March 23, 2014

Brash youngsters or scapegoats?

Ahmer Naqvi
Has Mohammad Hafeez's captaincy been scrutinised enough?  © AFP

Ahmed Shehzad was sweating bullets. He was jumpy when he walked in, he was changing gloves by the second ball of the match, and his running was a mess. He ran his opening partner out, then himself, almost, and then his captain, almost. He finally got out playing the shot of someone with an exhausted mind, tamely missing a ripping legbreak from Mishra and being stumped.

Umar Akmal was calmer. He started cautiously and picked up some boundaries in his flamboyant style. But then he started getting bogged down, suffered one of his typical brain freezes, and got out playing a terrible shot he should never have tried.

Shehzad made 22 off 17, Umar got 33 off 30.

Compare that with the smart cricket played by the seniors. Shoaib Malik showed how to slog Mishra, calmly stepping out and getting to the pitch before depositing him in the stands. Kamran Akmal had the measure of the bowling, piercing the field twice for glorious fours before his partner cut his innings short. And Mohammad Hafeez was completely set and going for the kill when he got a leading edge.

Kamran made 8 off 10, Malik made 18 off 20, and Hafeez made 15 off 22.

The brash youngsters who got out playing poor shots played 13 dot balls out of 47. Their attacking, devil-may-care irresponsibility (which brought about their dismissals) meant that a whopping 29% of their runs came from boundaries.

In contrast, the experienced wise heads (who never broke into a sweat) played 31 dots out of 52, or two dots for every three balls they faced. Their knowledge, which they have gained from experience and cannot be taught, meant that they knew how to rotate the strike and keep the scoreboard ticking. Only 63% of their runs came in boundaries.

The beauty of numbers is that they cannot be argued against, no matter how hard you try and spin them. Take a look at the above numbers and ask yourselves, who is to blame here?


Shoaib Malik was dressed in black. His face looked freshly shaven, like in his shaving-foam advertisement, and it seemed fairer, as his whitening-cream commercial with his celebrity wife had promised.

The anchor on the state sports channel made a pointed jibe at players who fabricated their ages. Malik leaned forward, twinkled his eyes, suppressed a smirk and raised his arms as if to plead innocence, before pointing a finger to himself, wagging another with his other hand and shaking his head. Throughout all this, he didn't speak a word. The anchor laughed and said that he knew his guest was a man of integrity and had never tried such a trick. Malik was similarly charming in another evening show a few weeks later, this time chatting delightfully with a vivacious host and perfecting a coy swagger ideal for desi men. He then went and ended up as the fifth-highest scorer in the domestic T20 tournament. Soon after, the squads for the World T20 were announced and Shoaib was in Pakistan's.

The problem with Shoaib Malik is that there is always more than meets the eye. While his media appearances were masterly in their performance and timing, his domestic stats were more deceptive. In his tally of runs in the Faysal Bank T20, almost half of his runs were scored against the group minnows, and they were made at an overall strike rate of 102.

Malik's fellow senior player Kamran Akmal ended the domestic T20 tournament with fewer runs than several other wicketkeepers and yet waltzed back into the side after a year away. His tally of 58 runs had 38 from boundaries, and yet his overall strike rate was 96.6. With his younger brother having been given the gloves in the ODIs, logic could surely not have been a factor in Kamran's return to the fold as an opener and wicketkeeper. And yet here he was again.

And then there is Hafeez, whose nickname reveals far more than it should. It has often been suggested that Hafeez was given the title "Professor" as a friendly joke that poked fun at his tendency to overthink, and yet over time it seems to have been stripped of nuance and used to present him as Sargodha's answer to Mike Brearley. His recent captaincy, however, has suggested that he is not even close. But he has still retained the captaincy though he has yet to justify his long-term selection for his day job - as a top-order batsman.


The game against India exposed the charade the selectors were apparently trying to orchestrate, as Malik, Kamran and Hafeez embodied a depressingly similar approach to batting. They needlessly absorbed a large number of dot balls and then hit the occasional boundary, perhaps to convince themselves that all was not lost. Finally, despite all their supposed experience, they got out foolishly, in ways that suggested they had never quite been in control.

What's more, this has by and large been the script they have followed through their careers. It would be churlish to not admit that there have been some highs, but it would also be important to mention that they have never shown the ability to build upon those brief crests. And yet somehow they have remained almost permanent fixtures in the team.

Hours after the match ended, I had already caught the first condemnations by former players of the young men mentioned at the start of this post. They said that Shehzad and Umar Akmal needed to learn how to control their innings and play the right shots. I imagined that others would catch the highlights of the match later and see the boundaries by the seniors that would further reinforce the "reckless youngsters" theory. And then soon enough we would see one or both of the youngsters dropped: more lambs lined up for the slaughter.

What is unlikely to happen is that someone will finally call out the conmen who continue to play in the side. Kamran, Malik and Hafeez will continue to pull off innocuous, unobtrusive, match-losing performances and yet somehow never face the blame, let alone the consequences.


Ahmer Naqvi is a journalist, writer and teacher. He writes on cricket for various publications, and co-hosts the online cricket show Pace is Pace Yaar. He tweets here

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Keywords: Selection

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (March 27, 2014, 1:27 GMT)

kamran has been doing well in the tournament but there r better players than malik and even bhatti. younis is a far better player than malik and razzaq is better than bhatti and they both have a lot of cricket left in them. if not razzaq I believe anwer was a better choice than bhatti but then why wudnt they pick bhatti as he plays for the same club in which hafeez and misbah plays.

Posted by   on (March 27, 2014, 1:22 GMT)

totally agree. But shehzad has featured in so many international games, and yet he couldn't handle the pressure so shehzad himself have to blame. we cant blame seniors for his poor show.

Posted by   on (March 26, 2014, 23:48 GMT)

shoaib malik , kamran akmal and hafeez .. why they are in the team ?

Posted by Le_Jeu on (March 25, 2014, 7:38 GMT)

Haha well said. Shades of J Kimber in the article.

Posted by   on (March 25, 2014, 6:40 GMT)

why not misbah ul haq in place of sohaib malik in T2O??WHY NOT younis khan instead of malik??why notimran nazir??

Posted by Le_Jeu on (March 25, 2014, 6:24 GMT)

Haha well said. Shades of J Kimber in the article.

Posted by AnotherCricketer on (March 25, 2014, 4:55 GMT)

Great depiction of the Pakistan Cricket's state of affairs. When the PCB Chairman is hand-picked for the job by the country's PM, all hope is lost regarding player selection. Pakistan will continue to linger in the top 4. And when they win something big, we'll call it a miracle. Some things will never change. It took 10 years to see Imran Farhat slip down past the 11 with a no-name wife. With Shoaib Malik, we'll wait for him to grow white hair before he let's Pakistan Cricket be. Sad indeed.

Posted by   on (March 24, 2014, 21:25 GMT)

Great article, but i think Hafeez cannot be counted in the league of Kamran or Malik, he just had a bad game against India as a batsman and as a captain overall. In the next match, his captaincy was pretty good. Even as a player, he gives you so much flexibility in the side, he can bat at any number, and can contribute pretty good with the ball. A utility player like him can make it to any T20 side in the world.

Posted by RajitRajaram on (March 24, 2014, 16:23 GMT)

they may as well have gotten either Imran Nazir and/or Imran Farhat as well to add to the incumbent, useless, trio of Kamran/Malik and to an extent, Hafeez!

Posted by LeftBrain on (March 24, 2014, 16:14 GMT)

Haven't seen a better article about uselessness of Kamran, Shoaib and Hafeez, three utterly talent less players, responsible for most of Paksitan losses since they became part of the team. Especially Hafeez, who can only play on flat pitchesm, can only score against flat bowling attacks and always fails under pressure, or even in important games. His record in finals speaks for themselves. His bat avg is 15.28 and bowl avg is 54.00 (scored a grand total of 107 runs and took 4 wickets in 7 semi finals or finals he played)

Posted by arsalanaleem3000 on (March 24, 2014, 13:59 GMT)

Excellent article ....hate these seniors specially Malik .... i have no idea what is his role in this t20 team

Posted by   on (March 24, 2014, 11:54 GMT)

One of the most accurate summation of cricket & politics in Pakistan, I've read in a long time. Well done, sir.

Posted by hellothereeveryone on (March 24, 2014, 5:57 GMT)

I agree Shoaib Malik never deserved his place in the team. He has not performed in years now but you cant say the same for Hafeez (one of the leading bowlers in limited overs cricket) and Kamran Akmal (the best wicket keeper/batsman choice Pakistan currently has and he proved it against Australia). I agree the youngsters should be given confidence and should not suffer the fate of Nasir Jamshed (who I still think was a great talent that has been wasted) and should not be sacrificed so frequently.

Posted by   on (March 24, 2014, 0:28 GMT)

Kamran and Malik = parchi. There is no other explanation.

Posted by PakSelectorsRbad on (March 23, 2014, 21:13 GMT)

Kamran Akmal...Dropping catches and missing stumping is just a bonus...These guys wants to be in IPL...What a joke...Remember PCB selectors are not in IPL...Cant help there I guess

Posted by PakSelectorsRbad on (March 23, 2014, 21:10 GMT)

Well said Ahmer... Kamran made 8 off 10, Malik made 18 off 20, and Hafeez made 15 off 22..These are the worst players anyone would select for an International Cricket...Instead Misbah, Younis/Fawad and Sharjeel should have been in the team.. Sharjeel, Fawad and Sohaib are the future and must given enough time to learn International cricket. 31 dots out of 59 is 59 % of the time they could not make runs and these guys are still in the team. They blame Sharjeel...Bad selctors of Pakistan...Just very bad

Posted by avmd on (March 23, 2014, 21:08 GMT)

Shehzad needs some help, he is not sure how to approach the T20 and , should he go bang bang, Afridi style or whether now matured Umar Akmal style. In ODI and in test, he takes his time and delivers. For the moment he should be kept off from T20, or even for long time. Other example of such confusion is India's Raina. A very talented cricketer, knows how to appraoch T20 inning, but not sure about ODI and tests. No wonder he is a flop in ODI but highly successful in T20. Some players are not meant for all three formats.

Posted by Rufus_Fuddleduck on (March 23, 2014, 13:56 GMT)

Analysis which just can't be faulted. These so-called wise heads take their time, and simultaneously the on-field pressure increases, which gets to the dumb young guns. And then the losses are blamed on them - because the one who keeps busy makes mistakes, not the inert ones. Anyways today was a compelling performance by Pakistan, not least the bowlers who kept cool under fire for just that little longer.

Posted by   on (March 23, 2014, 9:23 GMT)

Very well written articles. Explain the exact reason of losing the match against India.

Posted by andrew-schulz on (March 23, 2014, 8:45 GMT)

Would you still call Umar Akmal a junior after all these years?

Posted by Dielo on (March 23, 2014, 8:31 GMT)

Great analysis by the writer. However he has to remember that it was only the first match and the trio were stll getting used to the conditions. I firmly believe they will come back strong for the rest of the tournament and take Pakistan to the finals at least.

Malik is a cool customer (the writer is clearly a bit jealous of his stylish ads). Kamran is inspirational as per his chatter behind the stumps and Hafeez's usually strong leadership clearly had a bad day at the office yesterday. After all "Form is temporary while class is permanent".

Posted by Syed_imran_abbas on (March 23, 2014, 8:25 GMT)

Pakistan t20 was good before World Cup.. Why did they bring them back anyway?? Malik kamran and tanvir are such a waste of space.

Posted by Salman_Shakeel84 on (March 23, 2014, 8:18 GMT)

This is a superb piece of sarcasm.

When the Seniors are performing worst than the juniors than there are no role models left within team for the young guns to follow.

The writer pinned these things precisely

Posted by   on (March 23, 2014, 8:17 GMT)

Very Well Written! Pakistan Cricket is a Big Mess... And no Wonders The greats of Wasim Waqar are keeping the distance an 2nd string greats are there to manage!

Posted by   on (March 23, 2014, 8:14 GMT)

Completely agree with you on this - I don't understand why certain players always find a way into the team even though their performances (both domestic and international) haven't been upto to the mark. This will keep on happening until and unless the Pakistani authorities start giving proper chances to the people who perform consistently at the domestic level - case in point have been Fawad Alam, Saeed Ajmal, Sarfaraz Ahmed.

Posted by IndianInnerEdge on (March 23, 2014, 7:58 GMT)

Good article by the author, good analysis.....however the fact that they came up against a team which was switched on (and not 100% switched on), knew their limitations (read -pathetic bowling attack), were certainly more focussed (even though not 100%) was missing. To be honest Shikhar played a pathetic shot, Yuvi looks rusty and simply not there (which is gr8 as he should fire soon) - had these guys been 100% switched on - PAK would have got a towelling...any ways, its early days yet, if i am a Pak fan, no need to despair, this format is a super banana skin and Pak does have the capability of toppling oz......tonights match should be a cracker.....go Pak - from ur indian fan....:)

Posted by   on (March 23, 2014, 7:34 GMT)

selection is really questionable. If domestic performance is the criteria then both malik and kamran should not have been there. In this game, they looked totally nervous. first few overs were like some young kid playing his firts ever game infront of a crowd.

Main question is these guys were dropped. what they did before this t20 that they were selected again?malik has proved to be a failure. good in domestic but nothing in internationals.

Posted by   on (March 23, 2014, 7:32 GMT)

Well... hafeez has been one of the better bowlers in T20s for pak... His batting is ordinary but he sure earns his place in the side one way or the other.

Posted by D-Ascendant on (March 23, 2014, 7:23 GMT)

This is wonderful writing. What a great piece. Thank you Cricinfo for running this.

Posted by ABKhanISB on (March 23, 2014, 7:20 GMT)

I've said it so many times. Hafeez, Malik, Kamran, Tanveer, Imran nazeer etc are burden on team and they stop the talent from coming into team. If anyone ask me what was the reason of this loss then it simply Hafeez.

People call Misbah "Tuk Tuk", but he still has better strike rate than Hafeez and he should be the captain of T20. Hafeez have been involved in many run outs, specially when the other player has a chance to become man of the match.

Also if someone has noticed, Hafeez get the ball when there is a very low change of batsman hitting a boundary. As soon as two boundaries are scored against him he give over to someone else and when a wicket falls he again get the ball for bowling.

Posted by muzika_tchaikovskogo on (March 23, 2014, 7:17 GMT)

As a neutral observer, I think the biggest concern for Pakistan is that nearly all the young players who have appeared in the last 10 years or so never quite lived up to their initial promise- the problem started long before 2009, so its has nothing to do with the absence of live action at home. For whatever reason, the system is just not able to nurture the undoubted talent at its disposal.

Posted by Cricket_Man on (March 23, 2014, 6:25 GMT)

While batsmen like Sohaib Maqsood and Ahmed Shehzad bring a sense of calmness to the crease, batsmen like Kamran Akmal and Shoaib Malik bring a panicky feel. So whenever Kamran and Malik bat, as fans every ball bowled looks threatening as if they'd lose their wicket anytime. As far as the last match against India is concerned I think our batsmen were either being too defensive or being wild with their batting. Batting looked like a burden more than anything. There were no proper cricketing shots and too many dot balls didn't help the cause either. I think this should be the last of Kamran Akmal and Shoaib Malik we see. Only a tournament-winning turnaround in their performances should give their careers a glimmer of hope.

Posted by Waqs77 on (March 23, 2014, 6:25 GMT)

@ Posted by getsetgopk on (March 23, 2014, 5:06 GMT) Whatever you said is perfectly to the point what i think.

Posted by   on (March 23, 2014, 6:12 GMT)

Absolutely agree with the writer

Posted by   on (March 23, 2014, 6:06 GMT)

spot on! i see people calling for shehzad's head because he played slow and got kamran out! i would say shehzad did the team a favour getting him out early and 22 of 17 is not slow! we need to look past the likes of kamran, malik, razzaq, farhat, tanvir and nazir and focus on building a new team for the world cup.

Posted by mk49_van on (March 23, 2014, 6:01 GMT)

What a typically Pakistani post - the lines are clearly drawn. There are the good guys - the youngsters and the bad guys - the old boys. The world is partitioned (pardon the pun) into us vs. them. The diagnosis for the loss is internal and all responsibility is with the Pakistani team. The opposition could have been anyone. The so-so Dhoni's Indians of 2014 or the mighty Lloyd Windies of 1985- space-time does not matter. The diagnosis would be the same, internal failures and bickering. If bloggers and analysts cannot get beyond this - what hope do the players have?

Posted by bouncer709 on (March 23, 2014, 5:31 GMT)

@muazkwt: Moin khan was a third class wktkeeper, his batting was worst than Kamran Akmal...... Ahmed Shehzad is better than Ramiz Raja.... Umer Akmal can hit what Ijaz Ahmed could have done.... but the whole problem is with Captain... he knows how to talk but no performance and just selfish attitude.

Posted by   on (March 23, 2014, 5:29 GMT)

EXPERIENCE! Malik and Kamran have experience! They have played over 200 matches and have learned well on how to lose! They fail to improve. Deteriorate along the way and continue to earn a spot on this word "experience". This word does not mean people who have lost many matches. Those are not experienced players. those are failures. Thats the word for them.

Posted by P.Srikanth on (March 23, 2014, 5:28 GMT)

No matter the flair, I think Misbah should be playing all three formats of the game and should be leading the side. It is bcoz T20 is not only about hardhitting, a team needs to have a leader and a consistent batsman who does not throw away his wickets. In 80's it was Miandad, in 90's it was Inzamam and now it is Misbah. I dont see any player even atleast 50% of quality equal to Inzamam or Misbah in the current Pak side. sad but true...

Posted by muazkwt on (March 23, 2014, 5:18 GMT)

Dear Mr AN,

In short & sweet Pakistan still searching - Replacement of Saeed Anwar- Amir Sohail- Ramiz Raja - till now Pak do not got openers like Saeed Anwar- Amir Sohail- Ramiz Raja and strong hitter like Ejaz Ahmed.

Even Pak fail to get WK like Saleem Yousuf & Moin Khan.

& the great Captain IK there is no chance for PAK to get like him the another.

Pakistan selector team they just kept playing poliitic with abdur razak

Posted by getsetgopk on (March 23, 2014, 5:06 GMT)

I have actually gotten tired of saying this time and again, your Akmal, Hafeez and Malik are NOT proper batsmen. They never were proper batsmen. Why have they been in the team for decades is not a mystery and should not be a mystery. It is simmple, they have backing from the goons in the PCB. There is no merit in Pakistan cricket. A pathetic cricketer like Hafeez who should at best be playing for wapda or port qasim is made the captain of T20 side and opens the innings in ODI's. This is plain and simple injustice by those running the game in this country. With a half fit Afridi, its bye bye WT20.

Posted by on (March 23, 2014, 4:44 GMT)

Excellent article.

Many people would argue that the likes of Australia (Hogg,Hodge,Haddin) and Srilanka (Sanga,Jaya,Dilshan) also have retained/recalled experienced T20 compaigners for this squad but they forgot that most of the abovementioned players were either world class like Lankan players mentioned above or their performances in domestic cricket earned them a recall while our selectors went with experience for the sake of experience only and is carrying excess baggage of Akmals, Maliks,professors and Tanvirs. Most mind boggling aspect of squad selection is the presence of only one specialist batsman on substitute bench completing ignoring our weakest link which is the batting lineup.


Sharjeel Khan, Ahmed Shehzad, Asad Shafiq, Fawad Alam, Umar Akmal, Hammad Azam, Sarfaraz ahmed, Shahid Afridi, Anwar Ali, Saeed Ajmal, Junaid Khan


Khurram Mazoor, Nasir Jamshed, Asad Shafiq, Fawad Alam, Umar Akmal, Hammad Azam, Sarfaraz ahmed, Shahid Afridi, Anwar Ali, Saeed Ajmal, Junai

Posted by   on (March 23, 2014, 4:20 GMT)

Spot on analysis. Feels good that someone can view the other side, much like the other side of moon.

Yes, at least two of them do not deserve their place even in probable 40. Hafeez can be spared, he is a useful T20 player.

Posted by   on (March 23, 2014, 4:01 GMT)

It is not the first time that I found the Pakistani selectors' decisions surprising. I still don't understand the logic behind Saeed Ajmal NOT being picked into the national squad till 2009. Saqlain Mushtaq form tapered away since 2002-03 and Ajmal played his first test only in 2009. Which means Pakistan was playing without a world class spinner for a close to 6 years. And when they eventually find one, he is already 32 years old. It doesn't make sense at all to me. Even the Indian selection decisions are baffling more often than not but I dont think they would have overlooked someone who is as insanely talented talented as Ajmal for as long.

Posted by cornered_again on (March 23, 2014, 3:12 GMT)

The fact that they performed poorly in domestic cricket but were still picked over some deserving candidates who had shown promise and stomach for fight in the international and domestic arena recently, makes it even more hurtful as a Pakistani fan. And they are not like proven match winners who have won cups like Yuvraj Singh that they warrant a gamble to be taken just on class.Just to put into context, since 2010 the average of Shoaib MaliK in both t20 and odi is around 18.5 mark with a not so impressive strike and he plays as a genuine batsman . Similar is the case with Kamran Akmal.. I hope they are not played in the tomorrow's match or else they will plays easy balls with dead bat and than hit a boundry and than get out cheaply after playing a less than run a ball innings and putting pressure on rest of the baating line and wasting crucial deliveries.. I just can't figure out how can they walk into the team so easily

Posted by Tahirnadeem on (March 23, 2014, 2:56 GMT)

Dear Ali, I think the Pakistani camp along with captain was not confident enough against India's match. And they proved to include Shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal in playing eleven. Kamran Akmal is not a good performer in important match, he always drop catches. If you see his face expression in important match he has never been clam and cool. Ali

Posted by cornered_again on (March 23, 2014, 2:36 GMT)

Dear Mr Naqvi.. Thank you so much sir for this article.. I was very nervous when these two were named in the t20 squad out of the blue..And I have been pulling my hair out since the morning of Indian match as my worst fears came true when they were announced in the team.. Our team and batting line up had been doing well without these ' conman ' but still they had to comeback and ruin everything. Last time when they made a comeback in champions trophy, they were the chief culprits of making our batting order look a joke. Since than we had recovered well without them, slowly but surely getting back on track with youngsters coming in and looking better than these perennial losers. e.g Umar Akmal coming in place of Shoaib Malik after champions trophy and being I think the 2nd best batsman in the world at no 6 only after only the great MS Dhoni. Even Ahmad Shehzad , Sharjeel khan , Fawad Alam have come in and performed relatively well and have shown some gutsy performances...SHAME

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