The talking points of the moment

South Africa will be the real test

A good win against West Indies but Pakistan need to get the combinations right against South Africa (05:31)

December 1, 2006


Rameez Raja assesses Pakistan's performance

South Africa will be the real test

December 1, 2006

Osman Samiuddin: How would you assess Pakistan's performance in this Test series against West Indies?

Rameez Raja: I didn't see lot of changes being made by the Pakistan think tank. They were desperate for victory and they got that in the first Test match, courtesy West Indies because Brian Lara read the conditions quite badly. Overall if you ask me, if I have seen something special from Pakistan, then I'm sorry I didn't see that.

There were some positives, individual positives: our openers finally clicked. Umar Gul had a good spell with the ball, Shahid Nazir was a surprise package, Kaneria improved his line and direction and he was a lot more disciplined in this series. For the openers, at least the criticism on them would have lessened just a little bit because they got runs. Still you cannot assess their technique and true quality on pitches like this. In England they struggled and the forthcoming tour of South Africa will be a tough one for them. It will reveal whether they have improved technically or in the mind. So there are individual positives but collectively it hasn't been a great series for them, even though they won this.

OS: How do you see Pakistan's five ODI matches against West Indies? West Indies are an improved side so how do you see that series playing out because Pakistan is also tottering a little bit as far as the ODIs are concerned?

RR: Pakistan would have to get their combination right. There is a desperate need for Shahid Afridi's inclusion. He may be erratic, he may not have the best attitude but at the end of the day he is a match winner and pretty destructive against bowling attacks such as the West Indies on home pitches. Danish Kaneria, I believe, has been included and it is a good move.

Pakistan needs to have a bowler who can give them the break-throughs. Even the good bowlers go for around five an over if not more in the one day games, because of the quality of the pitches. So Kaneria may go for runs but at least he will give you the positive of picking up wickets, so that's a good positive move. Abdul Razzak has to play, even though he did not perform well in this series, he is a good allrounder in one-dayers.

Pakistan need to be on their toes, they cannot take West Indies lightly. I am not sure how badly West Indies would be hurt by their Test series performance. Pakistan may just score psychologically over them because they had the better of them in the Test series.

OS: Before the World Cup there is a very important series coming up against South Africa. As we have seen India struggling in South Africa, there is a concern in Pakistan that the Pakistan batting might face similar problems that India is facing currently.

RR: It will be a difficult tour for them. I hope and wish that Mohammad Yousuf carries on with his good form in those pitches as well and that will make him a true world class article. He is a great batsman and he is in the top three of my all-time best list for Pakistan. But now he has reached a stage where he has to challenge the very best in the business at the world level. It's only when you score against a team like South Africa, who have got a great record at home and Australia, that you will be recognised as a great player. So here is his opportunity.

Inzamam needs to click as well. He has been absorbing a lot of pressure in the middle order. I am not really happy with what I have seen of him in this series. In the last stint here at the National Stadium he looked decent but against a very poor quality attack. And then there is Younis Khan, I mean once again the thing will depend heavily on the middle order.

In the end I think it's the spirit, overall composition of the team and how the team feels; it's important that Pakistan have a strategy in place. You have to pick your matchwinners and you have to pick your important players. Kaneria can play a key role. If Mohammad Asif comes back - I am not sure about Shoaib Akhtar what they will do with him - but if both the players are available then it will give an edge to Pakistan. They can hold South Africa and will invariably have lesser targets to chase in one-dayers at least. Asif is absolutely necessary for us. Umar Gul will also be a key player; he is one bowler who can perform well on any kind of surface. This performance of his on dead pitches would have given him a lot of oomph and would have bolstered his confidence.

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