June 16, 2013

Betrayed by the batsmen

Pakistan's batting order carries plenty of dead wood. There may not be too many alternatives but the few there are need to be looked at

Pakistan's batsmen have lowered the standard © ICC/Getty

Pakistan's performance in international tournaments tends to defy prevailing circumstances. Not this time. The World Cup campaigns of 2003 and 2007 rank alongside this year's Champions Trophy as demoralising failures. The 2003 tournament in particular was followed by a cull of players that allowed Pakistan to rebuild and become competitive again. Something similar needs to happen now.

The imperative for Pakistan in one-day cricket is to build towards the next World Cup in 2015. The bowling is in good health. It is the batting that has required a surgeon's scalpel for over a year and now resembles a rotting corpse. The dead meat belongs to Imran Farhat, Shoaib Malik, and Kamran Akmal. Mohammad Hafeez has some life in him as a bowling allrounder in the lower middle order but his lifetime's endeavour to establish himself as a top-order batsman has come to nought.

Pakistan cricket is not blessed with alternatives. Its cricket infrastructure is so shattered that it struggles to compete with the professional standards that have been established in other major cricketing countries, systems that are required to develop international-class batsmen.

Yet there are options and these can no longer be overlooked. The players who need to be considered include Ahmed Shehzad, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail and Hammad Azam. Umar Akmal is a viable option as a batsman wicketkeeper. Mix this younger group with Misbah-ul-Haq, Nasir Jamshed, Asad Shafiq and Umar Amin from the current squad and Pakistan's batting order already looks stronger, with potential for the future.

The Champions Trophy is a tough tournament and success is by no means guaranteed. But the manner of Pakistan's exit from this series has made their supporters forlorn. The only fight on display at Edgbaston was the unfortunate skirmish or two between opposing fans in the stands. The pragmatic approach of Misbah's reign as captain has helped stabilise Pakistan cricket. Pragmatism does not have to be soulless, however. There was no soul, no spirit, and no fight in these batting displays except from the captain.

That hurts most of all. Pakistan is a troubled nation but it looks to its cricketers to raise a flag of honour on the international stage, to make a stand that reflects the determination and aspirations of its people. Pakistan's batsmen have lowered the standard.

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

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