When Bilawal Bhatti and Anwar Ali blasted those runs in a late order partnership that took Pakistan to a score unimaginable when seven wickets were down for 131 in the opening ODI, they also blasted the myth created by some that there is no talent in Pakistan and that what you see is what you are, and will be, getting.
I have long been opposed to this excuse, rather innuendo, on the part of PCB and their influencers, both inside the team and outside. "Talent is finished in Pakistan" they would say. "Our domestic system is too flawed to create batsmen and bowlers who can impress, even compete, at world level" would go the argument for continuing with the current, miserably failing lot. My belief has been that since talent is God given, no human should deliver such a sweeping statement.
Just take a look at Sohaib Maqsood. After quite a long time I have seen a batsman middle the ball with such consistency and display a calm but innately aggressive attitude to fast bowling. The eyes had become sore watching the helpless dangling of the bat to the outgoing ball, hoping against hope that one would stick. The next hope would be that it would dodge the slips somehow and get that freakish four.
These are just the newcomers. Ahmed Shehzad and Junaid Khan have proved that their inexplicable sporadic absence from the one-day squads was a mistake if not part of the nefarious design of those who wanted to push in their half baked lot into the side.
These people have long gone berserk in their malice aimed at nothing else but self or friends gratification. They could launch their own version of ‘Friends’ episodes, except it would be the complete opposite genre of the hit series; more on the lines of Mad Men, with all its manipulation, greed and self serving.
But I would like to go on record that although Sohaib, Bhatti and Anwar have impressed as allrounders, they will soon have their bad day. There was a little hint of that in Bilawal’s bowling figures in the second ODI. The reason is that when new players come to the game at this level, the opposing team does not have their strengths and weaknesses analyzed due to no prior TV coverage. Analysts all over the world will have become very active from last Monday, spending hours putting up wagon wheels of their strokemaking to their favourite shots; and from homing in on the line and length where they are difficult to play to how they grip the ball when they take their wickets.
By the end of this series the coaches of all major teams will be getting a briefing from these analysts and eventually the players will be made aware of it. By the time they come back to the field again, say against Sri Lanka, the batsmen and bowlers will be better prepared to counter their strengths and exploit their weaknesses.
That is not to say that we are in for disappointment again; in fact quite the opposite. Our analysts and team coach should sit down with these three and analyse them the same way. The staff should inform them of, and prepare them for, their weak links. And help them improve before the opposition exploits them.
I say this because this is the reason a lot of talent has fallen by the wayside over the years. Whenever a youngster comes up and performs, he is mostly left on his own to take it from there. This occurs either out of nastiness or absolute indifference. The former happens because the captain’s or coach’s favourite is under threat to lose his place, and the latter because the support staff just do not know how to do their job; even worse, because they have no interest in carrying out their role.
As of now the wheels will be churning in the camps of 2-3 old timers as to how to get rid of this challenge to their positions. If you remember, Zulqarnain was sent back from the England tour after he got a fine 88 on Test debut after Kamran Akmal had been sat down due to atrocious wicketkeeping. Immediately after that his finger was bandaged up and he was put on the plane home. No replacement was asked for. It was pathetic that no one from the PCB asked the team management if they had taken their sanity pills. I mean, if you damage a finger, which by the way Zulqarnain denied, you are not a gone case, especially with the ODI series coming up in a couple of weeks. Sure enough Kamran Akmal was rushed back into the side and stayed there all the way to the 2011 World Cup when he bizarrely kept dropping the best batsman on the opposing side, and birthday boy Ross Taylor twice in an over.
The compromise, it appeared, was that he would vacate his place if brother Adnan was given the job rather than Sarfraz Ahmed. Now it is Umar, though I am actually in favour of this move. I may not like his attitude and commitment, but the strategy is the right one to take. It allows for an extra batsman and bowler just like Gilchrist did for the Australian team. In just say that Umar has to be sat down and talked to again and again. He is tremendous talent, just needs to be handled better than Shahid Afridi was. He must be made to work long hours on improving his keeping and made to realize his importance to the team.
For the moment however, lets rejoice in the talent that has broken through the cocoon. Let it be said this is the tip of the iceberg, and that more talent all across the country, from urban centres to rural backdrops is waiting to be discovered and nurtured. After Wasim Akram, could we have imagined a better death over than what Junaid delivered? Pakistan’s got talent my friends.