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December 9, 2009

New Zealand 2009

Is this Pakistan's best?

Kamran Abbasi


Why wasn't Shahid Afridi made the one-day captain? © AFP
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Like Dr Who in a few weeks time, Ricky Ponting's team is regenerating. Unfortunately for Australians the regeneration process to the next all-conquering form is taking longer than the few seconds that the Time Lord requires and much longer than previous cricketing regenerations. You might even begin to regard it as a decline.

Inevitably Australia will bounce back but until that happens there is a window of opportunity to defeat the best cricketing nation of the last two decades. Australia are now third in the Test rankings, a drop that isn’t caused simply by a freak defeat. Moreover, Australia are struggling to despatch an experimental West Indian team. In their pomp the result would have been a 3-0 whitewash.

Have Pakistan wasted an opportunity with the selection of their touring party? Here are ten questions for the PCB. You might want to add some of your own.

1 What’s happened to the PCB’s relationship with Younis Khan? What an outcome that within six months of delivering a World Cup for his country, Younis does not even have a relationship to speak of with his cricket board. “We haven’t heard from him so we aren’t selecting him,” is the hapless verdict of the PCB. These are the symptoms of a shattered relationship, the two parties aren’t even speaking. While the PCB will blame Younis, it’s hard to imagine that the Australian, English, Indian, or South African cricket boards would have allowed such a situation to arise however truculent their captain.

2 What’s happened to Younis Khan? Are we really supposed to believe that the Pakistan captain has gone underground and nobody knows his whereabouts?

3 What is the logic in selecting Mohammad Yousuf as captain of the one-day team? It was an ideal opportunity to further test Shahid Afridi’s leadership skills.

4 Why haven’t Pakistan drafted in a senior batsman to replace Younis Khan? Younis is experienced in Australian conditions and has succeeded there. He has a Test average of over 50, acquired in a decade of international cricket. Without him, Yousuf is Pakistan’s only established top-level batsman. That’s too much pressure on Yousuf, and too much pressure on Umar Akmal in his first year of international cricket.

5 What’s being done about Pakistan’s top order problems? It’s hard to imagine that Khurram Manzoor and Imran Farhat are likely to flourish in Australia. If many thousands of fans can see it why can’t Pakistan’s selectors? These are not fine judgments, are they?

6 Can Yousuf be persuaded to bat number 3? It’s the key batting position. His country needs him. To his credit, he played it well in Wellington. Will he do it in Australia?

7 What is Intikhab Alam’s role? Is the coach doing his job? Is the coach doing anything? Two Pakistan captains, both great players, have said that they liked to have Inti as coach because they could do exactly as they wished in training. In other words, Inti doesn’t do any coaching in the modern sense. He umpires the practice sessions but little more. Is this the way to make Pakistan compete with the best? Pakistan have many young players with limited experience of cricket of any kind. They need guidance. Waqar Younis' appointment is welcome but what is Inti's role?

8 What’s the purpose of Shoaib Malik? He began life as an off-spinner, a Saqlain Mushtaq clone. He was also an incredible fielder. He now bowls little after problems with his action, and his catching was depressing at Wellington. Shoaib made himself into an international batsman but he isn’t a natural batsman and will never be world class. Pakistan cricket has invested a great deal of its ambitions in Shoaib but where is the return on that investment?

9 How long can Pakistan’s excellent bowling be expected to save the team from humiliation? The pressure does eventually tell on all cricketers. And if one of the frontline pace bowlers is injured or loses form are we really expecting Abdur Rauf to step up to the mark?

10 Is this a squad that properly represents the best talents of Pakistan? Some fans will instinctively and patriotically jump to the defence of the cricket board and the current squad. But we should be asking ourselves whether or not this is acceptable management of Pakistan cricket?

Soon Pakistan will enter the fray with a superior bowling attack to the West Indies but worse fielding. Like Pakistan, West Indies depend on a few key batsmen to carry less accomplished Test performers. But Australia’s team looks beatable after many years and this opportunity may not return in a hurry, not even as soon as next summer.

The victory at Wellington was a joy, and won mainly by the bowlers. But the danger was that it would create a façade that all is well with the current selection strategy. That danger has materialised. The facts are that Pakistan bowled excellently in Wellington, as they have done all tour. They fielded abysmally, as they have done all tour. And the batting was mostly poor, as it has been all tour, with the exception of the vigour of the Akmals and some application by Yousuf.

Meanwhile, New Zealand have generally been poor, with the exception of Shane Bond and some heroics from Ian O’Brien. Their batting has been even worse than Pakistan’s. Ian Smith advocated at least 5 changes in the batting line up after the dismal performance of his countrymen in Wellington.

Australia, of course, will never be so generous. They will punish Pakistan for any fielding lapses, and particularly exploit any top order flakiness. They will also target Pakistan’s best bowlers to shatter their confidence. New Zealand, by comparison, is a carefree stroll.

Is the PCB really serious about the development of Pakistan as a major cricketing force?

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Kalie on (September 8, 2012, 8:10 GMT)

Taking the ovveriew, this post hits the spot

Posted by Roulette System on (January 12, 2010, 22:11 GMT)

Great idea, but will this work over the long run?

Posted by trips&tricks roulette on (January 12, 2010, 19:21 GMT)

This brings me to an idea:...

Posted by shakir1177 on (December 11, 2009, 13:24 GMT)

I would go with Afridi captaining the side in all formats of the game. He has a decent record in all formats and many tend to overlook the fact that his test record in batting is the best of all his batting statistics. Also if a player is good enough to captain your side in the shorter format he should be able to captain it in the longer format as well. Not only does he bowl quality spin but he also can win a match with the bat single handedly, is a good fielder and very vocal too. He should be an ideal no 8 batsman, similiar to the role of that of Shaun Pollock just that he adds that fear factor when coming out to bat. He has taken a 5fer against Australia before albeit not in OZ but still should be a definite for the test squad going to Oz. He averages 37.40 in tests and has 5 100's to go with that at a strike rate of 86.13 and that has been scored in 46 inns with only 1 not out.

Posted by P.Satish on (December 11, 2009, 13:21 GMT)

I agree with what Kevin has said. The senior batsmen have to step up to take control of the situation and if they are too sissy to do it then they better stay at home. It was amazing to see Umar Akmal come in at No.3 in the second test while any one of Yousuf, Malik or Misbah should have been there. It is imperative they take charge of the situation.

Posted by Hibs on (December 11, 2009, 10:55 GMT)

Never mind Australia how this team has batted against the kiwis in the first innings of the third test in Napier is the answer to your question. Its not the first time that the pakistan batting line up has crumbled so miserably,its norms now.I can not believe this is the best Pakistan can offer.Even in 1950s and 1960s we had better batting than todays disgrace.It all boils down to a very poor cricketing infrastructure and an inept PCB.Certain countries have been trying their best to discredit Pakistan as a cricketing nation, well we are not helping our cause either,are we?

Posted by Khurram on (December 11, 2009, 8:32 GMT)

In addition to above, another thing most fans forget is that the middle order Pakistani Batsmen like Yousaf, Malik, Misbah etc are too afraid to open the innings when there is maximum danger of getting out early in swinging ball conditions. That's one reason why their averages are better than the guys tried in opening slot. If players liek Imran Farhat, Imran Nazir are given chance at middle order, they would definitely do better than Shoaib Malik and Misbah Ul Haq - who's the hero of Pakistani fans despite doing nothing substantial in his test, ODI and domestic career.

Posted by Khurram on (December 11, 2009, 8:28 GMT)

It's funny to see so many illogical fans criticizing Imran Farhat, some of them betting he can't even get a 50. That's the main problem with Pakistani fans, they are too emotional, and hence subjective & biased. If you look at records Farhat average is better than the likes of Butt, Yasir Hameed, etc. A reason for his low average is that he has played tests against stronger teams on foreign pitches whereas some of the other openers, Butt, Taufiq Umar, Nasir Jamshed that have been tried in the past scored against weak teams in Pakistani pitches.

Sadlyt very few fans here are real cricket fans thats the reason they don't follow domestic cricket at all. Farhat domestic record is just great with many double hundreds and triple hundred as well. He has been one of the consistent scorer in domestic cricket, unlike other openers. His performances in ICL also speaks of his ability to score runs at fast pace.

Posted by Zia-ul-haq on (December 11, 2009, 7:43 GMT)

I would like to share some statistics here :- Our best batsmen - Inzy/Yousuf & Younis Khan..All of them hardly have scored many runs outside sub-continent..Inzy averaged low 30s against S.Africa and Australia which were two good bowling sides during this era...Younis has no century against Australia and S.Africa and only 3 Centuries outside subcontinent...Same is the case with Yousuf..Only one century in Australia...The point i am driving here is that there is a time to build a new team...drop oldies...enough opptns have been given to them. We need to find more Umar Akmals and Amirs...Now answering the questions raised by Abbasi :- 1. PCB had never a great relationship with Younis Khan or anybody...Younis has always been creating this TAMASHA like a prostitute.. 2. Younis is a moody guy...Cannt be a leader..has gone underground for sure. 3. Md Yousuf is the only choice we hv...Afridi is good for T20 not for ODIs 4.pt.4,5,8,9,10- Get yng plyrs and give them Exp. On Pt.7 -Waqar

Posted by Omeir on (December 11, 2009, 7:37 GMT)

4. Shoaib Malik has been shifted, under Younis Captaincy (and even before that), from opener to lower middle order through out - until he put his foot down and decided to be a lower middle order player. He is one of the best player in the spin department and one of the few finisher in the team. 5. Shoaib Malik provides an option of off spin to the team which helps to balance the side and chose a bowling attack with 3 seamers and one leg spinner. If the captain don't want to use him that isn't his fault 6. For a team horrible in fielding especially catching, you really don't want to lose your safest catcher in the team. Team catch everyone is referring to (2nd Test), he didnt even get a hand to it, and for all the "Cricket Experts", there are specialist slip catchers althu they might not be the best fielders in the team (Inzamam, Shane Warne, Mark Taylor, Fleming). Fingers should be pointed out at the management for need training those specialist

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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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