The defeat from Bangladesh has shaken Waqar to the extent that a man known for his ego and arrogance has melted into saying that Pakistan cricket is in trouble
It has been a mixed week for Pakistan cricket though it seems the bad has been more overwhelming than the good. As someone pointed out Waqar has the dubious honour of being the only Pakistani cricketer to have participated in both the first and the latest defeat, first as a player and now as a coach. As it has turned out it has been worse. It’s been their first series loss; in fact a whitewash.
And it has been emphatic with Bangladesh finishing off Pakistan with plenty of wickets and overs or runs to spare in each of the three ODIs. Their batsmen toyed with our bowling, hitting and placing at will while their bowlers outwitted our batsmen. Significantly, they have shown a far greater maturity compared to not just our players but our coaching staff.
The defeat has shaken Waqar to the extent that a man known for his ego and arrogance has melted into saying that Pakistan cricket is in trouble.
Those with more detached, patriotic and sensible minds have been saying that since he was sacked as player and captain after the 2003 World Cup. As I have written before, the seeds for disaster were sowed then; a double blow with first legendary cricketers being shown the door and second the realization that they had prepared no substitutes like Imran had by the time he retired.
But positives first. They may be the lowest ranked ODI team among the Test playing nations but Zimbabwe’s tour is nevertheless a groundbreaking one. It seems the Africans have a softer heart for us as Kenya toured last year. There is the downside within the upside though and that is that Karachi will not be hosting any of the matches as announced initially.
Both the Zimbabweans and the PCB want this to be a short in-and-out trip with the players barricaded in the surroundings of the Gaddafi Stadium by staying at the NCA hostel. This will probably rank as the world record for the shortest distance traveled locally between ‘hotel’ and ground by a touring team; in fact even a home team. I wonder if they’ll just walk and cross the road to enter Gaddafi Stadium or be taken in a coach in which case the players will hardly have time to get comfortable before they’re disembarking.
Another good news on the administrative front. There has been the announcement by Shaharyar Khan that in future the nominee to the ICC presidency (a ceremonial post) will be a high caliber cricketer. The sad part is that the post will come again to Pakistan in 2025 and that too if there are no additions to the 10 Test playing nations.
On the playing front the positives have been the success of Azhar Ali as an ODI batsman, going past 50 on captaincy debut and finishing with a hundred. He scored at an average of almost 70 and has maintained his ODI average of over 40 but has bettered his strike rate, scoring at 85 in the rubber. Where he slowed down temporarily was when wickets fell back to back and that is understandable. Nevertheless as a batsman he has taken more risks than Misbah would in such circumstances and has kept the scorecard moving.
He may have lacked some imagination in the field placing and bowling changes but then his bowlers let him down in all the three ODIs.
Another positive on the field has been the performance of the new entrants, since long knocking on the doors shut to them by the previous selectors. All of Rizwan, Saad Nasim and Sami Aslam had at least one good outing. What’s more they batted with confidence and displayed maturity.
Another pleasing aspect has been the development of Wahab Riaz as a batting prospect. He seems best poised to take the all rounder position vacated by Shahid Afridi. He needs more application though, which his dismissal in the third ODI proved.
Unfortunately the negatives, which may have been less, were admittedly dominant. Chief among them have been the fitness issues; Pakistani bowlers especially have fallen like flies. First Sohail Khan had to back out of the tour and now Ehsan Adil and Rahat Ali have pulled up midway through the tour. Is it a poor training technique or is it overabundance of hours spent while training. Remember, it was leaked during the World Cup that some players had complained of the length and intensity of the training sessions.
Even if justified did they take into account that this sudden surge was not on considering only two players, Misbah and Younus Khan, had passed the standards back in December?
Another negative from the ODI segment has been the performance (or rather lack of it) of Hafeez and Fawad Alam. Both were a risk to be played considering they already had Haris Sohail and Saad Nasim who play cautiously more than aggressively.
Considering Fawad at least deserved a recall, Saad Nasim should have made way in at least the first ODI; he couldn’t be dropped after his fine 77 in the second, so in the third Fawad should have been made to sit out.
Waqar has to walk the talk. If he feels that the Pakistani batsmen are playing too carefully then he has to send in more the sort of Sarfraz Ahmed in place of one of them.
It was therefore stupid of him to drop Sarfraz to make way for Sami Aslam. If he felt he wasn’t doing enough as opener (though two games are not enough to judge) then Sarfraz should have played in place of Fawad, who had seemed less confident.
Once again Waqar seems to have pounced on the opportunity to prove a point that he will never tire of proving: that Sarfraz is not an opener.
I had written before the start of the tour that this time Waqar is in the front line because he’s got his wishes of dropping Ahmed Shahzad and Umar Akmal and had Azhar Ali appointed as captain. He’s got a lot of answering to do.