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October 12, 2007

New age

An unfortunate series of miscalculations

Kamran Abbasi
Danish Kaneria appeals unsuccessfully for the wicket of Graeme Smith, Pakistan v South Africa, 1st Test, Karachi, 1st day, October 1, 2007
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Graeme Smith was right: who could have predicted that South Africa would dominate nine out of ten days of this series? The fact they did should add an extra sheen to his team's newly grown beards. On their last visit to Pakistan, South Africa were an obnoxious bunch mislead by their captain. There was little to choose between the teams other than the speed of Shoaib Akhtar.

This time round both teams had left their bad attitude behind. With a touch of bonhomie to complement their skillful determination South Africa flourished. All credit to Smith for a quick maturation.

Without their bad boy, Pakistan's pace attack was more nullified by the spinning tracks than South Africa's batsmen. Sadly, Pakistan had forgotten some home truths about their own dead wickets. First, you require a bowler of express aerial speed to fully exploit the bounty of reverse swing, an Imran, Waqar, Wasim, or Shoaib. Second, Pakistan don't really possess a spinner who runs amok. Danish Kaneria is an earnest soul but he rarely cuts through a top order like Abdul Qadir, Mushtaq Ahmed, and Saqlain Mushtaq did at their sharpest. Third, with only two pace bowlers you tempt injury and long-term damage.

If Pakistan's bowlers weren't great, the batsmen were even less impressive until the final day. This suboptimal display made Inzamam's final two balls the most memorable performance by any Pakistan batsmen throughout the series. Perhaps Inzamam's contribution would been best remembered whatever the effort from his colleagues?

But Pakistan are a Test team with problems. And the biggest perhaps is mindset. It was disappointing to hear Shoaib Malik insist on the righteousness of his spin strategy. What happened to the PCB's promise of livelier tracks? Pakistan's bowling strength lies in pace complemented by spin.

A further irritation was to hear Pakistan constantly claim that they were finding it hard to adapt to Test cricket after the Twenty20 World Cup. South Africa have endured a similar One-day glut to Pakistan.

Worse still, though, was the initial argument that Pakistan had better back spin because why would they choose wickets that suited the opposition's strengths? A mantra of international sport is that you plan and play to your strengths and not in fear of what the opposition might do to you. That was the first in a series of unfortunate miscalculations that ended with Inzi's crazed dance down the wicket to Paul Harris.

Shoaib Malik is a smart young captain and Geoff Lawson is an equally smart and aggressive young coach. Pakistan will learn but they need to learn fast. This dead-track spin-bowling strategy is a fantasy that has never been realised in Pakistan cricket, and with the bowlers that Pakistan possesses it is unlikely to be realised in a hurry.

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

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Posted by Omer Admani on (October 19, 2007, 5:24 GMT)

Unfortunately Osman Samiuddin has blamed the top order. When has the top order ever played after the departure of Saeed Anwar? It is surely Malik's fault that he persists with a player who just isn't a batsmen (Mohammad Hafeez). He keeps on crossing 15, but never makes 50s so obviously he is born not to be a batsman, no matter however much he attempts to act like Tendulkar. What has Malik against Fawad Alam? And why a Karachite is being so conveniently discarded again despite the apparent potential? Malik's stubborness is again in question as he doesn't just promote Afridi up the order. Moreover, Malik's weakness against the short ball has been exploited by the South Africans and I would see more of the same from the other teams. His dream run of batting is over now where he averaged 30 or thereabouts. Another important thing that I hope Malik understands in time is that one-day cricket is not 20/20 and he needs wickets up the order. Batsmen won't give their wickets away like 20/20 and the teams really still have to work to get them. Which means it is rather stupid not to give the new ball to the strike bowler Umar Gul. Again a very defensive strategy ha been employed to just let the game drift initially rather than take wickets. Again it has failed. Malik, in other words, is satisfied with South Africa reaching 300 and the Pak team having to chasse it. Unfortunately, he may pull the batting till 11, but he still won't chase 300 often. I am just hoping he doesn't become stubborn about it and let umar gul open the bowling soon. In one-days Umar Gul has generally opened the bowling with relatively more success and that is the way it should remain. Personally I'd also say Razzaq should make way for Younis Khan in the one-day team. No doubt Younis Khan is one of the greater test batsmen Pakistan has produced, but Razzaq can average the same with a better strike rate in one-days. He could also be useful with the ball, after all he gets the wicket when nobody is able to take one.

Posted by Hassan Abbas on (October 18, 2007, 0:42 GMT)

Can anyone point out a single batsman from the following list who can play in difficult batting conditions on hard and bouncy or green and seaming tracks or even on a spinning track for Pakistan.

1. Salman Butt 2. Mohd. Hafeez 3. Yasir Hameed 4. Taufeeq Omar 5. Imran Nazir 6. Imran Farhat 7. Faisal Iqbal 8. Bazid Khan

Pakistani selectors have simply toyed with these guys over the past three years. All these players have been tried and tested yet thay have failed miserably whenever they have been called back to the squad. I think all these players are nothing better than part timers, they are not professional cricketers as they fail to correct their abysmal techniques even after so much experience of all types of cricket. I think we need fresh blood in our squad, players who have sound technique and some real gutts.

Posted by Shakil on (October 16, 2007, 23:11 GMT)

I like what Dawar's wrote above. "It’s better to use word no merit instead of miscalculations. We need a system base on merit."If we have good keeper who can handle Danish, the result could be different?Remember he dropped Kalis when he was on 31. Kalis scored century after that in first test.

Once again Kamran Akmal performance was unsatisfactory behind the stumps. It’s true he did some good batting innings in the last test.But he is a keeper first. And now days every wicket keeper has some good batting skills. Under-19 ex-captain Sarfraz Ahmed is a good wicketkeeper batsman too.

Inzamam's performance was not good in his last test match. I do not know any good reason he played one more Test.

If Asim Kamal or Yasir Hamid were there, I am sure we could chase 349 runs in last day. Inzi was completely out of touch in both innings. We should tried Fawad Alam instead of Abdur Rehman; no doubt his bowling was good on spin wickets. But all spinners performed well from both teams. Wickets were for the spinners. Fawad Alam is young spinner with better batting skills. Once again Salman Butt was preferred regardless of his performance. If Khurrum Manzoor or Kahlid Latif or Taufeeq Omer were in the team. We could have good opening start in both test matches.

Posted by JAVED A. KHAN, MONTREAL, CANADA on (October 16, 2007, 19:31 GMT)

ALL that HYPE and the BULL about including the youngsters in the Pakistan national team i.e., players like Taufeeq Umar, Bazid Khan, Abdul Rauf (these three are not youngsters in any case) Shahid Yousuf, Naveed Latif, Zulqarnain Haider, Junaid Zia, etc., etc. must have landed in the pit-hole after South Africa thumped them like school boys team and romped to victory in 31 overs. The way the PCB XI played in the one day game today at Bagh-e-Jinnah, Lahore must have made the selectors job much easier. None of them should be included in the National Team. None of them bowled well or batted well against the tourist, who were without their ace players Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis. I wonder how long Bazid Khan would be playing in matches like these by capitalizing the name of his father and stealing a place from another deserving candidate to prove his worth!

I think Malik, Lawson and the bunch of "Sallu Mallu" selectors should rely on the tried and tested seniors and not go about experimenting more changes in the team. These players are not ready for big games and with the seniors performing badly, they would be under tremendous pressure to perform. Therefore, toying with the squad in this crucial ODI series before a full fledged tour to India would absolutely be a recipe for disaster if they loose now.

Ricky Ponting has admitted yesterday by saying that the Australians lost both, the CB Series and the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy after toying with the squad. Hence, Australia's rotation policy did not yield any good results but it paid back when they kept the regular squad for the World Cup. They managed to recover just in time to proceed through the World Cup undefeated. Therefore, Pakistan must learn a lesson or two from their experience rather than experiencing themselves and that would be a high price to pay.

I think SA made a big mistake by not including Jacques Kallis in the twenty20 tournament, had he been in the team, the results would have been different.

Posted by Roshan on (October 16, 2007, 17:21 GMT)

Hmmmm....Javed arrogant khan has again proved how stupid one can be....In a blog that is devoted to cricket, he is worried about Mr. Afridi's handsome(not so handsome) looks.....I believe send Mr. afridi for a beauty pageant....I wish him luck to win it....but wait he could only win it if it is organised in asian subcontinent....because overall his performances outside are abysmal!.......Mr. Arrogant khan also quote lines from Hindi movies every now & then that just proves the point that there are no takers for poor pakistani films anywhere not even their own people watch them....Mr. Khan if you do watch hindi movies then why afraid of accepting it.....we are not asking for any rent!!!!!

Keep spitting on this blog...thats the best you can do...Hats off to other bloggers for keep reminding this fool his real "Aukaat"

Posted by Hassan Abbas on (October 16, 2007, 15:55 GMT)

@khansahab I agree to your comments about Younis Khan but I think he is a good enough test player. He shouldn't be selected in the onedayers though. He has lost us enough matches by showing irresponsibility specially in the ODIs.

Posted by Reehan on (October 16, 2007, 13:44 GMT)

Dizzy,

I appreciate this is this is the first test series for Lawson and Malik but my dig really wasnt at them, more at the management structure around them. Ashraf is a bafoon, and the PCB is doing more damage to PAK cricket then ever. Salman Butt as vice capt, forstering team disharmony, marginalsing great players.

Somebody critcised Yousuf for the first defeat, without considering what a mess the PCB had made by overlooking his selection for the captaincy of pak and the 20-20. Look at the bigger picture because, while the Ashraf bafoons run pak cricket its a bleak picture for PAK cricket. Expect more series defeats.

Posted by khansahab(A.A.Khan) on (October 16, 2007, 13:39 GMT)

Wasim Saqib,

Your post was quite useful. I share similar views on Kamran Akmal and I find it quite mysterious that the selectors rate him very highly and there seems to be no question to remove him from the team. It was under Wasim Bari’s tenure that he established himself as the best wicketkeeper in Pakistan and I am not disputing that at one time he was one of the best keepers in the world. What is also amazing is that Bari himself, as well as Rashid Latif and Moin Khan have constantly criticised Akmal’s technique for about a year now but he has not committed himself to remedy the problem. Now we also have two good keepers in Zulqernain and Sarfraz who have been knocking the doors of selection for some time.

As regards Mohammad Hafeez I will disagree with you because the only problem with him is that he cannot open or bat at no 3. Otherwise he should be a near-automatic selection in ODI’s or Twenty20. Afridi’s bowling has improved of late and we have to give him credit for that. Last year I was quite convinced that Afridi should be dropped and Hafeez should take his position in the ODI middle order but owing to Afridi’s impressive bowling, it seems unlikely that Hafeez will be able to maintain a permanent position in the team. What I suggest as a long term measure is to make Akmal open with anyone from the regular openers and make Hafeez bat at no 7, Akmal’s usual batting position. Akmal’s batting in ODI’s is pathetic anyway and as an opener he can’t do much worse than any stock Pakistani opener. Hafeez’s batting performance has been substandard and I am not doubting that but it is merely because he is not being used the right way. I have said it repeatedly that he is a rare talent and one of the very few players who can bowl, bat and field well provided he has some sort of stable presence in the team. Usually players carve a niche for themselves and are not facilitated with a suitable batting slot on a plate, but I recommend that for Hafeez, just because he is so talented.

Meanwhile the case for removing Salman Butt permanently from the team has become stronger now especially since his Test average has dropped to an unbelievable 28. Imran Nazir can do better than that.

Since more than half the regular players in the team are now below average performers, the only way ahead is for the selectors to either adopt a strict rotation policy with no guarantee of a permanent place, or to continuously keep trying youngsters excelling at domestic level, like how the England Cricket Board has been doing for some time. Many individuals have criticised that measure stating that it affects the consistency of the England team, but in my view the reason why the England team is weak is because they are too accustomed to their own pitches and also because they lack aggression and mental strength which is so important for a team to succeed these days.

Posted by Milind raj on (October 16, 2007, 11:03 GMT)

People like Javed khan are the reason why the relations between India and Pak can never improve.He spreads rumours trying to create discontent amonsts Indian and other muslims

Posted by Aamir Akhund on (October 16, 2007, 10:49 GMT)

Kamran Bhai. The current series has surely opened our eyes once again. Like always with an exception of a few individuals in our team im am satisfied with our team performance. i think once again our board has shown us that they are useless and know nothing about cricket.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamran Abbasi
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. @KamranAbbasi

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