Openers November 18, 2006

All right now for Pakistan's openers

The opening slot has been Pakistan's most troublesome, and in the recent past has been hogged by a series of left-handers, the legacy of watching Saeed Anwar and Brian Lara

The opening slot has been Pakistan's most troublesome, and in the recent past has been hogged by a series of left-handers, the legacy of watching Saeed Anwar and Brian Lara. Unfortunately for Pakistan, no left-hander has hinted at permanency. Salman Butt has lots of time to play his shots. Taufeeq Umar is sometimes capable of great application. And Imran Farhat looks the most accomplished--but only before he gets anywher near the crease for an international match. The failure of openers has been held as the biggest failure of Bob Woolmer. The reasons are complex. There is plentiful ability but inadequate learning. Cricket, as we all know, is a game of the mind as much as it is a game of hand and eye. It may be time for the rule of the left to give way to the might of the right.

One half of the problem, at least, looks to be solved. Mohammad Hafeez has been impressive and influential since his return to international cricket and has quickly established himself as the more secure of Pakistan's openers. Hafeez has shown the right attitude, a willingness to scrap when he needs to.

This strength of Hafeez has been a failing of Imran. Pakistan's most frequent opener is an impressive and stylish cricketer. He has an astonishing array of attacking strokes with which he can seize the initiative in a trice. But he can lose it just as quickly. Imran is only ever a moment away from madness. He has squandered a glorious start too often with a needless swish or a hopeless swipe.

Perhaps the sad conclusion is that this talented young man does not have the right mindset for international cricket. Whether he plays at Multan or not, Imran must be running out of chances. The return of Yasir Hameed is imminent. A right-handed opening combination of the two Hs, Hafeez and Hameed, is the one Pakistan must try out quickly. It is one that could do the job in both forms of cricket. Yasir's aggression might well compliment Hafeez's application.

The question, of course, is whether or not Yasir Hameed can return as impressively as Mohammad Hafeez? We need to find out sooner rather than later.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

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