May 11, 2010

Saad Shafqat

Umar and Razzaq hold the key

Saad Shafqat

"The anchor role has fallen to Umar Akmal by default" © Getty Images

Batting continues to be Pakistan's weakest department. Even in the match against South Africa that Pakistan won, the batting was off to a nightmarish start, at one point being 18 for 3 after five overs. In the match against New Zealand that Pakistan lost on the final ball, its bowlers had restricted the opposition to a modest 133, but the batsmen made heavy weather of the chase; the one exception was Salman Butt, who carried his bat, but even he failed to close the deal.

In the absence of middle-order stalwarts like Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf, and with repeated disappointments from Misbah-ul-Haq, the anchor role has fallen to Umar Akmal by default. Further, in the absence of Shoaib Malik and with Shahid Afridi not firing, the role of the batting allrounder has to be assumed by Abdul Razzaq. Kamran Akmal is an important presence up the order but being a wicketkeeper-batsman, he cannot be considered the mainstay. And while Butt is in excellent nick, he alone is not enough, as was painfully manifested in the match against New Zealand.

Meanwhile other batting options, such as Khalid Latif or Fawad Alam, have been hopeless. Uncapped Hammad Azam, who was instrumental in taking Pakistan to the final of the Under 19 World Cup this January, is also available as a batting allrounder but is obviously too much of a risk in a crucial tie.

If you look at the top 10 run scorers for Pakistan in Twenty20 cricket, most of them have a more or less similar batting average regardless of whether Pakistan wins or loses. Two names, however, stand out as exceptions: Umar Akmal and Razzaq.

Umar's overall Twenty20 average of 28.66 jumps up to 44.00 in matches won, while for Razzaq the increment is even higher, as his overall average of 33.57 shoots up to 81.50 in matches where his team is victorious.

The differences between overall average and average in matches won are highest for Razzaq (47.93) and Umar (15.34), and are in contrast to corresponding figures for the other batsmen in the top-ten list (in descending order of career Twenty20 runs): Shoaib Malik (4.25), Kamran Akmal (5.96), Misbahul Haq (7.79), Shahid Afridi (5.39), Salman Butt (-2.67), Younis Khan (0.34), Imran Nazir (7.63), and Mohammad Hafeez (2.62).

Razzaq's average of 81.50 in matches won seems an anomaly, but is explained by a large proportion of not-outs. On the 10 occasions that Razzaq has batted in a Twenty20 match won by Pakistan, he has remained not out 8 times. In comparison, he has never returned not-out in a match that Pakistan lost.

These figures suggest that Pakistan's chances of victory in the semi-final contest against Australia will increase significantly if Umar and Razzaq can get among the runs. Moreover, if Razzaq can manage to remain not-out, then based at least on this prediction model, victory for Pakistan will almost be assured.

Granted, one can only go so far with facts and figures. After all, Australia's professionalism is so ruthless, that they could well bulldoze Pakistan despite Umar and Razzaq doing well. Conversely, strong performances from any of the other Pakistani batsmen will lift the team even if Umar and Razzaq fail. Nevertheless, these statistics do point to a pivotal status for Umar and Abdul Razzaq in what is really a threadbare Pakistan batting cupboard with slim pickings.

The good news for Pakistan is that when Umar and Razzaq click, it creates a winning impact. If these two can manage a decent outing at the crease on Friday, the odds will tilt substantially in Pakistan's favour.

Saad Shafqat is a writer based in Karachi

RSS Feeds: Saad Shafqat

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by KHALID GAUHAR on (May 16, 2010, 16:00 GMT)

pls forward all these mails to PCB for kind consideration of high ups sitting there. They must realize as to what is the demand of the nation as regards to the cricket.

Posted by KHALID GAUHAR on (May 16, 2010, 13:54 GMT)

We cant give blame to our batsmen. They scored heavily in the semi final. 191 is not a meager score. But I feel no hesitation in telling that only the caption Shahid Khan Afridi is solely responsible for this defeat, as he could not visualise the situation and need of the last moments.He is not yet matured enough to be given that much tough job.He may be kept to make people to enjoy cricket. But pls dont expect from him to do the miricals.We need young and fresh blood to b introduced.

Posted by mujtaba on (May 14, 2010, 16:44 GMT)

Commenta bout Fawwad is ridiculous, he is dropped without given any chance at the right position.. Same is true for Latif who has only played 1 game..Why not blaming Hafeez, who is playing every game witout making any progress.

Posted by Umer Siddiq on (May 14, 2010, 16:11 GMT)

Spin attack will play a crucial role against Aussies.Because our spinners are potentially more sound than our other departments.So they have to bowl first and restricted aussies to a less total e.g 120 or 135 and they should push a tail under on top of the order to play freely maybe he will click and we can win the match and best option will be Aamir as he already proved in the match against newzealand where he scored 73 good runs.

Posted by Aftab Gul on (May 14, 2010, 15:56 GMT)

Salam - We should keep the same team as we had against South Africa, atleast together they will have some confident. But I am not sure about Misbah???? I think he should be dropped and Hammad/Fawad should replace him...

Posted by JAVED BUTT on (May 14, 2010, 15:55 GMT)

Let the tigers out from their cages.Forget which player we do not have give your 110 % & leave the rest upon him.

Posted by Suleman Piracha on (May 14, 2010, 15:55 GMT)

I agree with posters who suggested Razzaq should be moved up in the batting order and that he had performed very well together with good batsmen. Also, Misbah should be dropped. He was not making any effort to do runs in the match against SA. Razzaq had to go and talk to him. Then he hit half-heartedly and got caught. The Pakistan total should have been 160 in that match. Remember, Misbah was the man responsible for loosing against India in SA. I guess Umar and Razzaq partnership could be crucial in the match against Australia- Good Luck Pakistan! Suleman

Posted by Syed Nadeem Farooq on (May 14, 2010, 15:39 GMT)

Just tell me how many times Fawad Alam sent top of the order? If you sent someone on # 7 or #8 then how you can expect him to make 50 runs in T20? I must say that either your comment about Fawad is totally bias or you have no knowledge of cricket.

Posted by Imtiaz Sheikh on (May 14, 2010, 15:32 GMT)

I would play with one extra pace bowler rather than a specialist batsman batting at #8...my two cents..

Posted by dr.mak on (May 14, 2010, 15:24 GMT)

now only hopes r left for pakistan team! god bless them............

Comments have now been closed for this article