Muhammad Hafeez and Imran Farhat don’t have the technique to be international level batsmen. Azhar, Misbah and Younis bat far too slowly for modern ODI cricket. Asad Shafiq and Umar Akmal have failed to realise their potential. We don’t have a keeper that can bat or keep. Shahid Afridi only bowls well against minnows. Umar Gul is not good – or clutch – enough to be the leader of a pace-attack. We don’t have any other decent fast bowlers. Drop everyone. Tear down the building and start again.
What I have learnt from the aftermath of the ODI series loss against Sri Lanka is that everyone, bar Ajmal, is not good enough for the national team; or at least that’s what I’ve gathered from Pakistani fans. Let’s ignore the fact that the system that is producing these players is flawed; or that the alternatives we are supposed to have just aren’t there. I keep hearing ‘Pakistan mei bohat talent hai’ – and then we bring in Mohammad Sami as the third-pacer. What we want, apparently, is a complete overhaul of the team and a bunch of messiahs brought into the team. What we want are 10 nineteen-year olds who are good enough NOW. Where we are going to bring them from is yet to be explained.
All hail knee-jerk over-the-top reactions. We ask for long-term strategies but we don’t have patience for young or misfiring players. We want success, and we want it yesterday.
There were reasons for why Pakistan lost this series. An inability to rotate the strike in powerplays, a failure to start well in batting, and the incapability to chase down any decent scores were the root causes for this loss. And which of those are new? Those are three flaws that Pakistan has had for more than a decade. Coaches, captains and players have come and gone without any significant improvements in any of these facets. But I am sure that when we throw out this lot, the incoming ones will be somehow better. What do I base this on? Absolutely nothing. But I am a Pakistani. Therefore the devil unknown is always a better choice than the devil I know. Incremental and conscious changes in the system are not what will bring us success. Instead we will rely on a group of saviours who are not being given the chance. Throw out the current lot; we have a bunch of Bradmans, Wasims and Warnes who need to be given chances to succeed. And what if they fail in their first couple of matches? Then we will treat them like Salem treated its witches.
Yes, there are questions to be asked about the current unit and strategy. Why is there conservatism with the batting order? Why isn’t Hafeez pushed down to number six? Where he will be away from the moving new ball; will allow Pakistan to have a player in the middle order who has more than two gears, and Pakistan doesn’t have to part with his remarkably efficient bowling either. In Jamshed, Shehzad, Azhar and, dare I say it, Farhat, Pakistan has a bunch of openers of promise and/or those who have performed well in the recent past. Why not allow Umar Akmal to bat more overs, and minimise the chances of having Younis, Azhar or Misbah on the crease, at the same time? Why not use Ajmal in a more attacking role, particularly when bowling first? Why not move beyond what was thought up 30 years ago? The team needs to change the portion of its ingredients, not bring in new ones. I am yet to be convinced of how Sami, Shoaib Malik, Faisal Iqbal et al are an upgrade on the current team.
After all, there are two principles that have to be kept in mind when inducting new players in. Firstly, it’s far easier for them to succeed if they come into a successful team. The great Australian and West Indies teams of the past, as well as the Indians, South Africans and English in recent years, have all benefitted from this. There is a reason that Imran’s overhaul in the late 80s was more successful than what the PCB did in the aftermath of the 2003 and 2007 World Cups. Secondly, there is a case to be made for evolutionary changes to the unit. From the mid-80s to 2007, Australia built a team that was the envy of the world, and one of its guiding principles was that only one big/old player was released at a time. Pakistan can allow Younis, Misbah and Afridi to retire (for the final time), but surely it would be better if all of them weren’t thrown out at the same time.
Dav Whatmore made his name with a Sri Lankan team which had ingredients which were, probably, far less potent than the current Pakistani team. He relied on innovation (pinch hitters, bowling spinners in the first 15 overs, etc) and a Musketeerian ethic to lay the foundations for success. A decade and a half after his first stint, Sri Lanka’s game plan is still based on the one first used by him and Ranatunga. Misbah-ul-Haq, along with Waqar Younis and Shahid Afridi, took Pakistan from the lowest of lows, which has also taken them to a state of respect and expectations. A meaningless series loss in the plethora of ODI series shouldn’t really matter all that much – particularly with the team having won the Asia Cup so recently. Clearly, Misbah and his coach have earned the right to demand faith and patience from their fans. But I fear, those are not things that come naturally to the Pakistani fan.
The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.