March 20, 2013

Pakistan in South Africa 2012-13

Where are Pakistan's young batsmen?

Kamran Abbasi
Shoaib Malik has scored 58 runs in the first three ODIs in South Africa  © AFP

On a pink day a white ball was battered black and blue. Breast cancer is not an obvious charity for South African cricket to champion when the country faces greater challenges from other diseases, HIV/Aids for example, but the pinkness applied a very Australian sheen to a performance worthy of the irrepressible force in world cricket. South Africa, namely AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla, smoked Pakistan's resurgence in this series with a record-breaking partnership of breathtaking execution.

Pakistan were never serious challengers after that but Shahid Afridi's batting beat an ancient rhythm, and stole the day if not the result. Reaching the second tier at the Wanderers seems miracle enough. Clearing the stadium? No chance. Enter Afridi, who bounced a free hit off the roof of the stand on its meteoric journey to the golf course beyond.

Afridi promised he would return revitalised for this series - and he has, at least with his batting. It has been a surprise and a treat. Where his bowling stands - his primary reason for selection - has been hard to determine on these unhelpful wickets. But he typifies the problems at the heart of Pakistan's selection darkness: batsmen struggling to bat and bowlers struggling to bowl.

South Africa produced two excellent performances in this one-day series but their advantage has been kindly assisted by their visitors. The list of questions for Messrs Whatmore and Ul-Haq is a long one, from Mohammad Irfan's omission from the first match to the persistence with Shoaib Malik, but nothing perplexes more than the batting.

I struggle to understand Pakistan's strategy? Perhaps Misbah or Dav could explain it to us? By the time of the next World Cup, who will carry Pakistan's batting? Misbah will be in his 40th year, surely a tournament too far? Shoaib Malik is Pakistan's first specialist fielder; his batting would be generously described as ordinary. Mohammad Hafeez, a man whose admirable temperament outstrips his technique, will be an unreliable opener in New Zealand and Australia--his record outside Asia is clear on that. Younis Khan, may still have air in his lungs and steel in his wrists, but has lost sight of the anchoring role he needs to adopt in Pakistan's middle order. Afridi is, well, Afridi: here today and probably tomorrow, mercurial, maddening, sporadically magnificent.

Nasir Jamshed aside, and he has found this a difficult series, Pakistan's batting is time expired, a sell by date in the last decade. No young players are being considered in this touring squad. The old guard are clogging up the production line. Pakistan must at least find a way of including Asad Shafiq and Umar Akmal in the team--surely? One place is easy, that of Shoaib Malik. The other, although difficult, must be found.

Afridi was a youthful entrant to international cricket, a perfect example of Pakistan cricket's readiness to give youth its head, even though at times selection seemed premature. The failing of administrators, selectors, coaches, and captains has been developing talented debutants into world-class performers - not finding them in the first place.

The pendulum of stability has swung too far; the current inertia in selection has created a sense of stagnation. Nobody doubts the contribution of the current batsmen to Pakistan cricket, especially in a time of dreadful crisis, but we need to look ahead to the next generation. The plan may well be to rebuild after this year's Champions Trophy but with every innings a sense grows that too many of the current batsmen have nothing more to offer on Pakistan's journey to the next World Cup.


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

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Keywords: Selection

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Posted by RaadQ on (March 22, 2013, 1:59 GMT)

It is difficult for young talents like Jamshed and Umar Akmal to settle into a squad when they are dropped for a few bad performances. Jamshed got his 1000 runs with an average of 45, while umar akmal averages 37+. Younis Khan however has averaged under 32 despite 242 innings to his name, and has struggled in the last few series (SA, India, SL, England, etc, etc). Shoaib Malik, who is given chance after chance after chance, averages only 33 after 187 innings, not a lot for a low order batsman who is prone to get a lot of not-outs. The numbers speak for themselves, Pakistan have a habit of dropping young talents who go through a bad phase for old flops who over the long run have been failures.

Posted by Arhumomar on (March 22, 2013, 1:26 GMT)

I agree younis is a bit out of touch and coming to an end. Time to develop a younger number 3 batsman who can hit and stay at the average of 40+ at least. Misbah is the needed at the moment for at least another year in order to develop another captain. I am not sure about Hafeez. He certainly has a good cricketing mind but his embarrassing average of 27 does not suit a captain. And he will be questioned often when he becomes the skipper. Afridi's time is over. He should always have been considered a bowler who could hit a bit but now his bowling is not there also. Shoaib had still got it in him. He has always batted very much down the order hence his low average of early 30s. He should be promoted to number 3 if a younger batsmen is not to be tried. All in all pakistan has never lacked talent and never will. The just need planning

Posted by hammad.1 on (March 22, 2013, 1:04 GMT)

Where is Anwar Ali? He has been absent for such a long time, just like Khalid Latif...Hafeez should be ODI captain instead of Misbah.

Posted by Zahidsaltin on (March 21, 2013, 20:45 GMT)

Kamran Sahib, there is no lack of young talent as not only Umar Akmal and Asad Shafiq but Haris Sohail and Usman Sallahuddin are now been performing in first class set-up. Nasir Jamshid might have failed in South Africa but no one can negate talent in him. I have mentioned on this forum various times that PCB needed to arrange a lot of A-tours to Australia, NZ, SA and England but it looks as they have no plans and no real interest in forming the future. All teams while playing at home, offer their youngesters an exposure by playing the side match against the visiting teams but Pakistan has lost this due to no home games. I would imagine that other boards should show some solidarity and at least award us more A-team tours to compensate for home games. This A-team exposure could do a trick in shapping our youngesters. But PCB only get it SL whenever they do. Are they in PCB incompetent or just don't have thinking sense for future?

Posted by fah4 on (March 21, 2013, 20:24 GMT)

Selection of playing XI for Pakistan always amasses me.For 1st ODI they select 2 fast bowlers in SA when earlier they played 3 in India.From 2nd ODI they drop a proper batsman for an all rounder called Malik who rarely bowls.Any batsman can bowl the overs he bowls in this series even Younus khan can bowl that many so why he is not called all rounder? Why the tag all rounder is given to Malik who is used very rarely as bowler and performs more rarely as batsman.

Pakistan need to play young batsman like Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal, Harris Sohail and some others to make a good team for future

Posted by am5786 on (March 21, 2013, 20:13 GMT)

I don't get this why everyone is talking about Misbah's age, look at his performance he scored 38, 57*, 28 and 80 in four ODIs in South Africa. I don't care how old a person if he is scoring runs.

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Kamran Abbasi
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and Kamran is the international editor of the British Medical Journal. @KamranAbbasi

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