Pakistan still doing lab tests

February 22, 2015

The players who are erring repeatedly need to be told that the game is bigger than them and that success in the World Cup comes second to maintaining the image of Pakistan cricket and its standing

Pakistan still doing lab tests

What could have been worse than Pakistan losing to India in the manner that they did? Well, the fact that they deviated from a planned (or so we thought) strategy of playing specialists like Sarfraz Ahmed and Nasir Jamshed and instead opting to experiment in the very first game of the World Cup and that too against arch rivals India who have a special place when it comes to warrior tales in cricket.

This is the second time under Waqar Younis that such a thinking has taken place before the first game of a World Cup. In 2003, I was covering the World Cup in South Africa and it was actually discussed in a team meeting on the eve of the game that to play an extra bowler, Rashid Latif could be sat down and the keeping entrusted with opener Taufeeq Umar. Waqar Younis was then the captain of the Pakistan side. Thankfully that thought had lasted a few minutes and to be fair to Waqar it was not clear where this had emanated from; it could have been him or it could have been someone else.

But the fact that a similar thought was actually decided upon on the eve of the game against India last Sunday shows that such mind boggling thinking has an affiliation when Waqar is in the room. And this time it eventually was implemented. And added on to that was another idea out of the hat.

First Umar Akmal was entrusted with the gloves and Sarfraz Ahmed stood down and then Younis Khan, already woefully out of form, was pushed up to open and the specialist opener Nasir Jamshed kept out. If Nasir had lasted a few balls in a warm up game after flying into Australia a day earlier Younis had been with the team for three weeks on this tour and failed in every game Pakistan played. Gutless of the tour selection committee to not drop Younis and play Nasir is all I can say.

What made worse sense was ignoring Sarfraz. If he hadn’t scored as many runs as the management was hoping and if he had failed to latch on to a couple of stumping chances did Waqar and Moin not realize that Umar Akmal was capable of doing worse against a spinner being a non-specialist? It could have been a decision they would have been justified in taking had Sarfraz kept badly in the opening couple of games but certainly not from the very first match.

They have totally shattered Sarfraz’s confidence level even before he has played a game, which he might need to at some stage considering the poor show by Akmal behind the stumps. In fact it is unfair on Akmal since 50 overs is a long time to go up and down 300-plus times and then bat or vice versa. Every wicketkeeper does it but either he is not a specialist batsman or does it day in, day out in international matches; in other words regular ‘keepers’ like Adam Gilchrist was or de Villiers is. But it is to be seen that the South African captain is not keeping in the 50 over format to keep himself fit for batting.

As I write a day before the match against West Indies, news has come in of Waqar admitting that sending Younis as opener proved to be a failure. But more worrying is that he hasn’t mentioned that asking Akmal to keep was also one. This means he is still under the impression that this is a good idea.

In my previous column last Sunday I had ventured to write as I have been writing for weeks that Younis Khan has to be left out of the limited-overs side to allow a bowler to come in and sending Sarfraz up to open. I still feel this is the best way to go.

What must trouble the PCB chairman back home, however, is news of unrest in some of the players or rather causing of it by some. PCB can deny as much as they want that there is nothing in the story of three players having an altercation with fielding coach Grant Luden but the fact of the matter is that something to the effect did take place. That it took PCB almost 48 hours to deny that nothing of the sort had happened shows that there is some substance in the news that broke last Tuesday.

I think the PCB have done the right thing by watering it down rather than taking overt disciplinary action. And if they have taken some action then full credit to them for keeping it within the four walls. Drastic action would be terrible at this stage. However, it has to be said that the players who are erring repeatedly need to be told that the game is bigger than them and that success in the World Cup comes second to maintaining the image of Pakistan cricket and its standing.

I’ve also been reading a comment by Mohammad Yousuf criticising Misbah-ul-Haq for not coming in at No.3 and for belittling his aggressive batting saying it is too little too late. I feel it is players like Yousuf that have been at the heart of team troubles when he was playing. I say this because when he was captain there were a lot of talk that he should bat higher up than his position in the middle order considering Pakistan were short of quality batsmen in the top three. But he always refused saying it was not his position and that the team needed him lower down. It is hypocritical now for him to demand that from Misbah.

More than that Inzamam-ul-Haq had also refused when the team needs demanded it; even before he was captain. In the 2003 World Cup he kept on refusing and when he was sent in one down against England lasted a ball or two. When he became captain and there was constant failure of whoever batted at No 3 he and Yousuf continued to bat at No.4 and 5 sending up debutants or less endowed batsmen. Where was Yousuf’s statement then that Inzi should step up and take responsibility?

It is sad that people who demand to be called legends utter such statements and reveal the smallness of their hearts. Yousuf was such a delight to watch as a batsman and so immensely gifted that it hurts more. He has every right to offer options but not condemn something he had refused to do himself when it was the call of the hour.

Pakistan still doing lab tests