemed a little unwise on the placid Sher-e-Bangla wicket. It also meant that Pakistan gave away the one advantage that bowling under lights brings with it: the zip that the pitch produces, provided you pitch the brand-new ball on a good length.

Cheema’s introduction into the attack in just the third over of the innings, that too after Mohammad Hafeez had picked up a wicket from the same end, was a little premature and indicated that Misbah had already started reading too much into the proceedings. Even though Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar seemed comfortable against the spinner, Hafeez could have been gambled with for a few more overs. His drift with the newer ball is usually what earns him wickets and 330 was a big enough target to play with.

Saeed Ajmal, by far, looked like the only threatening bowler on either team and attacking with him would have served Pakistan better. Rather, he finished with one over in the bank.

It is unclear how much of an influence Dav Whatmore's Australian mindset had on Pakistan's plans while bowling, but if aiming for the throats of the Indian batsman was indeed a tactic then why was there no plan B?

However, if this bowling performance was indeed a case of nerves than Kohli has given the bowlers a little bit more to worry when Pakistan take on 'chase-masters' Bangladesh on Thursday.


Sunday's game highlighted the fact that Pakistan seriously lacks the fast-bowling partners that Gul needs. It is clear that the man, even as the most senior pacer in the side, is best when given a particular role. The continued success of the team's spinners has meant that the management has not been too adamant in trying out/looking for pace prospects.

The over-reliance on spin, however, will serve Pakistan only in certain conditions, against certain teams and most importantly with certain fields.

Pakistan has a long lay off coming up after the Asia Cup and will have a good five months to beef up its traditional strength.


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Comments (44) Closed

Adnan Mar 20, 2012 04:41pm
You know what, yes there were a few tactical errors but really we shouldnt read too much into it. Pakistan for once batted well (placid track whatever), and although they didnt quite bowl to their usual standards, what we saw was an absolutely mindblowing innings by Kohli - ala Herschelle Gibbs vs Australia- a once in a lifetime wonder. I dont think much would have stopped him anyway. The call on playing an extra fast bowler in Wahab Riaz against India was on, and in hindsight it didnt work. Still no need to panic or blame Misbah. All I'd say is tough luck boys, you ran into a hurricane this time. But dont worry about that happening too often - just try and bat like you did once more and the bowlers will carry you home from there.
Rasheed Mar 20, 2012 04:48pm
I believe Pak has good balling options, important is how to utilize them in the field, the issue is captain. Captain needs to lead the team from the front, not possible with Misbah, I am trying to find out what are the qualities of captaincy in Misbah.
Imrnan Mar 20, 2012 05:00pm
My question is: why are they playing hammad azam if he's not going to bowl? not even one over when everyone was going for runs? And he is batting at number 7-8?
Arif Mar 20, 2012 05:07pm
Cheema, wahab or Junaid are not international level talent. We need to look for a wicket-taking pacer. Misbah captaincy was very poor against India, to say the least.
Yasin Butt Mar 20, 2012 05:48pm
I think Misbah was too negative, he should have attacked more and got wickets, which is what he did in tests against England. Pakistani bowlers can not defend they are wicket takers. If you take wickets you win the match. If you go to defend then it is likely you will lose.
Usman Mar 20, 2012 06:46pm
After scoring +300, Mishbah's approach should have been aggresive and attacking. But we did not see any aggresivness in the field. Seniors players not coming to Misbah to advise or consult him. It was as that everyone was playing his individual cricket and was focusing strenthning hi position in the team. Wahab was patehtic.
Usman Mar 20, 2012 01:16pm
After scoring +300, Mishbah's approach should have been aggresive and attacking. But we did not see any aggresivness in the field. Seniors players not coming to Misbah to advise or consult him. It was as that everyone was playing his individual cricket and was focusing strenthning hi position in the team. Wahab was patehtic.
A Mar 20, 2012 06:58pm
I did not watch the match live but it seems like Pakistani team does not perform well in the game of nerves. Also, Misbah's lethargic behavior on the field is damaging to the team moral on the ground. Shahid is better choice for leading the One day team. It is shameful to even comprehend that a team scoring mammoth 330 would be on the defeating side with 2 overs still to bowl.
samee Mar 20, 2012 07:28pm
I believe that the idea of having Wahab Riaz just based on his previous performance was worse. You have to choose someone who is in form. Plus, not having a strong wicket keeping in the field in such an important game was a again a biggest mistake. I think Pakistan batted well but again the middle order couldn't push the score till 350. Even 329 is considered a defendable total no doubt but Pakistan's fielding was extremely poor. Pakistan should have fielded first according to the conditions because the wicket was getting better afterwards. All credit for Pakistan's loss goes to Misbah- ul -Haq captaincy. Atleast Afridi was a better captain and the team was able to reach semi final last year. They only loss because of the pressure at that time but the field men were atleast on the right spots. I guess what ever matches Pakistan have won so far is because of the boys own hard work. Misbah had no role into it.
Cowboy, TX Mar 20, 2012 07:31pm
Umar Gul should hang his boots, his devatating performance in world cup last year is still fresh in mind. Pak needs match winning bowlers like Mohd Amir. Ajaml alone can't be effiective. The so called Pak fast pace attack by Wahab, Cheema & Junaid were least effective and far below the standards of usual Pak super fast bowling attack. Need Mohd Amir back in the team. Misbah appeared to be completely lost and clueless. On the batting side, Pak needs a talent like Virat Kholi, he is a treat to watch.
Cheetto Mar 20, 2012 07:48pm
Who is Hamad Azam? Is he an all-rounder. Another question is why there is no regular wicket keeper in the team? to be more clear why Akmal brothers for this job again ? Why ?
Salman Mar 20, 2012 08:22pm
I fail to understand what the pacers were trying to do with there bowling......Pakistan has always been pace bowling powerhouse and now a days we do not have even one international bowler....Gul is good but not international standard....Ajmal needs to be consistent and aggresive, jumping and celebrating won't take him too far....we can criticise Misbah but the fact remains that we do not have team bonding....
Mumtaz.Rizvi Mar 20, 2012 09:16pm
We must admit and acknowledge that our bowling attack is nothing but an over rated thing.Apart from saeed ajmal i dont think so we have good enough bowling attack to challenge the batting power houses such as india.likes of cheema are not of an international standards.Its high time to look for another Imran Khan,Wasim Akram or Mohammad Amir
Mubaraka Mar 20, 2012 10:44pm
A huge round of applause for the green shirts for superbly batting after such a long time. When the batting card showed +300 it was like wow!!! But then when the second innings started it was like real disgusting. Firstly, what was Misbah thinking when he brought in Wahab Riaz in replacement to Sarfraz Ahmad? The idea of placing Junior Akmal behind the wickets was a disaster decision. Here a question arises that didn’t Misbah learn his lesson from the previous tour of UAE. Akmal has proved that behind the wicket job is not his cup of tea. Moreover, too much reliance on the spin attack made the fast bowlers care free as they did not produce the desired results. Similarly, the PCB should wake up from their slumber as Misbah is not the right man for leading the team. The Green team needs a captain who leads from the front and encourages the player to give its utmost. I personally think that either Afridi or Hafeez should be given the task of leading the team. Personally I being a huge supporter of Afridi would want him to lead the team but let’s see what the PCB does.
Farhat Mar 20, 2012 11:58pm
Farhat : It seems that what actually happened to pakistan loss to india was the captain's negative apprach, when i was watching watch i felt that something is going wrong could i have been there i would have approached the game in different manner...wahab should be given no chance at all..pressure was on india not on wahad..if he takes 10 wickets per match he should not still be included in team last my good wishes are with pakistan..
Farhat Mar 20, 2012 11:59pm
It seems that what actually happened to pakistan loss to india was the captain's negative apprach, when i was watching watch i felt that something is going wrong could i have been there i would have approached the game in different manner...wahab should be given no chance at all..pressure was on india not on wahad..if he takes 10 wickets per match he should not still be included in team last my good wishes are with pakistan..
Dr. Salaria, Aamir A Mar 21, 2012 12:28am
This is indeed one of the most miserable defeats of the green-shirts at the hands of their arch rivals, India, in the history of Indo-Pak cricket. For the first time after many years, the batting department of Misbah-ul-Haq and associates clicked but the ever-dependent six-men bowling department led by Umar Gul in the pace attack and Saeed Ajmal as the head of the spinners let them down. Their fielding and wicket keeping was also not up to the mark and what is expected of International cricketers. It's high time and the right time for the Pakistani cricket team to wake up and pull-up their socks as they say, if they want to beat the underdogs Bangladesh in the grand final of the 2012 Asia cup on Thursday, March 22, 2012.
Capt Mansur (Namibia Mar 21, 2012 12:36am
Bad Team Selection and Bad defencive. Captain and Coach responsible.ALL SELECTORS PLEASE NEVER KEEP UMAR AS WICKET KEEPER. Bowlers need wicketkeeprs and feilders to take wickets. Riaz. Junaid, Cheema not world class standard, look for others do not waste time. Misbah did well excpt should have been more attacking was giving easy singles. Hamad should have been given overs to show his class. Paksitan will this cup only if a regular wicket keeper plays and Riaz is dropped.
Jam Mar 21, 2012 12:39am
It is stupid to call it a mind boggling innings. This was the worst bowling I have ever seen from Pakistanis. Bowling short and on the leg side, again and again when balls were going for boundaries were stupid. Why would a batsman even think of blocking a ball when gifts were given to him where he had no chance to even get out. It was outrageous that after hit for fours, the next ball was coming at the same spot. Yes we should have been looking for wickets through Ajmal instead of hoping that he will do miracle in the end. Who in the right mind would have taken Hafeez off once he got the wicket in the first over. There was no way in the world that India would have won this match had we bowled wicket to wicket. I have seen their cricket enough and had we bowl tight they would have lost the match trying for big hits. They did not even need big hits since we were offering them gifts.
Misra Mar 21, 2012 01:50am
Hmmmm...every comment above seems to suggest that Pakistan lost because of poor batting, fielding or captaincy. How about admitting that pakistan lost to a better team, and were beaten fair and square? That would be a first.
zaffar nagi Mar 21, 2012 02:01am
The biggest problem with Misbah is that he is simply not good enough as a one days.Our so called fast bowlers lack discipline and the capt.doesn´t bother at all.Hammad is in the team,he is not allowed to bowl.Young skill is being wasted.
Shabut Mar 21, 2012 02:02am
One thing that people need to understand is that Afridi is no alternative. You may replace Misbah in the shorter version but Afridi is not the answer since he has a very unstable mind and his performance is continuously going down day by day. So forget the now overrated boom boom and go for a much better choice of Hafeez being the captain of the one day and the T20 sides.
Ali Mar 21, 2012 01:54am
I agree. India had never face him before and it would have been a bit of challenge for them. Wahab was brought back because of his WC semi final performance.Poor captaincy, very poor.....
shahzad Mar 21, 2012 02:09am
When your best bowler ends up with one over still remaining, when you give the ball to the bowler who had leaked the most runs at the end of the innings, the blame has to be placed on the Captain. Misbah is by his nature, a good, solid Test captain, however, he should not even be in a one-day or twenty 20 team let alone captain it, Afridi has the right attitude and the spark for it, let him be the leader in one dayers and Twenty 20's!
Shehzad Mar 21, 2012 03:24am
I think there were 3 main factors: 1. Not having specialist wicket keeper....we have have Umar Akmal is not that good. 2. Having to many bowling options and not utilizing them properly. Such as over utilization of Wahab Riaz despite his poor performance in first two overs. Taking Hafeez off after wicket taking over, he should continued to built pressure and increase run rate and him and Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi should have bowled their full quota by over number 45. 3. If Hamad Azam is playing as all rounder then he should have given a chance with bowl instead of Wahab Riaz's first two over.
Alan Mar 21, 2012 04:24am
Nice opening partnership but was shattered to see Shahid Afridi not oversmarting the indian bowlers. Hafeeez had won us the match in first over. If cheema and riaz had to only bowl short why did they leak the plan in the press? I saw indian batsmen playing the ball down. I want abdur rehman, imran nazir and a new fast bowler. Cheema and riaz must sit out for the final.
Syed Sadaqain Mar 21, 2012 05:07am
Sorry to Say Mishbah is unfit Captan for One day or 20 overs match.Make no sense changing Hafeez after one over while he took the wicket. I am agree Cheema, Waha and Junaid are International class bowlers. Instead of Wahab after one over he must try Azam. Cheemal gave 20 runs in two overs he did change him. Similarly Wahab was too expensive. Umer was not fit for Keeper job. Overall it was not good selection against India. It was planning to stop the run. Finally I will say it was so poor Captaincy. Syed Sadaqain
Indusonian Mar 21, 2012 08:08am
You all are too naive, it's all about money! There is no doubt Pakistan has a better team and had a better team then in the World Cup. Pakistan never going to win from India because there is so much money involved. Reputation of Pakistani people well known around the world when it comes to money - I will stop here.
Syed Mohammad Mar 21, 2012 11:47am
I felt that after such a solid start, Pakistan should have scored over 350. Gul definitely needs a fast bowling partner. The fast bowlers hunt in pair. Captaincy to Afridi? the guy does'nt even have a place in the team! his promotion in batting order did'nt help and it seemed as if he was trying that Pakistan complete 50 over at the crease. Not a single aggressive stroke - that's from a person known as Boom Boom!!! Misbah should have been more attacking and tactful with bowling changes. And what's the function of this guy called Hammad Azam? Now better watchout - BD have their tail up after beating the World Champions and the runner up in a week and coming close to win in their first encounter with Pakistan.
Talat Mar 21, 2012 02:51pm
I second your suggestions
Waqar Mar 21, 2012 03:57pm
The way forward for PAK is to get Aamir and Asif back in the team or find as good replacements...else...keep suffering!
Saad Mar 21, 2012 07:03pm
I totally agree with Jam comments, we gave gifts to India otherwise it was not possible. Seriously Pakistan need to re-think their strategy, provided if they have any!
Waheed Mar 21, 2012 08:53pm
Add to that list Gul as well. After watching him bowl year after year match after match, he can have a good spell and two very bad spells in the same innings. This is not a sign of class bowler. While it is true no bowler can take 5 or 6 wickets in every inning but, a real class bowler would always keep the pressure on all type of batsmen. A very good bowler should at least be able to bowl in good areas and keep the score rate down.
Syed Hafeez Imran Mar 21, 2012 10:42pm
It was a good game most enjoyable My two cents (I have played a lot of cricket at various levels) Pakistan had no strategy, no plan A let alone plan B if first one didt work. Defensive poor tream selection, field placing and bowling. Lot of blame on Misbah. WHY chose Hammad, supposedly an All rounder whgen you dont give him evenm one over when your other bowlers are giving away a flood of runs, Why change Hafeez after just one over. Why not urilize full overs for the spinners. Why not go over to the bowlers to encourage and guide them and ask them to not owl short, wide or on the legs and bowl to their fields. Why try to bowl short on a placid wicket at batsmen of the calibre of Tendulkar and Kohli and who are in top of their form Wh Cannot but laud ohlis innings masterful
m.ali Mar 21, 2012 11:44pm
I think it was not about Money and Pakistan Just lost to a better batting side. Pak bowling was wayward and we should have tried Hamad Azam. Hamad is a match winner and he should be trusted more. Pakistan bowling has won a lot of matches for us and lets not forget that. Agreed we need a pace-partner for Gul.
Allan D Mar 21, 2012 11:52pm
This match had all signs of being fixed. The captaincy made no sense after the second over onwards and when things don't make sense then something is very fishy.
Amjad Mar 22, 2012 12:49am
Why make such an obvious mistake of bringing Wahab Riaz back in such a crunch game at the expense of specialist keeper? If Umar Akmal's prodigious talent is only good for 20 or so runs, then Sarfaraz should replace him! Why can't Misbah tell the bowlers about keeping it wicket-t-wicket when Kohli was making runs in square of the pitch?? Misbah is not the right choice for ODIs and this is becoming more and more obvious by each series. Can we really bask in glory by defeating Bangladesh team?
parveez uk Mar 22, 2012 03:12am
The problems as follows 1.When playing India, must use head, and not hart. 2.Captain who takes risk. Why bring in a bowler for a one game, who has not played regular. Why no bowler bowled any slower balls. Why not attack early on and make the batsman make mistakes. Because the pitch was so good it was very difficult to get a wicket. Most wickets fell when the batsman tried to hit out. The only two wickets that the bowler got was, the first two Indian wickets, the rest were by mistakes made by the batsman.There was no way that Pakistan could stop India scoring the 330 runs, with out their batsman making mistake. Our captain, as much as I like him, he not a captain for the shorter game.There are so many ?.
Amjad Malik Mar 22, 2012 03:58am
In my opinion, our current team lake fast bowlers and there are not many around to choose from. PCB have to look for some new fast bowlers. They should have three fast bowlers, capable of balling with the new ball and at least two fast bowlers capable of doing reverse swing. They have to play with two genuine fast bowlers, an all rounder like Razzaq or Hammad, a spinner like Ajmal and a spinner like Shahid Afridi & Hafeez. This combination is good for Asian Wickets.
BILAL, SEATTLE Mar 22, 2012 10:55am
I strongly beleive that Misbah had it on the back of his mind that since Pakistan was already in final and he had not much to loose and he went ahead with his poor decisions and pulled away Abdur Rehman and put inexperienced bowlers. Besides from Misbah's mistakes, The Team has not quite recovered from Nerve attacks playing against India. For Decades Miandad and Imran kept the pressure on Indian players but ever since 1996 world cup match in Banglor and events like attack on Sri Lankan team in Lahore has impacted psychologically on the Pakistani Players.
Hameed Mar 22, 2012 12:27pm
They need to upgrade Afridi in the batting order. He is only at he pitch when situation is already tense. He needs four five overs to settle. His strokes are produced and he becomes a natural hitter once he is set.
Ganapati Mar 23, 2012 12:00am
Pakistan bowlers were hammered by Virat Kohali. Pakistan should thanks there stars as Sehwag was not there in Indian team. If Sehwag & Kohli start against Pakistan bowlers India could have crossed Pakistan Total in 35 overs. Problem with Pakistan is that there talented players are match fixers and less talented players think that they are just like Imran khan. Pakistn Cricket team captain is big cartoon. Does he knows cricket?
M. Abid Mar 23, 2012 01:50am
Poor election of Wahab (gave 50 runs in 5 overs), and half pitch bowling from fast bowlers is bad captainship. Need to be very proactive on the field especially when u have 330 under your belt when facing India's batting. No Tolerance, and quick decisions should be the only option. Need to learn from england when they stopped pakistan from scoring and that Pak bowlers let them score a six on the very last ball and they lost by six runs.
Mohammad Merchant Mar 27, 2012 06:59pm
I think the game against India is always mind game and planning.Pakistan has a good total to fight but keeping in mind India's batting and state of wicket, the total was not sufficent.It require a good planning to defend this total. Pakistan's fast bowlers have no planning. If they have bowled good length and accrording to field,they might have won the match.Pakistan has to do following to perform consistentaly. * Plan to have three different team according to format of cricket keeping in mind technique require for that format. * Group of fast bowlers should be identified and camp should be held under the supervision of Wasim Akram and Waqar Yunis * Look for some good fast bowlers alrounders * We should hire psychologist to work on our cricketer's mental toughness * Team should be selected on marit only without favouritism,nepotism and political favour