Still looking for right combination

May 5, 2024

While many other nations have announced their squads for the T20 World Cup, Pakistan continue to experiment with different combinations

Still looking for right combination

Pakistan cricket team avoided an embarrassing T20I series defeat against an inexperienced New Zealand team. The Green-shirts clinched a 9-run win in the fifth T20I to level the series 2-2.

In the second T20I, when the young New Zealand team was bowled out on just 90 runs and Pakistan won the game quite convincingly by 7 wickets in the 13th over, it was looking like a one-sided series.

But in the next two games, the Kiwis shocked not only the home side but the experts and took an unassailable lead of 2-1.

The back-to-back defeats against the young and inexperienced New Zealand team in the 3rd and 4th T20I sounded the alarm bells for the Pakistan team, especially when the T20 World Cup is just one month away.

The talent that surfaced in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 9th edition has so far not been able to steal the spotlight in international cricket.

Youngsters have lots of talent but don’t have the temperament of international matches even against an inexperienced side on their home soil.

Usman Khan disappointed the management and fans. He scored only 59 runs in four innings with the average of 14.75 with the best score of 31.

Usman was the second most successful batsman after Babar Azam in the Pakistan Super League ninth edition with 430 runs in 7 matches while playing for Multan Sultan. He scored two centuries and two fifties. His average was 107.50 and the strike rate 164.12. But against an international side, he failed to deliver.

Opener Saim Ayub was another failure. He got full opportunity in the series, playing all matches as an opener, but managed only 57 runs in four innings, averaging just 14.25. His highest score in the series was 32.

Saim was the fifth successful batsman in the PSL-9 with 345 runs at average of 31.36 and a strike rate 157.53 with the help of two half-centuries, but when given a chance on the international circuit, he disappointed.

Veteran batsman Iftikhar Ahmed also failed to deliver as he managed only 31 runs in three innings with a high score of 23, averaging 15.5 with a strike rate of only 100.

New Zealand batsman Mark Champman was the top scorer of the T20I series with 126 runs in five innings, averaging 42 with a high strike rate of 159.49 with the help of one half-century.

From Pakistan, Babar scored most 125 runs with the average of 31.25 in four innings including one fifty.

On the bowling side, Man-of-the-Series, Shaheen Shah Afridi, took most eight wickets in the series, averaging just 10 per wicket.

From the visitors, William Peter O’Rourke and Inderbir Singh Sodhi got three wickets each with the average of 21.25 and 23.5, respectively.

During the fifth T20I, Babar employed eight bowlers in a game — this had never before happened in the history of T20 cricket.

New Zealand, England and India have already announced their squads for the T20 World Cup, but we are still in search of the right combination.

One area of concern for Pakistan is hitting sixes. Pakistan is among the bottom three when it comes to hitting sixes. In 46 games, they have hit 229 sixes, averaging 4.98 sixes per match.

To post a handsome score on the board, scoring runs above the strike rate of 140 is necessary in modern-day cricket.

In the high-octane world of T20 International cricket, where sixes are seemingly a prerequisite for success, Pakistani batsmen have often found themselves lagging behind their international counterparts when it comes to hitting sixes. Despite possessing immense talent and flair, the inability of Pakistani batsmen to clear the ropes consistently remains a puzzle.

Psychological factors such as risk aversion and fear of failure could also play a role. Pakistani batsmen may feel additional pressure to anchor their innings rather than playing aggressively, fearing repercussions for perceived recklessness. This mindset could inhibit their freedom to play expansive shots.

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.

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.

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.

The nature of pitches in Pakistan differs significantly from those in other cricketing nations. Pakistani pitches, particularly in domestic circuits, tend to be slower and lower, making it challenging for batsmen to generate the necessary power to clear the boundary ropes with ease. This lack of familiarity with bouncy tracks often hampers their ability to adapt quickly when playing on pitches abroad, where the ball comes onto the bat more readily.

In Indian Premier League (IPL) ongoing edition teams crossed over 240 runs more than 10 times while a few of them chased such totals.

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.

Still looking for right combination