World Cup 2007 February 11, 2007

A squad to lift the cup

Pakistan's performance today was of a team with nothing to fight for

Pakistan's performance today was of a team with nothing to fight for. It was the kind of effort--a complacent one--you might have feared the day after the World Cup squad is announced not two days before it. The batsmen played with a bizarre timidity and lack of application that left the bowlers nothing to defend. The pitch was not the minefield that Pakistan seemed to be imagining it to be. Of course, South Africa bowled and fielded magnificently but that is the kind of fielding effort that needs to be overcome to win the World Cup.

If Pakistan's selectors were seeking some kind of signal as to what to do they didn't get it. Instead, what is clear is that with a month to go before the World Cup, Pakistan have problems. And the main one is this: while Pakistan teams are known for their unpredictability, the performance of this group of players fluctuates so wildly that it is hard to imagine how they could put together a consistent enough run to lift the trophy. Wind back to 1992 or 1999 and Pakistan teams might have come a cropper here and there leading up to the World Cup but they were able to put together sequences of victories that made them genuine challengers.

One reason for this current pattern though is the dramatic variation in personnel through injury. Any success that Woolmer and Inzy have had was forged through consistency of selection but this South African tour has been a joke with players shuttling between South Africa and Pakistan as if it were a commuter trip.

What to do? Well some players pick themselves. The middle order of Inzy, Yousuf, and Younis is set in stone. Kamran Akmal has to be persevered with, it's too late to change now--and the strategy of him opening could be a spectacular triumph in the Caribbean. Mohammad Asif, Shoaib Akhtar and Umar Gul are the first line of pace attack. Of the all rounders Shoaib Malik, Abdul Razzaq, and Shahid Afridi are the late-order attackers that Pakistan's strategy hinges on.

That leaves five places to discuss amid the consideration that West Indian pitches will smell like the sweet grass of home to Pakistan's players. On that basis, I'd back Imran Nazir and Mohammad Hafeez as two of three possible openers (along with Kamran Akmal). The pace attack will need back up, which means Sami, Rana, and Azhar fighting for two places. I'd go for Sami's extra pace and Azhar's all round ability. That leaves one place for a spinner and despite today's outing, Abdur Rehman showed enough in the home series against West Indies to win the spot.

There might be a case for others like Salman Butt, Yasir Hameed, Yasir Arafat, and Danish Kaneria but if they are real contenders they should have been out here getting ready.

If this squad of players is fit and Pakistan can gel, they have a chance. Nobody, though, expected this level of unpredictability so close to the World Cup. But when it comes to Pakistan cricket, the next tournament can be a very different story. It needs to be.

(And yes, squads and XIs are allowed on this thread).

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

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  • testli5504537 on February 18, 2007, 18:27 GMT

    Ok Pakistan has made a couple of mistakes by not including Azhar Mahmood, Mushtaq Ahmed, and Yasir Hameed in the 15 going to the world cup and by not giving a chance or considering some young players playing in Pakistan who have performed really well on the domestic level by giving them a chance to prove themselves on the international stage, but nothing can be done about that now… its tough luck for us, but what we can do is work out a combination which can work for us with the players who have been sent off to play.

    With Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammed Asif, and Danish Kaneria all of whom are match winners and with the addition of Umar Gul in the team there is no problem at all in the bowling department giving that these players are injury free and able to actually play in the World Cup.

    The major problem however lies in the batting and the tendency of Pakistan to collapse, and this collapse is normally triggered off when both of the opening batsman fail! So we need to work out a opening combination which will work… then the middle order which is probably near the best in the world with Inzamam Ul Haq, Mohammed Yousaf, and Younis Khan.

    So the batting lineup which I have come out with which could be adjusted depending on the match situations eg) If Pakistan are 200-1 after 40 overs then Afridi should be sent in instead of a more defensive player…. but the ideal lineup against a top team is:

    1)Imran Nazir/Mohammed Hafeez (depending on who is performing out of the 2) 2)Younis Khan 3)Mohammed Yousaf 4)Inzamam Ul Haq 5)Shoaib Malik 6)Kamran Akmal 7)Shahid Afridi/Abdul Razzaq (depending on who is performing out of the 2) 8)Danish Kaneria 9)Umar Gul 10)Shoaib Akhtar 11)Mohammed Asif

    This lineup gives Imran Nazir and Hafeez competition and another reason to perform well so they are selected in the team… and knowing Pakistan there is no great opening batsman opening the inning like Saeed Anwar was so why not make Younis Khan opener as he is normally playing like a opener anyway because one of the openers gets out early and he is a good player who could give a could give a good foundation to build on. The lineup also has Afridi and Razzaq in competition for the same spot which will make them perform if both are performing and someone else isn’t, for example Shoaib Malik or Danish then replace them so there is always a competing place and this will give the drive for the players to perform. Razzaq seems like he thinks his place is semented in the team so he isn’t trying hard give him something to work for!!! In matches against the easier teams to prevent injury Ifthikar Anjum or Rana Naved should be played instead of Akhtar or Gul giving these 2 a smaller workload.

    My lineup has also got all the best bowlers in the world giving that these guys stay fit inshallah, with Akhtar and Asif opening and if Asif is bowling tightly he can even bowl through his overs, then Gul and Kaneria and Afridi/Razzaq/Malik/Hafeez bowling through the middle of the innings then at the end (last 10-12 overs or when a wicket is needed) with Akhtar and one of the other bowlers who have bowled well.

    From Mohammed Jafar Akram

  • testli5504537 on February 18, 2007, 7:25 GMT


  • testli5504537 on February 18, 2007, 7:21 GMT

    pak 11:

    1. S. Malik 2. S. Afridi 3. M. Yousuf 4. Y. Khan 5. I. Ul-Haq 6. K. Akmal 7. A. Razzak 8. A. Mahmood 9. M. Asif 10. D. Kaneria 11. S. Akthar

    12: U.Gul 13. I.Nazir 14. R. Naved 15. M. Hafeez

    And Imran Khan / Wasim Akram quickly taken in as coach and Bob Woolmer very quickly sent packing.

  • testli5504537 on February 17, 2007, 22:46 GMT

    I think that Pakistan should recall Salman Butt. He is terrific form in domestic cricket. He scored a 129 not out today and around 170 in the last innings of his teams first class match. He has much better technique than Mohammad Hafeez who has such a terrible average of only 20. Why is even in the team?

  • testli5504537 on February 17, 2007, 2:27 GMT

    I think Hafeez adds enough with his bowling and fielding to merit an opening slot, alongside Nazir who even though he is hit and miss, could relish the conditions in the Windies. Despite Hafeez not having a high strike rate, his technique is sound enough for him to act as the anchor whilst others attack around him.

    Shoaib Malik should not open the innings as he is not technically sound enough to face the new ball. He played well in the SA series in the middle order, despite the fact his innings came only once the matches had been lost. He reads situations well and is an asset later in the innings whether we need to consolidate or accelerate.

    The one player who is overdue being dropped is Razzaq. Both his batting and bowling lack any thought or application. How this guy has represented Pakistan on so many occasions dumbfounds me when we probably have hundreds of cricketers in Pakistan who would show more passion when representing their country.

    The worry for me is how Younis seems to gift his wicket away on too many occasions and Inzi’s lack of form. I also agree with previous comments that Inzi needs to bat higher.

    Bowling wise I think if Asif continues his good form and Gul can overcome his injury to regain the form he showed in 2006, we should be well placed. Akhtar is a big match player and if he can overcome his difficulties with Woolmer etc. (at least for a few weeks) then that is a formidable pace line-up. Aided by Kaneria, Hafeez and Malik in the spin department, we should do well insha’Allah.

    I think the team for the opening match should read:

    1. Nazir 2. Hafeez 3. Younis 4. Yousaf 5. Inzamam 6. Malik 7. Akmal 8. Akhtar 9. Gul 10. Kaneria 11. Asif

    To all those posting their comments on this blog, it is only our dua’s that will propel Pakistan to victory. Also, if we don’t manage to succeed then remember - there is more to life than cricket.

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