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February 13, 2013

Pakistan in South Africa 2013

Big Bird II must fly

Kamran Abbasi
Mohammad Irfan hustled batsmen with pace and bounce, India v Pakistan, 1st T20, Bangalore, December 25, 2012
Mohammad Irfan troubled the Indian batsmen on their home turf  © BCCI
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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

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Posted by 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.

Posted by 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).

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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

Posted by 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 .

Posted by 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 .

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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........

Posted by Awais ali on (February 14, 2013, 11:30 GMT)

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

Posted by 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.

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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 international editor of the British Medical Journal. @KamranAbbasi

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