World Cup 2007 March 13, 2007

Abandon hope? Not yet

While some of you may be tempted to suggest I eat my words, I suggest you hold your fire

While some of you may be tempted to suggest I eat my words, I suggest you hold your fire. There is a long way to go in this World Cup. West Indies put in an admirable team performance that exposed the holes in Pakistan's strategy, and they should go a long way in this tournament. But I'll say again--at the risk of getting lynched--there is only team that Pakistan don't have the skill to beat and that's Australia. Whether or not they can achieve what they are capable of is a different matter.

Much depends on how quickly Pakistan can learn from this defeat. In short, the bowling was good and the batting was bad. Here are some issues for Pakistan's brains trust, if I can call it that, to ponder:

1 Many of us expected a new opening strategy. That didn't happen, in which case why was there chopping and changing in the warm ups? Why persist with a strategy that keeps failing again and again?

2 Whoever opens, surely Mohammad Yousuf and Inzamam have to push up to number three and four? The batsmen managed to excuse their dismal performances in South Africa by blaming the bouncy tracks (when the tracks weren't as troublesome as they might have been). What's the excuse now?

3 Surprisingly Pakistan abandoned their long-term strategy of batting deep with all-rounders. Today, Pakistan's tail stretched from number 8 to 11. Why this sudden change?

4 Rana's performances have become an embarrassment. He is a pressure valve for the opposition, releasing it at every opportunity. He needs to be given a break, probably a long one. His batting is too feeble to command the number 8 spot. Many readers of this blog can't understand how he keeps getting selected considering his expensive performance since his return from injury (OK, he had one good home series against West Indies). It's a fair question. Why oh why? Please spare us. If an all-rounder was required in that spot it should have been Azhar and if a bowler had been required it should have been Sami. Rana's selection was inexplicable. Somebody needs to explain it though.

5 Can Pakistan afford to discard their fastest bowler, Mohammad Sami?

6 Part of the problem is that Pakistan have turned up in the Caribbean with too many bowlers and not enough batsmen. Which reserve can Pakistan call on if one of their batsmen hits a bad patch? Nobody.

7 Afridi must play, but can Pakistan afford to play both Afridi and Kaneria? It depends on the conditions probably.

While it might feel like time to abandon hope, it isn't. This World Cup has only just begun and it's better to lose now and peak later. It's certainly better to cry later.

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

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