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Lessons learnt: Too many undefined roles

October 15, 2012


Famous for his lethal death bowling, Gul’s role as the spearhead of the bowling attack was not entirely defined during the World T20. -Photo by AFP

The celebration in the West Indies has taken a full week’s circle and ‘Gangnam style’ has been emulated in Chris Gayle fashion throughout the Caribbean Islands. Some of the top performers at the World T20have had seamless transitioned into the Champions League T20 and have continued their good run on the fast, bouncy wickets in South Africa.

Australia’s Shane Watson, the man of the tournament at the World T20, looks like he’s still batting on a Colombo wicket, Sunil Narine is a threat even with the little help that Supersport Park’s surface offers and the performance of India’s Umesh Yadav makes one wonder why he was not part of MS Dhoni’s plans.

For the Pakistan fans, Raza Hasan and Bilawal Bhatti’s outings for the Sialkot Stallions, once again give testament to the fact that there is plenty in the mill to provide for the national team.

Shahid Afridi has appeared in Hampshire colours but even the pressure-less fixtures in the CL T20 have been unable to arrest his downward slide.

The Pakistan fans and media seem to be still hung up with the disappointment of the World T20 and it is clear that the fireworks in South Africa are unlikely to change that.

However, with the passage of time the emotions should now come in balance with rationale and it is perhaps time to objectively dissect the performance of Mohammad Hafeez’s men.

Mohammad Hafeez: 6.5/10 (Batting: 164 Runs, S.R 98.2) (Bowling: 5 Wickets, Econ 5.94) Ex Pakistani cricketers typically criticised Hafeez for his captaincy and senior teammate Abdul Razzaq openly blamed him for his ouster from the playing XI in the all important semi-final. He was miser with the ball in his hand and steady with the bat, becoming the highest run accumulator for his team. His strike rate was poor and induced a collapse at the other end at times but provided foil for it on other occasions, either way it appeared as a part of the plan in place. As a captain, his decision-making reminded one of Misbah-ul-Haq, particularly during the early stages of the event. His reluctance to attack with Saeed Ajmal, especially in the power play, and not keeping him going when he was taking wickets was clearly muddled thinking. He was also found shy of bringing himself on early, surprising keeping in mind his recent success with the new ball.

Imran Nazir: 5/10 (Batting: 153 Runs, S.R 150) Patience and maturity are virtues that are associated with age and experience but Nazir has done well to stave all of that off. His best performances of late have only come in domestic T20 leagues. The selectors and ‘experts’ alike have fought his case based on those performances, fully aware of the vast bridge that exists between domestic and international cricket. The T20 format gives him the license to play his game but unfortunately he managed to shine only once which earned him the M.O.M against Bangladesh.

Nasir Jamshed: 7/10 (Batting: 148 Runs, S.R 134.54) He made two out of the total of three half centuries scored by his entire team, both contributing to good wins. He is touted as the most promising find in Pakistan’s fragile batting line up but his technique is yet to be tested in alien conditions outside the continent. A close eye will be kept on the progress of this prodigy. Fitness and fielding skills need vast improvement.

Kamran Akmal: 4/10 (Batting: 64 Runs, S.R 110.34) (Keeping: 1 Catch, 2 Stumping) He broke back into the side in place of Sarfraz Ahmed and Adnan Akmal on the basis of his potentially explosive batting at the top of the order. He continued to come ahead of specialist batsmen in the lineup only to disappoint each time. It was business as usual behind the stumps, dropping more catches than he was able to glove cleanly.

Shoaib Malik: 4/10 (Batting: 59 Runs, S.R 90.76) (Bowling: 2 Overs, 19 runs, 0 wickets) Known for being level headed and having the ability to steady ship when required, Malik was cast in the middle order. He was given plenty of opportunity to become a savior but squandered all of them. With enough spin artillery in Pakistan’s cavalry his bowling services add little value and thus are sparingly used. His value through the tournament was only decorative novelty.

Umar Akmal: 7/10 (Batting: 125 Runs, S.R. 120.19) He looked like the best batsmen in the Pakistani lineup but kept coming down the order which limited his impact on matches. In six matches, Umar was only dismissed twice. Ideally, the plan should be to put your finest first in order to avoid a crisis situation or place them where they can manage one. While most other countries played with head heavy batting lineups, Pakistan underutilized its most talented batting asset.

Shahid Afridi: 4.5/10 (Batting: 30 Runs, S.R. 136) (Bowling: 4 Wickets, Econ 7.12) Coming in with a big reputation in the shortest format of the game, Afridi soon became one of the biggest disappointments of the tournament. His batting hit an all time low and his bowling was inconsistent at best. It was agonizing for his faithful fans to see the lack of application and intent to get some sort of form and sting back in his cricket.

Yasir Arafat: 5/10 (Batting: 11 runs of 8 balls) (Bowling: 5 Wickets, Econ 9.12) The Pakistani selectors overlooked a younger prospect of similar mould in Hammad Azam and opted for the experienced legs of Arafat for the position of a seaming all-rounder. He was also preferred over Abdul Razzak and played 4 out of a total of 6 games. He was able to derive very little out of the faith and opportunity provided to him by the management.

Abdul Razzaq: 6/10 (Batting: 22 of 17 balls) Razzaq’s exclusion from the semi-final prompted the biggest media outcry. He was given only one game where he came late down the order and made a healthy contribution to the important win against Australia. He was not given the opportunity to chance his arm with the ball and was dropped for the next game. Curiously, similar treatment was handed out to him in the lead up series to the World T20 where he helped tie a match by picking two wickets in the 20th over and later win it in the super over with the bat. With age against him, his career has probably made its last journey and is likely to end as that of many other mismanaged Pakistani cricketers before him.

Sohail Tanvir: 5/10 (Bowling: 2 Wickets, Econ 7.66) (Batting: 8 of 13 balls) With two average games in the group stage of the tournament, Tanvir was overlooked for the super eight games. His contribution was limited with the wickets not being ideal for fast bowling. His own pace lacked nip and his unorthodox action does not unsettle the batsmen anymore like it did earlier in his career. He responded well when he was entrusted with the new ball ahead of Razzaq in the semi-final but it was Razzaq’s batting that Pakistan missed more.

Umar Gul: 6/10 (Bowling: 3 Wickets, Econ 9.88) (Batting: 46 Runs, S.R 139.39) Famous for his lethal death bowling, Gul’s role as the spearhead of the bowling attack was not entirely defined during the tournament. He was not able to find his all important rhythm and came into bowl as late as the 18th over on a couple of occasions. His blistering 32 runs of 17 balls were the highlight of the fortnight where he drove his team home to an unlikely win against South Africa in an important super eight game.

Saeed Ajmal: 8.5/10 (Bowling: 9 Wickets, Econ 6.79) The Pakistani spin wizard was arguably the most feared and respected bowler of the tournament. There was a feeling of calm in the Pakistani camp and an air of nervousness in the opposition’s dugout almost every time he had the ball in his hand. He remained true to his billing by being economical and picking up crucial wickets. Ajmal is the first spinner in Pakistan’s history that has managed to become the backbone of their bowling attack across all formats of the game.

Raza Hasan: 8/10 (Bowling: 3 Wickets, Econ 4.93) The left-handed orthodox spinner was the revelation of the tournament for Pakistan. He was given the important task to open the innings with the ball and came up trumps under trying circumstances for a 20-year-old. Competing with the best in the business his impressive economy rate was only second to Dale Steyn amongst all specialist bowlers. He definitely appears to be one for the future of Pakistan.

Mohammad Sami: (Tourist) One has lost count on the number of comebacks made by Sami. He has been in and out of the team for over a decade but has not managed to establish his place in the side. One tends to question the logic of persisting with a failed commodity for such an extended period. Junaid Khan and others wait on the sidelines while selectors insist on sticking with him. He might be dropped again for the next series without getting a single official game in the tournament.

Asad Shafiq: (Tourist) Known to be a busy batsman at the crease rather than a big hitter, Asad was not able to find a place in a batting lineup prone to collapse. Teams around the world are quickly realizing that T20 is not all about ‘wham bam thank you ma’am’ but it also requires stable and steady heads to graft an innings. Pakistan might have missed a trick by not letting Asad prove his mettle in place of sticking with ageing cricketers.

The pre-seeded format came into a lot of fire but the teams that topped their group stage failed to reach the final while eventual finalists West Indies and Sri Lanka were a testament to the notion that this was probably the most open World T20 so far.

Pakistan has made this tournament their own and went onto reach their fourth consecutive World T20 semi-final. The optimists will take heart from this record achieved by a team deprived of any international cricket at home. The pessimists will continue to churn out their banter for a team that promises so much more than it delivers.

Amidst the controversies, politics, series wins and losses, the one thing that remains constant is the ability Pakistan possess to relentlessly produce talent like Raza Hasan and Nasir Jamshed in the face of adversity. The future of cricket in Pakistan depends on how the administrators nourish and nurture this bottomless pit of talent.