Watching Pakistan cricket team play a cricket match is like riding a roller coaster … sometimes you are at the highest level, sometimes at the lowest and most of the time you don’t know where do you stand! Pakistan’s opening match against the New Zealand side at Pallekele was one such experience where fortune shifted like a pendulum, ending in a well-fought win for the greenshirts.
Some might debate that Pakistan didn’t fare badly in the match where everything went their way, but the truth is, almost everything did. Yes I agree that the top order batted extremely well to score 177 runs in the stipulated overs. Nasir Jamshed was outstanding with 56 runs and was well-supported by skipper Mohammad Hafeez who managed 43. There is also no doubt that the quick scoring by Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi in the final overs helped the bowlers since they had a huge total to defend.
But there were some cons in the match for the Professor XI, and most important was the batting order. Shoaib Malik remains a misfit in the side and it would have been better had Asad Shafiq or Abdul Razzaq featured in the final XI in his place. Asad is a stable batsman who can hold the fort as well as blast quick runs, something Shoaib Malik doesn’t have in his armoury. He may be a good fielder but so is Asad Shafiq. As for Razzaq, the seasoned all-rounder can bowl as well as bat, something Shoaib Malik used to do but doesn’t, anymore. He couldn’t score quick runs when he was required to do so, and had he not been sent to bat, I am sure Pakistan would have score more than their 177 runs!
The Pakistan coach needs to rethink his strategy regarding the bowling attack as well. For a team that has Mohammad Hafeez, Shahid Afridi, Raza Hassan and Saeed Ajmal as spinners, and Abdur Razzaq as a medium pacer, fielding 3 pacers is a luxury. Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul and Yasir Arafat went for many runs during the course of the match, and had Saeed Ajmal not bowled the final over, there is a chance that Pakistan might have finished the match as the losing side. Pakistan must try Anwar Ali against Bangladesh and give one last chance to Mohammad Sami as well who is the fastest bowler in the world at the moment, and might just do the trick for the greenshirts. He is the ‘Imran Nazir’ of Pakistan bowling, and since Imran Nazir is in the side, why not Sami?
As for the fielding, Pakistani fielders fielded like schoolboys in a gentleman’s game. They need to raise the bar otherwise they will find themselves out of contention long before the draws are finalized for the Semi Finals. They could have won the match easily but bad fielding, hapless display of pace bowling as well as wrong selection could have resulted in a disaster. Pakistan must try new players in the match against Bangladesh on Tuesday, because after this match, they will face the heavyweights of the game in Super 8, and beyond.