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|"Shahid Afridi needs to loosen the shackles and lead with the passion, aggression, and guts that we all know he possess" © Getty Images|
The fact that Salman Butt has been Pakistan's best player in this Twenty20 World Cup tells its own sorry tale. Butt, one of the least suited to this format, has shown how playing to your strengths can be a recipe for success. Unfortunately, Butt's fellow batsmen have failed to match his discipline, shot selection, and skill
Pakistan are in a mess - it was ever thus - but this tournament feels much different to last year's when Pakistan had the right materials and just needed to be ignited. Some sympathy is due to the Pakistan management. Ijaz Butt's purge of top players and his dictatorial treatment of the selectors has meant that Shahid Afridi and Waqar Younis have been dealt a bum hand.
In these circumstances, Pakistan will do well to reach the semi-finals. Nonetheless, they will still fancy their chances of beating New Zealand, and must prefer to face South Africa at St Lucia rather than Barbados. The semi final dream isn't over yet.
If Pakistan are to progress, however, they need to address some critical issues:
1 Umar Gul's absence and Afridi's indifferent bowling form mean that Pakistan are looking short in the bowling department, their traditional strength. Is it worth dropping one of Mohammad Hafeez and Fawad Alam to accommodate another specialist bowler?
2 If Fawad is to play, what is the value of sending him at the fag end of an innings? Why not put him in earlier and allow others to hit around him?
3 Umar Akmal, Misbah-ul-Haq, and Afridi have a major responsibility in the middle order. They all need to learn something from Butt's judicious shot selection. All three have been culpable with dumb strokeplay and decision-making.
4 Pace has been important in Australia's performances in Barbados. Surely, the place to play Mohammad Sami is here?
5 Afridi's leadership in the field have been surprisingly docile and unreactive. Surprising because in the Twenty20 match in Australia he appeared dynamic. Perhaps that was down to the way he worked with Shoaib Malik? Whatever the reason, Afridi needs to loosen the shackles and lead with the passion, aggression, and guts that we all know he possess. When the going gets tough it's best to trust your instincts. This is a time for leadership, and Afridi can lead with bat, ball, or in the field.
Win or lose, it is too early to judge this new management combination, especially with the squad that was forced upon them. Pakistan have four knockout matches to play to retain their title. It looks improbable from here but New Zealand have helped Pakistan turn the corner before.
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Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets hereFeeds: Kamran Abbasi
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.
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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