I will spare you guys a full match report for the game yesterday as I know no body really wants to read up and relive the “Overs from Hell” but will instead present an analysis of the fixable problems in the side right now and what I think are the best ways forward for the team in this world cup. The Kandy match against the Kiwis has brought out and exposed the Pakistan team playing at it’s worst. There are some extremely glaring issues staring at us in the face which we have chosen to ignore at our own peril, for now that the tournament heads into it’s most exciting and competitive phase any more ignorance will surely just lead to another early exit from the ICC’s showpiece tournament and Pakistan will once again just enter that dreaded circle of fire “ the rebuilding process” our team has been perpetually in since the 2003 first round world cup exit. All is not lost though folks, for these flaws are not irreparable but good sound judgment and clear headedness from the coaching staff, management and most importantly Shahid Afridi is the need of the hour. We have to first identify these flaws and be bold enough to make the tough choices required rather than just lying back kicking off our shoes and taking this as just a bad day at the office.
Yes it was an atrocious day in the field but there are reasons behind it that are quite simple. Let’s be honest here folks, no team in this world cup is that great, and playing smart and playing the horses for courses game is the key to success. Lets take it from the top. Why in god’s name was Abdur Rehman given the new ball? The pitch until the night before had a solid covering of grass, had good true bounce and was not expected to turn that much at all. Afridi’s decision only came because he had seen England and South Africa open with spinners and thought Hey! It worked for them, lets try it here as well. Ok give him two overs tops just for the shock factor but as that wears off and it really hasn’t worked for you take the guy off don’t give him a five over spell, that makes no sense. Umar Gul who bowled like an absolute peach and has gained in confidence was at his devastating best during the game and one has to wonder why he wasn’t given the green from the get go. Shoaib Akhtar seemed in really good rhythm despite his high economy rate and if it wasn’t for Akmal’s sieve like glove work it would have been a completely different story. That being said Akhtar, no matter how ardent a fan you are of the bloke, is a spent force and is going to cost us big time in his second and third spell at the back end of the innings especially if we bowl in the afternoon. It’s time we realize this and use him as just a strike force at the top of the innings. If he has to bowl his ten over quota it should be gotten over with before the 35 over mark. Saeed Ajmal should have been an automatic selection against the Kiwis and should be our top choice spinner for he gives us attacking options. Playing Abdur Rehman is a defensive option for it shows that Afridi is just content with saving runs without picking up wickets, why not pick Ajmal who can give you both options. Afridi’s field placements for spinners apart for himself are mind-boggling to say the least. He knows the perfect field to set for him self but when it comes to Hafeez, Ajmal and Abdur Rehman there are only four men inside the ring putting absolutely no pressure on the batsman and allowing effortless rotation of the strike. Styris and Nathan Mcullum were allowed to play them selves in at their own leisurely pace as they picked out ones and twos through gaps in the infield the size of the grand canyon. N.Z weren’t even on the offensive, they were going at a paltry 3.8 per over at the time. It was just plain defensive, tactless captaincy showing lack of confidence in the bowlers when they had not given any reason to do so. Afridi’s inhibitions with Hafeez as a bowler have to stop, the guy has been economical and has chipped in with his couple of wickets almost every time he has been called on to bowl but still only gets the complimentary four five over burst while Razzaq who every time he runs into bowl you involuntary start reciting the Aytal Kursi gets to bowl at the death. Hafeez had figures of 5 overs for 21 yesterday but due to Afridi’s obstinate mindset he didn’t get to bowl at the death. Pakistan have to swallow their pride and ego a little bit and realize that the strength in their bowling is not pace, but they do in stead have a an excellent quartet of spinners two of which are aggressive wicket taking options (Afrid, Ajmal) while the other two (Hafeez, Rehman) are very capable of stemming the run flow from the other end. It is high time that Akhtar is used in short bursts while the spinners get to bowl at the death (especially Hafeez, Ajmal) and bowl out their full quota. Razzaq, the talisman and match winner that he is, don’t get me wrong I love the guy to death and nothing pains me more in saying it, is excess baggage in the team. I know the Pakistan team is never going to be brave enough to do this but they have to drop the guy for a specialist bowler because if the top seven haven’t performed it’s highly unlikely that the 8th will perform any wonders. Miracles do happen (S.A in Abu Dhabi anyone?) but you can’t plan your team balance around miracles. His fielding, his bowling, his technique against spin are all reason’s enough for him to warm the benches while either Rehman or Wahab Riaz (depending on the conditions, Wahab in Kandy and Rehman in Colombo) play (Ajmal remember must be a default selection for me). Now that he has also chipped in with the useless “I will just bat and keep my place in the side” fifty it will be increasingly difficult for the management to take this essential step. I will not delve much into Kamran Akmal’s keeping (not taking away from the fact that it was the single most important factor in yesterday’s loss) simply because we can’t do any thing about it at this point in the tournament (and no having Umar Akmal keep is not the right option). Whether the guy is really this bad or has taken money (I personally think he is involved in some sort of spot-fixing at least and have this interesting theory that every time he wears glasses he has done some shady deal ☺, but that’s completely my opinion) who knows? What it does though is bring the whole morale of the team down and the rest of the side starts fielding like they have cork repellants sprayed on their hands. Ahmed Shehzad, the child prodigy that he is according to many posters on here (NOT!!!), has been given plenty of chances and it’s time for him and his ugly little hair streaks to start carrying in the drinks while Akmal is pushed to open and Asad Shafiq (Oh how I Love thee!! is drafted into the playing XI. In summary playing the right balance and attacking captaincy with the most emphasis on field placements designed to save runs in the inner ring when the spinners are in action on both ends is the name of the game. Pakistan have been too rigid with their game plan thus far and seemed to have no Plan B when things started to go horribly wrong in the field. Flexibility and thinking on your feet is crucial on pitches like these and giving Abdul Razzaq his already pre-match decided quota of five overs hardly counts as such. Pakistan have to wake up and smell the fresh air right now or face the consequences of a burning wood come the knock out stages (fingers crossed we can beat Zimbabwe). You’ve read the justifications for it, now here is my suggested playing XI. Enjoying Kandy and looking forward to your comments. Go Green!!!
Wahab Riaz/Adbur Rehman (depending on conditions)
(Posted originally for Pakpassion).
You guys must have noticed that there is no mention of the press box and the experience of watching the match from in there, well it’s because I handed my pass in and watched the game from the other end in the stands. Unfortunately i got carried away with my blog post and underestimated the power of social media. By the morning that i arrived in the media box the blog post was the talk of the town and had tweeted it’s way into every journalists, ICC person’s mail box and naturally quite a few heads turned. The ICC was made aware of the security lapses in their system and were not happy with the situation at all. Brian Muragatroyd the media manager who was nothing but nice to me was in danger of losing his job and some of the journalists were worried about their reputation and working relationship with the ICC coming under fire. I am extremely sorry about the whole situation and take the blame entirely for getting carried away in my excitement and folly. My most sincere apologies to Brian for being most understanding and nothing but helpful during the whole situation and to the journalists and the entire media contingent who were nothing but friendly and supportive. My intentions were never ill intended and i didn’t ever mean to cause any harm by it. So despite Brian’s insistence that i cover the match from the Press Box, it just didn’t feel right and I handed in the media pass. Needless to say it was has been a great and steep learning curve.