World Cup 2007 February 27, 2007

Road to Jamaica 2: The all-rounders

All-rounders were meant to be a topic for discussion later but Abdul Razzaq's injury has thrust them to the heart of the debate

All-rounders were meant to be a topic for discussion later but Abdul Razzaq's injury has thrust them to the heart of the debate. Pakistan's strategy is built around their all-rounders, and they have plenty of them. Shahid Afridi, Abdul Razzaq, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez, and now Azhar Mahmood, can all blow hot or cold. One day they are true all-rounders, the next they are dismissed as mere bits-and-pieces players.

Afridi and Razzaq have the added element of being super-explosive hitters, and my view is that Razzaq can be a vital ingredient in the last ten overs, when Pakistan often aim to score over 100 runs. Pakistan will miss him. Could he have been sent to the Caribbean and withdrawn in a couple of weeks if he had not improved?

In any case, Razzaq's loss is Azhar's gain. The Surrey all-rounder has been mistreated by the PCB, ever since, in fact, he gave me a commendably frank interview for Cricinfo. Azhar's bowling is a stronger suit than Razzaq's. He can also be an explosive hitter, but Razzaq is extra-special in that regard.

But the question is whether or not Malik and Hafeez can step up and provide the Pakistan batting with some solidity? In addition, Hafeez's one-day bowling form is impressive although Inzamam has tended to underuse him.

More than the rest, though, Afridi can be a talisman. His bowling form is good enough for him to be selected on that alone--and a wise coach and a smart captain will use that to take the pressure off him. But when his batting comes off, he wins matches. Now that may not happen enough for many people's liking but Afridi has hit rich veins of form in the past. Can he do it in a World Cup? If he hits straight and true, like he did memorably in Chennai, he could emerge as a true champion rather than a breaker of hearts. On this one, you all know, I'm with Boom Boom. Let's hope he doesn't boom out.

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

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