By: Omair Alavi Pakistan Cricket team surprised even themselves when they managed to reach the semi-final of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017, by defeating Sri Lanka in the all-important final league match. Sadly, the encounter confirmed what the pundits have been saying all along – in order for Pakistan to win, the other team must...
By: Omair Alavi
Pakistan Cricket team surprised even themselves when they managed to reach the semi-final of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017, by defeating Sri Lanka in the all-important final league match. Sadly, the encounter confirmed what the pundits have been saying all along – in order for Pakistan to win, the other team must play like Pakistan. That’s exactly what happened when Sri Lanka managed to stun all with pathetic fielding that can only be associated with the 8th ranked team in the world. It was they who played for a ride to the airport, leaving Sarfraz and Amir guide Pakistan to the next round.
What really is the problem with Pakistan team and why are all the fans angry, despite the team’s qualification for the semi-final stage? The answer to these queries is clear to every Pakistan who sadly has better knowledge of the game than those at the helm. Except for the friends and family of Wahab Riaz, every other cricket follower wanted him out of the squad yet he was in the final XI and Junaid Khan wasn’t, despite taking 4 wickets in the warm-up match.
Similarly, Mohammed Hafeez can’t make it to the final 15 on his current form yet in Pakistan, he is batting at the coveted number 4 position. Ahmed Shehzad should have been dropped two years back and never recalled yet he was the main opening batsman when the team left for England. Imad Wasim doesn’t turn the ball, is miserable with the bat yet believes that he is Sarfraz’s successor when Sarfraz himself is new to the throne. Even Shoaib Malik and Babar Azam who have been doing well in last couple of years need to gear up and deliver, rather than their ‘could have done better’ innings.
Surprisingly, these usual suspects were the people who let the captain down while chasing just 237 runs to win. Azhar Ali’s slow batting at the top ruined the good work by Fakhar Zaman, playing just his second match. Babar Azam’s dismissal brought pressure on others which was further increased when Hafeez hit the ball straight into the hands of the fielder. No one I know was unhappy over his departure except for a few who saw it as a loss of one important wicket. Shoaib Malik couldn’t make his 250th match memorable as he followed the Ijaz Ahmed route and left without doing much.
The ones who did matter were Sarfraz Ahmed who made his debut nearly a decade after Shoaib Malik, newcomer Faheem Ashraf who wasn’t part of Mickey Arthur’s planning until yesterday and Mohammad Amir who is often criticized for his involvement in spot fixing scandal. Interestingly, it was the same England where he was sentenced to prison time when Amir redeemed himself – first with the ball and later with the bat. He reminded his seniors that the best way to bat is use your brain rather than create divisions in the dressing room, something Hafeez and Co. are so good at, thanks to their ‘mentors’ Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Yousuf.
As a cricket enthusiast, I can’t expect sane decisions from the worst coach on the planet – he ruined Australia when he was at the helm, hasn’t been able to achieve anything concrete as part of Karachi Kings and his biggest contribution with Pakistan remains backing Wahab Riaz and Gang who deserve to be out of the squad, not in it. However, most Pakistanis want the team management to try Haris Sohail instead of Mohammad Hafeez in the semis; open the innings with either Babar Azam so that Azhar Ali can do a Hafeez down the order, promote Shoaib Malik to number 3 and make him bowl as well, and/or either drop Imad Wasim for Shadab Khan or send him at number 11 which seems to be his ideal batting position. The undefeated English side is not going to be easy in the semi-final on June 14th, as they play the modern game compared to our 1980s style of cricket. Sarfraz must drop those who don’t want to help him succeed and get youngsters onboard who can improve with the passage of time, not waste time with those who have not improved after more than 150 matches.