One-day International cricket is a format that demands a delicate balance between batting and bowling.
In the batting department, the role of power hitters has evolved to become more important than ever before. Power hitters are the game-changers, the ones who can turn the tide of a match in a matter of a few overs.
One of the primary reasons power hitters are vital in ODI cricket is their ability to accelerate the run rate, especially in the first power play and in the death overs. Their explosive batting style ensures that the scoreboard keeps ticking, putting pressure on the opposition and forcing them to alter their bowling strategies.
Power hitters complement the classical batsmen and stabilisers by bringing an aggressive element to the lineup. Their presence ensures that even if the top order fails, the team has the capability to recover and post a competitive total. This balance in the batting order is crucial for a team’s resilience.
Powerplay overs are ones during which only a limited number of fielders are allowed outside the 30-yard circle. Power hitters take advantage of these fielding restrictions by going after the bowlers. They can clear the in-field with ease, ensuring that the team maximises its runs during this period. Their aggressive approach puts the opposition on the back foot right from the start.
The presence of power hitters in the lineup forces the opposition to rethink their bowling strategy. Bowlers have to be more cautious with their line and length, and they often resort to slower deliveries and variations to contain these aggressive batsmen. This, in turn, opens up opportunities for other batsmen in the team to capitalise on the bowlers’ changing tactics.
The Pakistan cricket team is the most unpredictable side in the world. One day it looks the world beater but the other day its performance could be below par.
Many cricketing nations have successfully developed power hitters who can consistently clear the boundaries, but Pakistan has often found itself lagging behind in this aspect.
One of the primary reasons behind Pakistan’s inability to produce power hitters is the deeply rooted traditional cricket culture. Pakistan has a rich history of producing classical batsmen who prioritise technique and shot selection over brute force. Young cricketers in Pakistan are often taught to play with finesse and rely on timing rather than muscle.
In the last few years the Pakistani cricket team has performed relatively better in all formats of the game. It is somewhat perplexing that a team doing well in the shortest and the longest formats of the game often comes up short in a format that falls in between. But in a world with many unexplainable phenomenons, failure usually follows a pattern.
Like other players, the form and confidence of Pakistani openers can fluctuate over time, affecting their ability to score quickly. A player in good form and high confidence is more likely to play aggressively.
The real problem for the Pakistan cricket team in the ODI format in recent times has been the shortage of power hitters, especially in the beginning of the innings.
Our openers Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq cannot hit big shots. If Pakistan needs to chase over 300 runs, both don’t have the ability to score at 6-7 runs per over in the first power-play.
In the World Cup, the batting department looks heavily reliant on out-of-form openers.
The Asia Cup has not been a good tournament for Fakhar Zaman. Since 2018, he has played 9 ODI matches in the Asia Cup, scoring only 117 runs, averaging just 14.62 with a high score of 31. His strike rate drops to 61.25 in Asia Cup from a career strike rate of over 92.
The Pakistani fans did not have much to celebrate as they saw their side get hammered in the ongoing Asia Cup by the arch-rivals India. Pakistan, who are ranked number 1 in ICC ODI team rankings, lost to India in a horrible way.
Against India, an embarrassing top order collapse was followed by a painful middle order resurrection, before an eventual lower order disintegration.
Amongst the many follies of Pakistan cricket, it is the imbalanced flow of energy in an ODI innings that catches the naked eye of millions of observers. A typical Pakistani innings crashes before it takes off.
Pakistanis are well aware of the batting shortcomings of the Greenshirts, especially in the early overs. It should be admitted that the national side is in desperate need of power hitters. Power hitting like other aspects of cricket also requires use of technique and a lot of practice.
Pakistan team needs some explosive players like Shahid Afridi who was known for his six-hitting ability. When on song, he could rip apart the opposition bowling. His career strike rate of 154.21 was incredible.
Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan all are good batsmen but none of them is a clean power hitter.
In the top order, Pakistan needs players like Jos Buttler, Alex Hales, Quinton de Kock, Rohit Sharma and Martin Guptill who score 6-7 runs in the power play.
Pakistan’s coaching infrastructure has also faced criticism for its inability to nurture power hitters. While there are skilled coaches in the country, there is a shortage of coaches who specialise in teaching power hitting techniques. The lack of modern facilities and equipment for power-hitting practice further exacerbates the problem.
In a cricketing culture that values stability and consistency, young Pakistani players often fear the consequences of attempting power-hitting. This fear of failure can lead to a risk-averse approach, where players are reluctant to take the necessary risks associated with power hitting, even in T20 matches.
While Pakistan has a rich cricketing heritage and a history of producing world-class cricketers, the lack of power hitters in the national team is a glaring weakness in the modern game.
To address this issue, Pakistan needs to embrace the changing dynamics of cricket, invest in coaching infrastructure for power hitting, and provide young cricketers the confidence and opportunities to develop their power-hitting skills. Only then can Pakistan hope to compete on equal footing with other cricketing nations in the era of power-hitting dominance.
NOTE: statistics are updated till Pakistan vs India, Super IV stage.