Zimbabwe cornered but Indians keep PCB guessing

October 4, 2015

A slight worry going into the World Twenty20 championship in India next year is Shahid Afridi. He has been failing constantly and in the last two games he took no wickets and scored next to no runs

Zimbabwe cornered but Indians keep PCB guessing

Pakistan did the Houdini act again and got out of a difficult situation not once but twice in the T20 International games against Zimbabwe but the question remains: should they be winning this way every time? How long will their luck last?

To be fair to them it was a somewhat difficult pitch to bat on and criticism of their batting may be a trifle unfair. The ball was not coming on to the bat and if we recall the games Zimbabwe played in Pakistan on flat tracks their batting too was far below that this time.

That shouldn’t take away from the bowling on both sides, especially from young Imad Wasim, who has certainly cemented his place in the side. He is the all-rounder we have been looking for in this format to replace the aging Afridi though he seems far more reliable in batting than the captain ever was. With Malik back in form, at least against the lesser bowling attacks, and Anwar Ali primed to return after his injury, Pakistan seem well placed in the lower middle order.

A slight worry going into the World Twenty20 championship in India next year is Shahid Afridi. He has been failing constantly though there should be no danger of him bowing out of the side prior to the eagerly-awaited tournament. In the two games he took no wickets and scored next to no runs. As a captain he can be inspiring and has the effect of rallying his side in difficult situations as Imran Khan used to do when he was leading Pakistan but he most score and take wickets if stress is to be lifted from the lower order and other bowlers.

Afridi has never been the one to reflect too much on his own failings but there does come a time when he should and work on what is tying him down. A captain no matter how inspiring needs to lead by example and especially his bowling is vital; even in a T20 format you need wickets to put the pressure on.

While on bowling it has to be said that Imran Khan Jr. did what was expected of him especially the last over he bowled in the first game where a combination of very slow balls, low and slow full tosses and dippers combined to give only two runs, something rare for a last over in a T20 game at any level.

The question has also arisen: What is the future for Mohammad Hafeez in the T20 team? With his bowling banned he has to earn a place in the side simply on his batting prowess, which is average when it comes to T20. He can’t force the pace as much as the guys waiting in line or those who already have a boot in like Imad and Rizwan.

In fact I was surprised he was included in the T20 side considering who we had. Certainly Mukhtar should not have been dropped for the second game to allow Hafeez back in. We need to give this youngster a lot of confidence  and even if he has to dropped we should try another equally aggressive batsman rather than Hafeez who despite effort takes time to get going and hasn’t been scoring runs in this format considering he bats in the top order.

Rafatullah Mohmand should have been sent to Zimbabwe maybe in place of Hafeez or Ahmed Shahzad who should have been rested from this tour. Even if we take the regulars, our top six should read Shahzad, Mukhtar, Sarfraz, Sohaib Maqsood/Umar Akmal, Malik and Rizwan with Imad, Afridi and Anwar Ali to follow and not necessarily in that order. That leaves space for another two bowlers which allows for six overall in the side.

The ODI squad too should read like this with Azhar Ali stepping in for Mukhtar. Now tell me where Hafeez fits in as a specialist batsman, unless Maqsood gets injured again. In fact it is worth taking a risk with petulant Umar Akmal again in the longer of limited-over formats rather than continue with Hafeez who nevertheless holds his place in Tests where he can bide his time to score.

Talking about biding time the PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan keeps oscillating between we-can-do-without India and we-want-India-to-play statements. At least his constant rant on the situation has brought forth a statement from BCCI that they will discuss with him the situation in the ICC meeting in Dubai in second week of this month. Which is a clever way to get out of giving a yes or no in writing as PCB had demanded. They can now dither in their reply again and all in verbal unless Shaharyar demands that whatever they say in Dubai is sent to him in writing which would be only fair to Pakistan.

But ever since this situation began PCB has been putting their foot in their mouth and the latest example of this came when Shaharyar threatened to not play India in the ICC tournaments. That shows the low level of maturity and the lack of understanding of how international cricket works. As expected BCCI laughed their way through the threat and rightfully said that they would leave ICC to deal with PCB.

I don’t know who it was who advised the chairman to issue such a ludicrous statement. If Pakistan don’t play India in an ICC tournament like the Champions Trophy, World Twenty20 or Cricket World Cup, India would firstly win a walkover, secondly Pakistan would be asked to pay for all the losses the broadcasters would incur for the match not being screened and third, would be penalized even in the shape of being banned from a future tournament for such a politicized move.

Such a threat has not just embarrassed the cricketing fraternity in Pakistan it totally contradicts what PCB keeps saying and that is that we can do without India. I think that BCCI keeps the PCB on tenterhooks only to toy with them and have a few laughs every other week on how the chairman is reacting to every development or rather the lack of it. We have certainly become a laughing stock on the world stage with this issue of the Indian series.

Zimbabwe cornered but Indians keep PCB guessing