World Cup 2011 February 24, 2011

Ambition demands an extra bowler

Pakistan, like all the major teams, have three banana skins to avoid to ensure qualification and they neatly sidestepped the first one

Pakistan, like all the major teams, have three banana skins to avoid to ensure qualification and they neatly sidestepped the first one. In their last two one-day series Pakistan have rallied well and developed a consistency about their cricket, which was continued at the cavernous Hambantota stadium.

The surfaces in the United Arab Emirates and New Zealand managed to replicate South Asian conditions, a factor that has helped ensure that Pakistan's players are decently prepared. Familiar conditions help mask the vulnerabilities in Pakistan's batting order, allowing the bowlers to make a decisive impact. And it is on that point that Pakistan face something of a dilemma.

The current selection, with batting in depth, is a healthy insurance policy for disaster against a minor nation but less suited to winning the trophy. The extra batsman is probably unnecessary. As the tournament progresses, the better teams will eye up an opening attack of Shoaib Akhtar (past his best) and Abdul Razzaq (short of pace) and lick their lips for a twenty-over run spree. Shahid Afridi might then turn to Mohammad Hafeez but the reaction in the opposition will be further salivation.

Luckily, the tournament format allows plenty of opportunity for tinkering provided those banana skins are stepped over. Bringing in Wahab Riaz in place of a batsman, probably one of the openers, would be the obvious option, with Kamran Akmal pushed up to open. In that scenario, moving up Umar Akmal to split Younis Khan and Misbah-ul Haq might offer more dash up front and maintain some solidity later on.

Pakistan have options. They are playing in conditions that suit them. They are playing with unity and the air of wronged men seeking vengeance. The team selection will soon reveal the extent of their ambitions, and an extra bowler would be a statement of intent.

For Pakistan's aspirations of causing an upset, choosing too many batsmen might turn out to be the biggest banana skin of all.

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

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