Twenty20 World Cup 2010 May 4, 2010

Compete now, experiment later


Choosing Mohammad Hafeez, a non-specialist spinner, to open the bowling against Australia was unwise, and it was worse to persist with him © Getty Images

Pakistan’s immediate future hinges on Australia’s ruthlessness. Luckily for Shahid Afridi’s team ruthlessness is second nature to the Aussies. On the evidence of events in St Lucia and the relative merits of Pakistan’s opponents, Bangladesh require a near miracle to progress in this tournament. Miracles are least miraculous in cricket’s shortest format, especially if Messrs Duckworth and Lewis intervene, but Pakistan should be able to continue the defence of their title.

Pakistan have problems. The tour management are struggling to juggle a squad that they didn’t entirely wish for, and a couple of their early calls have been questionable. Choosing Mohammad Hafeez, a non-specialist spinner, to open the bowling against Australia was unwise, and it was worse to persist with him. It also exposed Pakistan’s lack of bowling depth and the extent of their previous reliance on Umar Gul.

West Indian wickets have thus far suited batsmen and Pakistan could add another specialist bowler to their starting XI. Pakistan’s excellence in T20 cricket has largely been thanks to attacking, specialist bowlers. Wicket taking has forced their opponents to lose momentum, and Gul has been the best practitioner of this strategy.

Of the current line up, only Mohammad Aamer and Saeed Ajmal have shown the form expected of them. In these circumstances, and considering the thrashing both Hafeez and Mohammad Sami received, it is hard to understand Mohammad Asif’s omission?

Afridi afterwards claimed that he had been experimenting in the field against Australia. A World T20 group match seems an odd time to try your luck. While flexibility is essential, Pakistan should have stuck to the game plan that has proved so successful in the last two World T20s. By the time Afridi’s experiment was over Australia had reached a match winning total that any batting line up would have struggled to overtake.

Of the three challenges that I set out in my last blog, Pakistan have done most to overcome the opening batting conundrum. Salman Butt is surprisingly hinting that he might be able to rise to the occasion. Whereas the middle order didn’t need to do much against Bangladesh, and the Australian target was always going to be unlikely to be reached. The jury is still out on both these matters.

But the loss of Gul is an urgent one to resolve for Pakistan. The answer isn’t to open with Hafeez but it might be to add another bowler on these friendly West Indian wickets. Either way, Asif may not have the best notion of law and order but his absence is almost criminal.

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