Pakistan cricket November 11, 2013

The hopelessness of Pakistan's batting

Raja Omer
There's light at the end of the tunnel for fans of Pakistan's batting - the light emanating from the tail of the Halley's Comet

Batting is simple. Generally, you look at the ball, hit it and try not to be a Pakistani batsman. But even if you are a Pakistani batsman, you could still look at the ball and not hit it. Of course, this is based on the simple surmise that you can't get out if you don't hit a ball that isn't headed for the stumps. In present form it seems this is the only way the Pakistani batsmen can last the full quota of 50 overs. Going by the inexplicable expressions on the faces of Akmal, Amin, Afridi, Jamshed and Hafeez when they are batting, you'd imagine that the thing coming out of the bowler's hand is in fact the Halley's Comet. Space enthusiasts are always encouraged to come and watch Pakistan's batting come to grips with big raging balls of flame hurled towards them at the speed of knots. Stars dying, stars being reborn, black-holes attracting balls, supernova batting explosions - you'll see it all. Why long for space travel when Pakistan's batting is a microcosm of exactly what is to be seen out there?

But can one really blame the Pakistani batsmen for their repeated misdemeanours with the bat, in light of such a hefty burden on their shoulders? Just winning is never enough. The team has to win with flair. It's almost an unwritten rule for the side. So, it's only fair if the other team plays its part too, because there is only so much a team of 11 Pakistanis can do on the cricket field.

In cricket when a batsman gets out early in his innings, the walk back to the dressing room is always difficult. There is the guilt of failure and the accusing looks of fellow team-mates. But then there is also the comfort in the hope of senior players raising their hands and guiding the team through those troubled waters. But not in the Pakistani team. When every batsman within the team fails with such religious regularity in the 10s and 20s, the only solace is in knowing that the other batsmen got out in an even more ridiculous manner than you did. Then the aim is simply to get in there, and get out without looking too silly. You see there is always hope in the collective failure of the team's batting in getting you through to the next match. This way there is no pressure of performing better in the next match either. Ask Hafeez or Afridi. They can vouch for this strategy.

But they are exceptional bowlers you say? Indeed they are. But if batsmen are to be picked on bowling abilities alone, why even go through the motions of picking any batsman? Why not simply play with 11 bowlers instead? The bowlers are anyway doing a better job at batting than the batsmen - Wahab Riaz was the top-scorer in the third ODI against South Africa.

For the Pakistani fan, batting is a harrowing tale of what could be. They see great potential in the likes of Nasir Jamshed, Umar Akmal, Asad Shafiq and Umar Amin. And they show great promise too with the occasional fifty or century, but they never quite live up to the expectations. The majority in Pakistan also finds it difficult to make peace with Misbah-ul-Haq's style of batting. The extremely low strike-rate for extended intervals only sustains the pressure that Misbah would otherwise want to get the team out of. Convincing Misbah to play attacking cricket to up his strike-rate would be like trying to floss a cat's teeth while getting a teenager to tell you about his day.

Serious doubts linger over whether the duo of Misbah and Whatmore can figure out what is wrong with Pakistan's batting. It is a malaise that has stuck with the team for far too long. The last time Pakistan chased a target of over 250 was two years ago. If Misbah's 'I don't have the answer' statement is anything to go by, one wonders if they have already resigned their efforts to find the answer. With such a defeatist approach, they would probably have a hard time finding the solution even if it had its arms thrown in the air like the trademark Afridi 'X' while prancing around the cricket field in Imran Tahir's knickers.

Speaking of Imran Tahir, maybe he should write a personal thank you note to the PCB, signed love, XOs and all. Because, only Pakistan could have rejuvenated his career from oblivion the way they have.

I don't know about your country dear reader, but we Pakistanis have a proud history of making star players out of hitherto unknown individuals. It's really inconsequential whether the individual concerned actually plays for Pakistan or not.

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