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May 16, 2011

Pakistan in West Indies 2011

Batting, a case of chronic neglect

Kamran Abbasi
Misbah-ul-haq celebrates his third half-century in as many Tests, Pakistan v South Africa, 2nd Test, Abu Dhabi, 5th day, November 24, 2010
Misbah-ul-Haq missed the chance to become the first Pakistan captain to win a series in the Caribbean  © AFP
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When Pakistan reflect on their defeat in the first Test, courtesy of the occasionally decent bowling of Darren Sammy, they should examine why their batsmen have developed a habit of falling to some of the world's least celebrated bowlers? They might struggle. Batsmanship has become an unfathomable art in Pakistan cricket, lost with the ancients. By default, Pakistan teams can bowl and can't field. The batting, meanwhile, has been spasmodic.

Misbah-ul Haq had an incredible opportunity to carve his name in history by leading a first Pakistan victory in a Caribbean Test series. Those dreams are dust. Misbah might curse his misfortune that West Indies were stiffer opponents than expected, but his frustration would be better directed at the chronic neglect of fundamental batting skills at the highest level of Pakistan cricket.

Pakistan have always struggled for batting, certainly in comparison with their neighbours to the East, yet you would not have described it as a poverty of batting resources. How could you when you could call upon Zaheer Abbas, Majid Khan, Hanif Mohammad, and even Asif Iqbal and Mushtaq Mohammad. Up to the 1980s Pakistan teams might have batted with unreliable spirit, but there would be flashes of genius to inspire hope.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Imran Khan and Javed Miandad added some spine to Pakistan's performances. Too often it was only their backs to the wall, but their leadership did enough to coerce greater responsibility from their fellows on enough occasions to make Pakistan genuine challengers to West Indies. Fear of Imran's wrath aside, English county cricket played a part in honing and strengthening techniques.

Imran and Javed, Pakistan's contrary heroes, left a legacy of batting promise. Saeed Anwar, Inzamam-ul Haq, Salim Malik, and Ijaz Ahmed were in place to shepherd Pakistan through the 1990s and into the new millennium. Pakistan's batting remained strong if increasingly unpredictable, and underperformance began to become a frustrating norm after the 1999 World Cup.

Following a glut of inevitable departures in the early 2000s, Inzamam remained the champion of Pakistan's middle order with increasing support from Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf. Yet Pakistan's problems began to unravel as the opening slot became a position of crisis, and has been as such for a decade; Pakistan haven't had a world-class opening batsman since Saeed Anwar's last Test match in 2001.

The batting disaster has many complex explanations. Cricketing isolation and an inadequate domestic structure are major factors but that doesn't excuse the inadequacies of the approach taken in recent years by Pakistan's cricket board

It is no coincidence that the last spur of Pakistan's batting strength, and the peak of performance from Inzamam, Younis, and Yousuf, came under the guidance of Bob Woolmer. Those very instabilities that surround Pakistan cricket, and the unusually young age of players when they are blooded, means that Pakistan's international batsmen still require much work on the technical basics of their craft. Even world-class performers can benefit from a wise word or subtle pointer when form has deserted them.

Since Bob Woolmer's death, Pakistan's international batsmen haven't had that essential tutelage. It is too much to ask Waqar Younis and Aaqib Javed to fill those important gaps. Until the Pakistan Cricket Board reconfigures the national team's coaching structure to properly develop and improve its international cricketers, Pakistan will continue to miss golden opportunities to win series by the same country mile that Saeed Ajmal missed the final Darren Sammy delivery in the Guyana Test.

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

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Posted by suds on (July 27, 2011, 22:10 GMT)

Good article - though could I suggest an alternative explanation. Player selection in Pakistan cricket is prone to bias and, quite frankly, nepotism. This bias is most manifest when selectors are picking batsman - which is far more subjective and open to opinion than bowling (you can't fake bowling 90 miles per hour). Pakistan have been successful as a team when a powerful personality unwilling to be biased when selecting players has been given the ability to pick the team - the best example being Imran Khan. The current panel of selectors and the Chairman of the Board etc each with their own petty favourites and biases leads to poor selection choices. Unfortunately, Pakistan cricket is reflecting Pakistan society here, and perhaps a start would be to rid the system of nepotistic appointment of the Board Chairman, before beginning the process of ridding the selection process of favouritism and bias.

Posted by faiz on (June 27, 2011, 11:36 GMT)

slam to all i want to ask from all do u know about pak cricket is there pakistan have series in future aug to dec 2011

Posted by salim on (June 26, 2011, 0:10 GMT)

pak cricketers has to learn to play with responsibility,passion and perseverance. Do or die motto.

Posted by Steve on (May 24, 2011, 16:20 GMT)

@Ahmed at May 22, 2011 1:17 PM... Even the Pakistan team of 80s and 90s could not win a series in WI. Sure they gave tough fight but then so did India..Infact won 1 series and the world Cup defeating WI in their prime. As far as poor umpiring goes...well then most nations do have same complaint in 1980s and 1990s when Touring Pakistan. It is often said Miandad was immune to LBW in Pakistan...as per Steve Waugh biography...

Posted by Salman on (May 23, 2011, 9:55 GMT)

Dear Kamran

Have been following Pakistan sports for 35 years and 2 issues have always been debated 1) lack of good opening batsmen in cricket and 2) absence of penalty corner specialist in Hockey. Except for a brief period, somethings never change.

Regards

Posted by zohan99 on (May 22, 2011, 19:28 GMT)

batting is the main problem of pakistan cricket, and if we had a batting coach things would be quiet different like our batting collapses such as pak v india semi final .

Posted by ahmed on (May 22, 2011, 13:17 GMT)

@Mike

I think you haven't followed cricket of late 80's and 90's. It was Pakistan under Imran Khan gave toughest time to the mighty West Indies. If it was not poor umpiring in Port of Spain Pakistan would have defeated the mighty West Indies in their own backyard (second time, remember they won the first test in Guyana) and would have won that series .

ahmed

Posted by Imran on (May 22, 2011, 3:56 GMT)

Enough with the questioning of Younis Khan's place in the team: he flew home to deal with his brother's sad passing. This was not a selection issue.

Am I the only one who actually saw the game, instead of just reading the score? The pitch was a nightmare to bat on, and the West Indies got some incredible umpiring decisions in their favour that let the likes of Chanderpaul and Bishoo string together an innings that was otherwise at the mercy of Ajmal & co. Yes, there are batting problems, and yes, there are management issues, but lets not lose sight of what actually happened in the first test. The team fought through some tough conditions and were dealt some of Asoka da Silva's finest handiwork, and still made the West Indies struggle all the way. For a team neither renowned nor experienced in Test cricket, they did well, and providing they keep playing the format, this team will improve.

Posted by Mid Wicket on (May 21, 2011, 12:46 GMT)

The current batch of inexperienced cricketers are completely at sea when it comes to a proper test match. Apart from basic batting skills the 5 day game requires a degree of patience, mental strength and agility. These boys simply lack experience and Ejaz Butt does not have the intelligence to realise this.

Posted by Asim on (May 21, 2011, 7:10 GMT)

Friends, the Team who will win they looks so balanced but when they loose every thing looks ordinary as we can see Mumbai India who was on top and now after many lose games being weakest team. can my friends make their Pakistan 14 men test squad and please share the reason of removal and inclusion of any player from the squad.

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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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