Pakistan in South Africa 2013 February 13, 2013

Big Bird II must fly

For anybody thinking the only way is up for Pakistan in this Test series, think again. Misbah-ul Haq's team was competitive in two innings in Johannesburg, which leaves plenty of room for improvement and an equal amount for deterioration
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For anybody thinking the only way is up for Pakistan in this Test series, think again. Misbah-ul Haq's team was competitive in two innings in Johannesburg, which leaves plenty of room for improvement and an equal amount for deterioration. South Africa dominated after the first hit, with their big players ensuring a happy centenary for Graeme Smith. Pakistan cannot match South Africa for big players but they do have the biggest bird. Mohammad Irfan, acolyte of the original Big Bird, Joel Garner, was a surprise omission from the first Test. The wrong must be righted. The scene is set in Cape Town. Big Bird II, the Gaggu Mandi version, must take wing.

Fast bowlers have never come taller than Irfan. Humans over 7ft tall are rare, cricketers at that height are rarer still. When he first appeared on the international scene in 2010, Irfan looked unfit and lacked control of line and length, pretty much struggling with all the attributes required to succeed at international level. On the recent tour of India, however, Irfan was a different prospect, offering control and sustained speed, a remarkable transformation and feather in the cap of the people who have guided him in the interim.

Let's be in no doubt, South Africa were wary of Irfan. The batsmen made plans, as top teams will for a perceived threat. They raised the sightscreens to nullify his high delivery point. But Irfan wasn't risked. The bird was left in its cage. Instead, another fledgling, Rahat Ali, filled a space on the team sheet, nothing more. South Africa, with their battle hardened batsmen, will lose no sleep over him. They will be cautious, at best, against Umar Gul; while Junaid Khan is a serious threat, not a mortal danger.

Irfan, meanwhile, is something different; unknown and unknowable, a physical extreme that can redefine the realms of possibility. No sane batsman would choose to face a 90mph bowler of his height on South African wickets--add Australian wickets to that, and some too in England, New Zealand, and the West Indies. A man who can make India's best batsmen hop on home turf deserves his chance in the land of the springbok. On song, Irfan can unsettle South Africa's batsmen--and that is what is required and that is why Irfan is a risk worth taking.

Irfan's inclusion may be the only change to Pakistan's team. A collective failure from the batsmen should not lead to any change, especially now that Nasir Jamshed and Mohammad Hafeez look to have recovered from injury and ailment. Misbah has rejected a three-opener solution, although Imran Farhat's Midas luck can never be underestimated.

Pakistan's only chance is to find a way of hitting back at South Africa, conservative tactics will not work. With the personnel at Misbah's command, the batting effort will only ever be steady. It is in wicket taking bowlers that Pakistan have hope of ruffling South African feathers. Saeed Ajmal, Junaid, and Irfan are a combination that South Africa, nay any batting order, will be concerned about, whatever the misadventures of Pakistan's batsmen.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • jackson on February 21, 2013, 15:37 GMT

    when i found out he wasn't picked for the first test i thought wasim,waqar and akhtar came out of retirement!!!because that is the only reason why tall man couldn't find a spot in the side!!!if he is not picked for south african fast and bouncy pitches then he will never find the side. just one piece of advice to tall boy. bowl throat balls and slip in the surprise yorker. that was all garner did.good luck.

  • Aamir on February 20, 2013, 10:12 GMT

    Big bird II will definitely fly..

    It's a case to see if he is a long haul flier or good for short distant (20 / 20 - 50 / 50).

  • fhs on February 18, 2013, 16:55 GMT

    If we don’t have good quality fast bowlers (which is the case), then why we are not playing with the spinners (in which we are the bes). Questions: 1) Why Hafeez was not utilized right from the beginning of SA chase? I was hoping (and praying) to see Hafeez with a new ball with attacking field and brining Ajmal quickly with the same approach quickly -- this (use of spin) would have been the approach. Blame goes to Misbah, Whatmore and M Akram. 2) Poor fielding - same old story. Blame goes to fielding coach. 3) Sarfaraz’s performance -- drop catch, giving byes, no runs with the bat at all - the way he got out in 2nd inning is terrible.

  • JavedHasan on February 17, 2013, 15:48 GMT

    Pakistan,s real problem is that it has no batsman who can be depended upon to score at a minimum consistent level . Specially its senior batsmen such as Misbah and specially Younis Khan perform only in one inning in six . In the second Test if Pakistan had scored 75 more runs our Bowlers would have won the match for Pakistan

  • Aziz on February 16, 2013, 10:34 GMT

    I think pakistan is going to waste(KILL) Abdur Rehman as they did when Saqlain and Mushtaq were playing together. they should stick to their potential i.e. Spin attack beside playing with 3 pacers ..........see what the result is........owing to same situation arisen in past Pak had lost two big name viz. Mushtaq Ahmad, and Azhar Mahmood. Pak selector make hurry in picking Akmal bros. coz perhaps anyone see any potential in batting from Sarfaraz Ahmad .

  • Ashraf Janjua on February 15, 2013, 12:03 GMT

    Younis Khan finally performed after his very long bad patch in the last two years during which he has been performing in one inning in about six . His century in the second Test was welcome . Nevertheless he undid the good work dropping a very easy catch when the South African total was only two . What a shame .

  • Zia on February 14, 2013, 18:37 GMT

    I am a big fan of Misbah and agree by and large the team selection has been good. But for the life of me I cannot understand the omission of Irfan in the first test - even Boycott said he would have posed serious problems at 5000 feet elevation and bouncy pitch. Now I am clueless why Tanvir was chosen for the 2nd test leaving our Rehman who bowled so well in the practice match. You play to your strengths and spin would be a game winner for Pakistan.

  • Mohammad Aslam on February 14, 2013, 17:07 GMT

    kamran Bae you are right m.iran is good inclusion for 2nd test.who are talking about our batsmen should watch younus and shafiq both have put our heads up.GOOD LUCK GREEN SHIRTS.PAKISTAN ZINDABAD........

  • Awais ali on February 14, 2013, 11:30 GMT

    Pakistan should take usuf and asim kamal to regain the tst mömentum

  • Indian kallis on February 14, 2013, 10:57 GMT

    Pakistan are overrated team.No quality in their batting Everyone slash their bat hard like boom boom afridi.Only younis can do somehing but he is out of form. If Sa gets a decent spinner they and duminy comes in for elgar they are Unbeatable.

  • jackson on February 21, 2013, 15:37 GMT

    when i found out he wasn't picked for the first test i thought wasim,waqar and akhtar came out of retirement!!!because that is the only reason why tall man couldn't find a spot in the side!!!if he is not picked for south african fast and bouncy pitches then he will never find the side. just one piece of advice to tall boy. bowl throat balls and slip in the surprise yorker. that was all garner did.good luck.

  • Aamir on February 20, 2013, 10:12 GMT

    Big bird II will definitely fly..

    It's a case to see if he is a long haul flier or good for short distant (20 / 20 - 50 / 50).

  • fhs on February 18, 2013, 16:55 GMT

    If we don’t have good quality fast bowlers (which is the case), then why we are not playing with the spinners (in which we are the bes). Questions: 1) Why Hafeez was not utilized right from the beginning of SA chase? I was hoping (and praying) to see Hafeez with a new ball with attacking field and brining Ajmal quickly with the same approach quickly -- this (use of spin) would have been the approach. Blame goes to Misbah, Whatmore and M Akram. 2) Poor fielding - same old story. Blame goes to fielding coach. 3) Sarfaraz’s performance -- drop catch, giving byes, no runs with the bat at all - the way he got out in 2nd inning is terrible.

  • JavedHasan on February 17, 2013, 15:48 GMT

    Pakistan,s real problem is that it has no batsman who can be depended upon to score at a minimum consistent level . Specially its senior batsmen such as Misbah and specially Younis Khan perform only in one inning in six . In the second Test if Pakistan had scored 75 more runs our Bowlers would have won the match for Pakistan

  • Aziz on February 16, 2013, 10:34 GMT

    I think pakistan is going to waste(KILL) Abdur Rehman as they did when Saqlain and Mushtaq were playing together. they should stick to their potential i.e. Spin attack beside playing with 3 pacers ..........see what the result is........owing to same situation arisen in past Pak had lost two big name viz. Mushtaq Ahmad, and Azhar Mahmood. Pak selector make hurry in picking Akmal bros. coz perhaps anyone see any potential in batting from Sarfaraz Ahmad .

  • Ashraf Janjua on February 15, 2013, 12:03 GMT

    Younis Khan finally performed after his very long bad patch in the last two years during which he has been performing in one inning in about six . His century in the second Test was welcome . Nevertheless he undid the good work dropping a very easy catch when the South African total was only two . What a shame .

  • Zia on February 14, 2013, 18:37 GMT

    I am a big fan of Misbah and agree by and large the team selection has been good. But for the life of me I cannot understand the omission of Irfan in the first test - even Boycott said he would have posed serious problems at 5000 feet elevation and bouncy pitch. Now I am clueless why Tanvir was chosen for the 2nd test leaving our Rehman who bowled so well in the practice match. You play to your strengths and spin would be a game winner for Pakistan.

  • Mohammad Aslam on February 14, 2013, 17:07 GMT

    kamran Bae you are right m.iran is good inclusion for 2nd test.who are talking about our batsmen should watch younus and shafiq both have put our heads up.GOOD LUCK GREEN SHIRTS.PAKISTAN ZINDABAD........

  • Awais ali on February 14, 2013, 11:30 GMT

    Pakistan should take usuf and asim kamal to regain the tst mömentum

  • Indian kallis on February 14, 2013, 10:57 GMT

    Pakistan are overrated team.No quality in their batting Everyone slash their bat hard like boom boom afridi.Only younis can do somehing but he is out of form. If Sa gets a decent spinner they and duminy comes in for elgar they are Unbeatable.

  • Adnan Ayub on February 14, 2013, 8:22 GMT

    Pakistan has a rare chance to win the test at cape town. Pakistan must put a 500+ runs first up to make the SA frightened. Then comes irfan and tanveer a new thing for SA.

  • cricketlover on February 14, 2013, 8:20 GMT

    After all, it's not a bad idea to open the Pak batting with two left-handers, which could, possibly, unsettle the king pin named Steyn and open the floodgates of confidence for the later batsmen. Think about the prospects. Anyway, Azhar Ali does not do any justice to his position while Hafeez could srengthen the middle order alongwith Younis, Misbah and Asad Shafiq preceding him so that the tail does not come under much pressure.

  • Faridoon on February 14, 2013, 6:57 GMT

    We have never had a shortage of good bowlers. Irfan is an automatic selection after the practice game. What we should be more worried about is how our batters will remain at the crease in the face of the Saffer bowling juggernauts. Not many of our guys have faced anything so hostile on pitches that assist bowlers.

    Our only hope lies in the news that the Cape Town surface is going to be drier, which means two things: (1) Less sideways movement hence better batting conditions and (2) Spotlight may shift from the pacers to the tweakers. Peterson and Ajmal will get a chance to get noticed

  • waj nian on February 14, 2013, 3:26 GMT

    Irfan should have been put to test in the first battle but let's hope for some magic this time.

  • Som on February 14, 2013, 2:57 GMT

    Good points, and there is a good chance that the trio of Irfan, Saeed, Junaid can ruffle the SA batsmen. But, a big but is whether the Pakistan batsmen can face a situation where all the three - Steyn, Morkel and Philander is firing. In such cases, the game will be decided on the quality of batsmen. And SA, is far far better than Pak.

  • Ashraff on February 14, 2013, 2:51 GMT

    PCB always think about balling unit and they don't concern their batting and fielding departmetn which lead to lose the games most of the time. They have to find out skillful batsmen like Sachin, Sanga, and Dravid for Test. They also should discover a good wicket keeping batsman like de villiars, dhoni and sanga. Pak selectors make a mistake that they drop out well performed players without any reasons like umar akmal and mohamed yousuf but they give a lot of chances to usless batsmen like youniskhan.

  • Jawad on February 14, 2013, 2:47 GMT

    Excellent thoughts! Lets also not discount AdurRehman. An excellent wicket taker and capable late order bat. May work if the spinners get some help on this pitch. I feel Pakistan have really been labelled as underdogs and that is when they perform the best. When nobody expects that is when the green shirts surprise! Go green!

  • Imran Quriaishi on February 14, 2013, 1:47 GMT

    Mohammad Irfan deserves a place in the team. Rahat Ali is a failure and anyone who fails to deliver on South African pitches should be kicked out immediately.Rahat Ali failed miserably and should be sent back immediately . Anwar Ali or Wahab Riaz should be sent in as replacement. Even Talha is not a bad option. Rahat Ali is a failure and should not be in the team.

  • Laiq Ali on February 14, 2013, 1:25 GMT

    Irfan should be utilized in short short spells; hoping a tough fight this time from Pak batsmen

  • Khalid Bajwa on February 14, 2013, 1:25 GMT

    Haha. When it comes to Farhat, you just can't resist can you ? You just HAD to slip a shot in there :D Agree with you though, my jaw dropped to the floor when i saw he wasn't included in the first test match. Inexplicable. Hope all that was wrong is righted now though :)

  • Laiq Ali on February 14, 2013, 1:23 GMT

    A very tough contest is on the cards, lets see how our batsmen cope with the south african pace attack; Irfan should be utilizes in short spells.

  • Laiq Ali on February 14, 2013, 1:23 GMT

    A very tough contest is on the cards, lets see how our batsmen cope with the south african pace attack; Irfan should be utilizes in short spells.

  • Deep on February 14, 2013, 1:12 GMT

    Allow me to point out that hustling the Indian batting line up is not that great an achievement anymore as Dravid, SRT etc. have retired and guys like Sehwag are way past their prime. Irfan is a modestly good player who will struggle to hustle Graeme Smith, Amla, Kallis, De Villiers who are all in a different league from current Indian batsmen. Plus, they get their net practice against Steyn/Morkel/Philander and not Bhubaneshwar Kumar.

  • Mkhan on February 14, 2013, 1:03 GMT

    Risk worth taking. Get him in and get the chin music started.

  • Ali Imran Shah on February 14, 2013, 1:01 GMT

    If Steyn can do at speed around 135 Avg but deadly accruacy, Irfan would have done the same, he doesn't need tons of overs. Five overs bursts from him will get the goods. Junaid can do it, Gul can do it and now on the dry pitch Ajmal can more than do it.

    Misbah is not the inspiring Captain who will put Ustad Amanat Ali Khan or Lohar's Jugni and tell the players in the room they can do it if SA can do it and do it better, believe in yourself, you can do it, Fazal till Imran, Waqar & Wasee... Mushtaq did it, you guys come from the same land as them. Go, do it, blast the SA and take the glory.

  • Umair on February 14, 2013, 0:40 GMT

    Thou art an eternal optimist!

  • aftab from VB on February 13, 2013, 23:34 GMT

    I will not be surprised if we are over-estimating the effect of height, but the fact is that he delivered in India, and it should be better for him to bowl here. Pak needs to watch Majid/Sadiq epic opening stand against WI the night before this match.

  • Jonaid on February 13, 2013, 23:26 GMT

    I couldn't agree any more. Irfan is a risk that must be exercised. Why bring him on tour and then not use him when needed most? I would use him sparingly by giving him short 4 over bursts and to unsettle the tail. The concern will be the likely exclusion of Junaid through injury. Lets see what Misbah and Dav have in store.

  • yousuf on February 13, 2013, 22:30 GMT

    The opportunity was lost in Jo'burg. That was the wicket Irfan could have caused serious problems. Its doubtful he'll be able to the do the same at Cape Town which has much less bounce. With Junaid out, things look bleak for Pakistan sadly. The series will probably be over by the end of this test

  • Irfan on February 13, 2013, 22:17 GMT

    Bowling ten overs split during the tenure of an innings is one thing (in a one day) and bowling 15-20 during the day (test) is something else. Tall he might be but is his structure sturdy enough to sustain this rigor? This is the question and that's why he isn't in the squad. Notwithstanding his form can he sustain bowling for an average of ten overs a day for five days while doing all the rest in the field. Those overs are needed to be bowled; if he is used sparsely somebody must have to bowled them hence extra ware and tear on those bodies. Management more then any one else must know his fitness level and can be the best judge as to what is the best time of insertion for him. I think they are looking for somebody who can carry his own weight and if the luck will have it and he plays then very good luck to him as every body knows that he could be lethal and what better stage for him to prove but South Africa.

  • Sean on February 13, 2013, 22:01 GMT

    Pakistani bowler should aim the body and try to hit the SA batsmen. That is the only way you can mark your territory too. Draw some blood or crush some toes.

  • ZNz on February 13, 2013, 21:42 GMT

    Irfan must field at gully. He should not be placed at boundary. It will tire him out

  • Altamash on February 13, 2013, 21:40 GMT

    Well said: "A RISK worth taking"

  • johnny on February 13, 2013, 20:51 GMT

    Pakistan did ok in the first test to bowl south africa out for 253,but as usual it was their useless batting that was responsible for their defeat.With the present crop of players I can't identify one player who looks capable of scoring a hundred,and that basically sums up pakistan's problem.If you get bowl out for 49,then having 5 big birds in the team isn't going to help you.

  • muhammad atif on February 13, 2013, 20:42 GMT

    Wicket takers are needed and must be included,Irfan,Rehaman can make difference.Batsman has to stay focused and cover their off stump with full bat leave anything outside without touching.If they do S/A will choke as usual otherwisemisbah find retirements at the end of series.

  • asad on February 13, 2013, 19:42 GMT

    The problem is not big bird Mr Abassi but the brainless batting of the pakistani top and middle order.Pakistan at the moment does not have any quality batsman unlike most of the other test playing countries.I would rate the west indies batting as superior to this current pakistani batting line up.

  • faruq on February 13, 2013, 19:19 GMT

    You absolutely right Mr. Kamran,

    We cannot hide the best asset the Pakistan has -- the bowlers (not the batsman -- who are a big liability!)

    We MUST use all the weapons available and not let the series go out of our hands.

    Go Greens Go!

  • Qamar on February 13, 2013, 19:17 GMT

    This big bird is only fit for odi's and t20's..... sorry to say this he is not fit for tests..... we dont need him in the test team where he bowls only 10 to 15 overs and then is sat in the pavilion injured for the rest of the test with the team handicapped and being hit all over the ground by the SA's .......

  • rockettt pak on February 13, 2013, 19:16 GMT

    very well written. however Pakistan has a problem with their batting. No one knows why but Pakistan is known for producing quality fast bowlers. Keep in mind that bowlers like Amir and Asif are missing so one can well imagine that where would Pakistan stand if they were included in the squad. Sky is the limit!!. However nowadays cricket demands set standards in all fields of cricket so Pakistan should concentrate on finding quality batsmen. They have done a decent job in case of Nasir Jamshaid and maybe Asad Shafiq but they need to more.

  • Zahidsaltin on February 13, 2013, 19:15 GMT

    Abbasi sb. As pakistan is not hosting any matches at home, the first class players do not get those chances to face foriegn internationals which all others get when they play side matches prior to the tests. To counter that, PCB should have been arranging a lot of A-team tours to Australia, SA and England. Ijaz Butt and now Zaka both are guilty of not doing that. The upcoming talented players need to tour these countries to get better at playing in these conditions to be able to perform for the nation team in their later age.

  • Shahid on February 13, 2013, 19:09 GMT

    No doubt it's tough on Pakistani batsmen to counter the type of swing bowling they faced in the first encounter but the damage gets another magnitude when they go in to their shells and forget to score runs. In my opinion, the only chance they have is to bat positively and straight. Had they scored some runs in the first innings, everybody could have been criticizing them now for not playing Irfan but the way batsmen presented the match to SA, no one bothered to name that bad choice. Now it seems as Junaid is out of the play, and thats going to hit Pakistan even harder.

  • faisal on February 13, 2013, 18:40 GMT

    yesss i completely agree Big bird must fly

  • Rehan on February 13, 2013, 18:39 GMT

    Kamran, you are an amazing columnist. Wonderful read.

  • asad on February 13, 2013, 18:27 GMT

    Nice peace. Hope The Big Bird II lives up to his hype. He definitely has the ability to do so. But in a debut test, Saffers must have plans of aggressive strokeplay, among others, to undermine his confidence. Lets see

  • Soothsayer on February 13, 2013, 18:13 GMT

    at a couple of inches taller than garner this guy could technically get steeper bounce than him, but is he fit for test game..remains to be seen. And where do you hide him in the field ?

  • Aamir on February 13, 2013, 18:11 GMT

    I am sick and tired of Imran Farhat. He hasn't done anything since....forever. He is barely a decent option even on home soil. What in the world is he doing in South Africa?? His father in law is a selector. That is the ONLY reason he continues to be picked.

  • big dady on February 13, 2013, 17:46 GMT

    i think pakistan will be a different team on this test. they have got the hang of saf pitches a little bit with practice matches, i hope to see a good contest at lest.

  • murtaza on February 13, 2013, 17:28 GMT

    I think He (Irfan) is very good bowler, not like Junaid, but better then Rahat. Inparticular on bouncy tracks,in South Africa. But problem is bowling, its batting who let Pakistan down all the time, no experinec (Younis, Misbah, Hafeez) working, nor talent ( Umar akmal),Good luck Pakistan against Styen and co.

  • Zafar on February 13, 2013, 17:24 GMT

    Kamran, I have no idea why Irfan was not included in the first test....do you???

  • Morfi on February 13, 2013, 17:01 GMT

    One thinks with Junaid injured, left arm Abdul rehman shd take flight and will pose a serious threat...

  • hassan on February 13, 2013, 16:02 GMT

    Junaid Khan is injured Kamran; so two changes are imminent!

  • Shafiq Ashraf on February 13, 2013, 14:36 GMT

    Agree totally, Lamboo should be the only change (for the hapless Rahat Ali); in an ideal world Abur Rehman would be in the team but we have to play 3 pacers on SA pitches. Azhar Ali is in bad form but dropping him for Lazarus aka Imran Farhat would be a disaster, just like there used to be no wkt keepers in Pakistan apart from those with the surname Akmal, there are still no replacement openers apart from Farhat, what a farce.On another note does anybody know where Hammad Azam has been banished to? Is he injured? Hopefully he'll be back for the limited over teams;I guess Akmal sr will be back after his hundred vs the mighty Afghanis!Yet another unwarranted return.

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  • Shafiq Ashraf on February 13, 2013, 14:36 GMT

    Agree totally, Lamboo should be the only change (for the hapless Rahat Ali); in an ideal world Abur Rehman would be in the team but we have to play 3 pacers on SA pitches. Azhar Ali is in bad form but dropping him for Lazarus aka Imran Farhat would be a disaster, just like there used to be no wkt keepers in Pakistan apart from those with the surname Akmal, there are still no replacement openers apart from Farhat, what a farce.On another note does anybody know where Hammad Azam has been banished to? Is he injured? Hopefully he'll be back for the limited over teams;I guess Akmal sr will be back after his hundred vs the mighty Afghanis!Yet another unwarranted return.

  • hassan on February 13, 2013, 16:02 GMT

    Junaid Khan is injured Kamran; so two changes are imminent!

  • Morfi on February 13, 2013, 17:01 GMT

    One thinks with Junaid injured, left arm Abdul rehman shd take flight and will pose a serious threat...

  • Zafar on February 13, 2013, 17:24 GMT

    Kamran, I have no idea why Irfan was not included in the first test....do you???

  • murtaza on February 13, 2013, 17:28 GMT

    I think He (Irfan) is very good bowler, not like Junaid, but better then Rahat. Inparticular on bouncy tracks,in South Africa. But problem is bowling, its batting who let Pakistan down all the time, no experinec (Younis, Misbah, Hafeez) working, nor talent ( Umar akmal),Good luck Pakistan against Styen and co.

  • big dady on February 13, 2013, 17:46 GMT

    i think pakistan will be a different team on this test. they have got the hang of saf pitches a little bit with practice matches, i hope to see a good contest at lest.

  • Aamir on February 13, 2013, 18:11 GMT

    I am sick and tired of Imran Farhat. He hasn't done anything since....forever. He is barely a decent option even on home soil. What in the world is he doing in South Africa?? His father in law is a selector. That is the ONLY reason he continues to be picked.

  • Soothsayer on February 13, 2013, 18:13 GMT

    at a couple of inches taller than garner this guy could technically get steeper bounce than him, but is he fit for test game..remains to be seen. And where do you hide him in the field ?

  • asad on February 13, 2013, 18:27 GMT

    Nice peace. Hope The Big Bird II lives up to his hype. He definitely has the ability to do so. But in a debut test, Saffers must have plans of aggressive strokeplay, among others, to undermine his confidence. Lets see

  • Rehan on February 13, 2013, 18:39 GMT

    Kamran, you are an amazing columnist. Wonderful read.