Sunday, June 4, 2017

Pakistan Cricket: Batting on Hope!

Pakistan cricket team turned up for their match on June 4th at Edgbaston against India, and yes there were 11 players decked in green and they all had the necessary gear. That is about the best that they could do, sans Mohammed Amir, who clearly must think immigrating to a cricket playing country may be better than playing for a team for which amateur might be a compliment.

From the selection, to the bizarre decision to bowl first, and to tactics this was a sorry saga of a slow death, almost by choice. Rarely have Pakistan gone into major tournaments without the hope that one player will come to the party and play a match winning game. Micky Arthur, the Pakistan coach, admitted his choice of Wahab Riaz was based on the hope the big match would bring out a big game from him. After Amir's brilliant first over the script, if written in the mind of the captain, went to shreds. Any edifice a restoration of morale based of a middle overs come back went to shreds with Wahab Riaz's senseless bowling.

Sarfaraz as captain always gave the Pakistan team the hope, yes hope, that the leadership will have a spirit of fighting back. Simply having a fighting spirit is not enough, there has to be a strategy and one has to play to that strategy. Yes talent is good, and perhaps we have too much of it, but little skills to create the winning attitude within the teams thought process.

It was never clear what Pakistan as a bowling side was trying to achieve other than perhaps buy a wicket. And when the chances came they were squandered away and put done to the pressure of the game. In the modern game playing Ireland is a pressure game, so wake up and get used to it. The captain seemed on his own, lost in a confused state of mind and none of the senior players were consulted by him; it seemed he has an unshared plan and somehow through some miracle of hope it would fall in place.

If the bowling was abysmally lost in the woods, the batting was a disgrace. In the modern game you rotate the strike, you pick the loose balls to put away, you make the bowling side work for your wicket and do everything to derail their plan. Azher Ali may well carry the statistic of a fifty to his name, but someone had to remind him its not a test match. Azhar Ali and Hafeez were schoolboys who somehow picked up the Pakistan colors and thought that was enough. Babar Azam, while talented cannot fall into the trap of lauding on past innings, he has to play his role with professionalism and not just hope.

Was the target achievable? With a game plan, yes, with application and a positive approach yes. So what was missing? Perhaps the decision to bowl got to the team as it baffled everyone else. India planned it clearly that given the weather DLS would come into play and all India needed to do was get to 20 overs with a 130 odd score with no loss. We all know with each over lost the DLS system works against you if the side batting first has put up a decent score with no wickets lost.

Pakistan cricket needs dependability and this means just like we know Amir will get 7 to 8 of his 10 overs in at a good economy rate and apply pressure, we cannot be sure of any of the other 10 players. We can not even depend on them to field the ball or take a simple catch. There has to be a thought process behind the game, who does what and when, and when things are not going to plan what is plan B and Plan C.

Yes not playing cricket at home can be part of the problem, but strategy and approach are not bred on the grounds on Gaddafi Stadium, this is common sense and it would seem that is pretty uncommon with the people who manage cricket in Pakistan. In some sense our losses are put down to the one excuse, we do not get to play on home grounds! Pray tell me what will the dead pitches of Karachi and Lahore teach you to handle conditions in Australia or England? Indeed its not easier to prepare the domestic talent without cricket at home, but there is a domestic league and till the security situation is not seriously improved one has to make do with the resources we have. Nay not make do, but to approach the game with a modern mind set.

Yes the Champions Trophy is a tough battle and Pakistan cannot get anywhere if their approach does not change towards the remaining matches. This means some major chats with key players, it also means axing some players and getting a strategy in place not only for each game but each phase of each game.

Hope will not win matches, talent alone will only give you flashes of individual brilliance, but a team focused on a plan and true teamwork where all departments of the game change. We know making changes midway in a tournament are not recommended but then desperate times need desperate measures.

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