India v Pakistan, Champions Trophy, Group B, Edgbaston June 15, 2013

Pakistan fall short of proud history

After their third loss and exit from the tournament, Dav Whatmore's claim that criticism of his side is unjustified doesn't stack up

If Pakistan were under any doubt as to the level of anger their poor performance in the Champions Trophy had engendered among their supporters, it would have been banished as the team bus was pelted with bottles and stones as it left Edgbaston.

Having succumbed to their third successive defeat in the tournament, Pakistan were forced to admit that they had been comprehensively out-played by their arch-rivals India. Yet their coach, Dav Whatmore, responded to his side's elimination by chiding journalists for getting "carried away" with their criticisms and then claimed that his side were "one ODI victory from a good series".

It is simply not true. Had Pakistan prevailed in one of their three games in this event, they would still have been eliminated at the first hurdle, they would still have an inadequate batting line-up and they would still be deluding themselves into thinking there is not a gap emerging between the top nations and themselves. There is no excusing the bottles that were hurled at the Pakistan bus - such behaviour shames the vast majority of passionate but sensible supporters - but their performance in this competition has failed to justify the proud traditions of Pakistan cricket.

There is much to celebrate and nurture in Pakistan cricket. The fielding is improving and the bowling is genuinely exciting. But it would be foolish to deny there are also real causes for concern. If Whatmore cannot admit there is a problem, he may find it hard to find the solution.

To rub salt in the wound, this game confirmed a fear that many Pakistan supporters would have had for a while: that a chasm is growing between these two arch-enemies. While Pakistan have batted like blind men lost in fog, India have developed a couple of top-order players of real class. The manner with which Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan dealt with the short ball, in particular, suggested there is no reason they cannot both excel in all formats, all around the world. Even the Indian fielding, for so long a weakness, has become a strength. It was not a completely dead game, either. It remains possible that, if the semi-final is rained off, then points scored in the group stages could yet be relevant. It may be some consolation to Pakistan that India have shown how quickly change can come.

Pakistan, by contrast, failed to reach 200 in any of their games (they made 170, 167 and 165, which is consistency of a sort) and have now been bowled out in eight of their last 13 ODIs. Shoaib Malik averaged 8.33 in the tournament, Kamran Akmal 7.66, Mohammad Hafeez 12.66 and Imran Farhat, dropped from this game like a suffering dog might be put out of its misery, 2.00. That is not a blip, it is a pattern. Pakistan's batting has failed.

"You don't have to be Einstein to know we didn't make enough runs," Whatmore admitted. "But this is almost the same team that beat India in India. It's not a bad team. One series doesn't make the team a bad team. It's a trend in this series only."

That is debatable. Apart from the series win against India, Pakistan have actually lost ODI series against England, Sri Lanka, Australia and South Africa, with the victory in the Asia Cup the stand-out performance. It is hard to sustain Whatmore's argument.

The aim now must be to look forward to the 2015 World Cup. That gives Pakistan enough time to build a new side and to make the changes that they know are required: more A tours, more players experiencing conditions around the world and an end to a system where it sometimes seems that patronage and contacts are as important as merit. Whatmore's "these things happen" attitude, which seems to put such results down to bad luck, is an attitude that is simply too laissez-faire for modern, professional sport.

Perhaps the most accurate comment Whatmore made was when he said "it's easy to be critical". When Pakistan perform like this, it is indeed very easy.

There are bigger issues than winning and losing, though. Here, in the city where Enoch Powell made his "rivers of blood" speech, the supporters of two nations whose political relationship might best be described as frosty, sat side by side in a packed stadium in passionate support of their teams. There was no need for segregated seating, no heavy-handed policing, no serious trouble (a handful of spectators were ejected for directing abusive language at stewards and there was some foolishness at the end, but no more the case than is fairly normal when 25,000 people come together for 10 hours) and, generally, very little other than cheerful good humour despite the rain breaks and one-sided nature of the contest.

Norman Tebbit, the Conservative peer, would have hated it. It was, after all, Tebbit who infamously suggested that the descendants of migrants should support the England cricket side to prove their assimilation into British society. But for everyone but Tebbit, this was a day that reflected well on multi-cultural Britain, on multi-cultural Birmingham and, most of all, on the unifying powers of our great game.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Android on June 17, 2013, 12:11 GMT

    lacking spark players like afridi,razaq or umar akmal costed them the early exit and secondly what i felt was players were expecting the unexpected seem movmnt out ther and couldnt evn play spin which as an asian team ws mch easier to counter.Fault comes frm newly appointed batting coach which to me backfired aa players were left stranded baffled and confused

  • Jagan on June 16, 2013, 22:50 GMT

    One good thing happened to India is not having a captain from Delhi or Mumbai. Both groups play power politics and ruin the cricket. Hope Indian selectors take a notice of that and keep in mind selecting a captain from different places than above mentioned

  • Bashir on June 16, 2013, 22:27 GMT

    Beyond the obvious problem with the batting lies the real issue and it can be summed up in one word: selection, selection, selection! Malik has not made even a half century in his last 30 ODI Iinnings spanning 4 years and averages just 18 over that period. Farhat has an overall strike rate of under 70, and has an average over his last 15 innings of just 24! And yet these are the same faces given chance after chance after chance. Which other cricketing power would put up with such mediocrity?! Whatever people might think about Umar Akmal's temperament his average is 37 and he is difficult to set a field to because of the aggression and all round ability in his batting. There are other youngsters too who now need to be blooded: Haris Sohail, Usman Salahuddin, Babar Azam, Sami Aslam, to name just a few. These players should be nurtured in preparation for the World Cup in 2 years time. Add a sprinkling of senior players and Pakistan's batting has the ingredients to come out of this crisis.

  • Praveen on June 16, 2013, 22:15 GMT

    So, it's the weather yesterday which made the pitch look like a sub-continental one. Pakistani Bowlers were not complemented by the weather but the indian batsmen were. Errr, yeah you guys.. the last time I saw a world map, Pakistan was a country located at North America just above Canada, near the North Pole and not an asian country..

    Just wondering, when would few fans here admit the fact that India have in-form batsmen right now and negating any team on a given day !!!!

  • Sarang on June 16, 2013, 17:32 GMT

    @SamRoy, I agree that in 70s, Pak might have good world class batsmen but since 1980s, I haven't seen many "real" batsmen. As a general trend, I think Pak selectors and fans don't keep enough high standards for batsmen as they do for bowlers. Thats why you see ppl asking for players like Ahmed Shehzad, Fawad Alam and players like Farhat, Malik etc playing as specialist batsmen. Lot of ex players from Pakistan have long argued that bowling wins you games. Its high time they should be reminded that you can't score 150 every time and get away.

  • IFTIKHAR on June 16, 2013, 17:24 GMT

    Lets face the facts! The better team won.Forget about your exuces Pakistan simply do not have any Test standard batsman in this squad except Misbah.The pacers are ok.but inexperienced.No use crying over spilt milk.Pakistan team selection is a farce and dependent on the personal whims of the selectors not talent.I have no doubt that several of the club standard cricketers in the team like Malik,Farhat,Hafeez,are on a free enjoyment Tour of the UK!Pakistan have huge talent but there is no organisation,no encouragement,no advancement,if you belong to the underpriveliged class.This the reason behind talented and forceful players like Razzaq,Hammad,Shazeb etc being continually being ignored

  • Dummy4 on June 16, 2013, 16:30 GMT

    Pakistan batting is the issue, I think we should submit to the fact that we are not producing good enough players. Having done that, we should stick to Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal and Umar Amin, and must do away with Shoaib Malik, Imran Farhat and Kamran Akmal. Use Umar Akmal as a keeper and tell him to make as many runs as he can get. He surely can stay fit and play as a keeper for two to three years to give a combination.

  • Ramesh on June 16, 2013, 16:13 GMT

    Pakistan needs to be clear about what kind of batsman they want. There was a batsman called Asim Kamal, who had played well against India. He failed for a test and then dropped forever. Fawad Alam is another batsman who played well in Sri Lanka. Not to be heard. There was also this youngest batsman of all time, who fought hard against Australia, even when Pakistan were thumped in the gulf. But he also was dropped. Looks like people with decent techniques and heart to fight, are not really needed by Pakistan. Imran Farhat poked at outgoing balls on stationary feet ten years back; He is still there, doing the same thing. Even with constraints, the talent is there. Umar Akmal would have been a star like Kohli now; WHere is he? Talented guys have bad attitude and people with decent technique are discarded.

  • sam on June 16, 2013, 15:08 GMT

    @sarangsrk In the mid to late 1970s there was Sadiq Mohammad, Asif Iqbal, Zaheer Abbas, Javed Maindad, Mushtaq Mohammad, Majid Khan and Imran Khan playing in one team. What are you talking of Pakistani team's batting of never been world class? True it is really bad now but it used to be really good in the 70s and 80s. Even though I am an Indian I know a lot of Pakistan cricket and its rich history. The worst thing that has happened to Pakistan cricket batting is Shahid Afridi. Yes, he is dynamic and highly entertaining but he is no proper batsman. Kids in Pakistan wanting to bat like him has caused the biggest downfall in batting standards.