If the openers fail to score quickly and the middle-order lacks power-hitters, you can't expect to win T20 matches
T20 is an intense form of cricket which provides high-level entertainment to the viewers: those who go to stadiums or those who watch matches on TV.
The recently concluded Asia Cup in the UAE enthralled the audience with entertaining games. Most people were eagerly waiting to witness Pakistan and Indian clashes. Most of the cricket pundits predicted Pakistan and India facing each other in the final but Siri Lanka spoiled the show on September 6 by defeating India by 6 wickets in a cliffhanger.
The fit and focused Sri Lankans not only qualified for the final but also convincingly defeated Pakistan in the final.
The final was full of surprises and mistakes committed by the losing team which are difficult to digest for any professional with a keen eye.
The most important batting slot of one down was occupied by out-of-form Fakhar Zaman. The team captain and the management persisted with Fakhah, hoping that he would deliver under pressure. It never happened.
In a total of six matches, Fakhar scored 96 runs at an average of 16, hitting only two sixes. The other major batting failure was that of Captain Babar Azam. He scored only 68 runs in six matches, at an average of 11.33.
It's beyond my understanding why the Pakistan captain and management never gave a chance to Haider Ali. Not only did Pakistan continue with two out-of-form batsmen at the top but they also wasted the vital overs in power play.
T20, the shortest format of game, gives no breathing space to the unprepared, the out of form, those not willing to give their 100 percent in every department of the game. In the absence of the right kind of batting combination and available players on bench Pakistan were banking on their much-talked about bowling attack.
Nawaz, Shadab and Haris Rauf were the pick of Pakistani bowlers who took eight wickets each in six matches while speed sensation Naseem Shah in the absence of injured Shaheen Shah Afridi took seven wickets in six matches, averaging 19.12.
I also fail to understand why a seasoned campaigner like Babar preferred Iftikhar over Nawaz and didn't bring Naseem back in the attack when the chips were down on the Sri Lankan team, thus failing to tighten the noose and going for the ultimate kill.
Coming to the strategy part of T20, every bowler gets only four overs to prove his worth and every top batsman gets around four overs (24 legal balls each) to make his impact on the outcome of the game. Most smart team captains approach the game tactically by planning and approaching the game on the basis of a four overs approach.
A careful analysis of the last three matches played by Pakistan in the Asia Cup, two against Sri Lanka and one against Afghanistan, brings out the flaws in planning and execution and leadership. If Pakistan cricket is a bunch of professionals, then the management can't always get away on the plea that Pakistan is the most unpredictable team yet most talented that can outplay its opponent on any given day.
The England T20 series is perhaps the last chance for Pakistan to come out with a winning combination before the start of the T20 World Cup in Australia where Pakistan will face India in the opening match on October 23.
Let's not be overjoyed with our exuberant performance against teams like Hong Kong or the win over India. Pakistan cricket needs an explosive opening pair capable of exploiting field restrictions in the first power play. We need a solid one down batsman capable of steering Pakistan out of danger in case the first wicket falls quickly and the most suitable batsman at this slot is Babar Azam himself.
The team needs serious sole searching in the department of fielding and has to find good power hitters in the middle order. The team also lacks quality bowling all-rounders and a good reserve wicket-keeper who can bat up in the order in case Rizwan gets injured.
The time is running out for Pakistan. We hope that the PCB will take necessary measures by giving adequate chances to deserving players against England in the home series and even try alternative leadership so that Babar could focus on his batting and regain his confidence before taking over the all-important assignment in Australia.