ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

Pakistan v West Indies, World Cup 2011, 1st quarter-final, Mirpur

Pakistan's bowling variety allows extra batsman

With the kind of choice he has, each bowling change Shahid Afridi makes has ensured that batsmen are unable to fall into the kind of rhythm they thrive on. On the pitches of the subcontinent, that is often a winning ploy

Osman Samiuddin in Mirpur

March 22, 2011

Comments: 67 | Text size: A | A

Umar Gul successfully appeals for the wicket of Jamie How, New Zealand v Pakistan, Group A, World Cup, Pallekele, March 8, 2011
Umar Gul is the form fast bowler in the world © Associated Press
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Through their unexpectedly smooth progress to the quarter-finals, the one question that has been asked of Pakistan repeatedly has been about the balance of the side. The Akmal brothers and Shoaib Akhtar hijacked matters temporarily, but the only on-field issue has been whether Pakistan have been playing a specialist bowler short to guard against the insecurities about its batting.

On the surface, much of the uneasiness about the combination is an instinctive, intangible one, a knee-jerk reaction to years of Pakistan sides geared around the bowling. No Pakistan team ever plays a bowler short, do they? It gives this combination initially a defensive feel, designed to make sure they can cover the weaknesses in their batting by taking from the strength of their bowling. And Pakistan play best when they are the aggressor, when they have specialists doing what specialists are meant to do.

In the loss to New Zealand, when Abdul Razzaq, Shoaib and Abdur Rehman bowled the last four, pivotal overs, the folly of this strategy came through. Chasing 300-plus subsequently, it wouldn't have made a difference whether they had six, seven or eleven batsmen in the side. Razzaq, who is a vital but underused component of this strategy, made a half-century at No 8, an effort lost on the game.

But after the win against Australia, a revision was in order and the true intent of what Pakistan have been trying to do seeped through. The comfort of Razzaq at eight was, after all, designed precisely for the kind of small innings he played against Australia, an unbeaten 20 that soothed frayed nerves. More tellingly, his two wickets earlier in the day meant Pakistan's attack looked just as Pakistan's attack is meant to look.

Though not conclusive either way, five wins in six games means the dilemma doesn't matter so much right now. And it matters even less because the attack they have played with, a bowler short or not, has actually done so well. "The way our boys have bowled in this competition has been amazing," Shahid Afridi said, with some justification ahead of Wednesday's quarter-final in Mirpur with West Indies. "All the credit [for our progress] goes to them for that. [Umar] Gul, Rehman, [Mohammad] Hafeez, Razzaq all have been bowling very well, Wahab [Riaz] as well."

They are joint-third on the list of team wicket-takers in the tournament, behind South Africa and India and equal with their quarter-final opponents. But for a rain-curtailed game against Zimbabwe, in which they bowled less than 40 overs, they would likely be higher. They also have the top wicket-taker and joint-fourth top wicket-taker of the competition in Afridi and Gul; the latter is the form paceman currently in the world.

But for variety, they are unmatched. In the first-choice XI they have played in the previous two games, they have every modern-day bowling option you can imagine. They have a right-arm fast bowler, a left-arm fast bowler (and both are fast, not fast-medium or some such dilution), a left-arm spinner, an offspinner, a legspinner, a right-arm medium-pacer; save for the chinaman, each and every angle is covered here. They have new ball wicket-takers, old ball reverse-swingers, death-over specialists, choking spinners through the middle, attacking ones through the same.

Just in case of injury or form, they have Shoaib's pace, Saeed Ajmal's off-spin and Junaid Khan's left-arm angle as back-up. So well-stocked have they been with options, they've even opened with spin, something they hadn't done in 13 years before this, and with some success.

And Razzaq apart, each and every one of them have done precisely what they have been asked to, and done it consistently. Hafeez has bowled nearly six overs a game and been miserly (only 4.08 runs per over conceded). He's picked up big wickets regularly, including Ricky Ponting and Upul Tharanga in the two biggest group games. Rehman has gone for only 4.42 an over, building a hurried and sustained pressure at one end.

These are the sweats, not the glory-seekers.

With this kind of choice, each bowling change Afridi makes has ensured that batsmen are unable to fall into the kind of rhythm they thrive on. Each change has brought a change of pace, a change of angle, a change in the degrees of turn to account for; in short, a different challenge.

On the pitches of the subcontinent, that is often a winning ploy.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 67 
Posted by   on (March 23, 2011, 14:16 GMT)

cric009, the "ordinary" teams that Pakistan beat, Australia & Sri-Lanka, will be the winners of their respective quarter finals games.

Posted by   on (March 23, 2011, 9:26 GMT)

Fantastic and honest article. This has become a tradition since I was a boy where Pakistan's bowling has always been strong and batting fickle. I believe India has the best batsmen and Pakistan the best bowling. I'm hoping for a tasty World Cup encounter between the 2.

I feel we can defeat anybody right now and the NZ loss was just a miscalculation considering how hard we had thumped them in the previous series.

Posted by   on (March 23, 2011, 8:11 GMT)

@jawabid Maznzoor, how can their be final of india vs australia? lol they are both facing each other on quarter final, u cant expect both teams to win to go through innit.

As Far as Pakistan goes inshAllah this is our year comon Pakistan bring the pride back to the country just play like tigers, and please do include shoaib akhtar inplace of waahaz riaz..

Posted by Murali_123 on (March 23, 2011, 7:27 GMT)

Pak bowling is best in bussiness

Posted by   on (March 23, 2011, 6:57 GMT)

The question of 'underused' Razzaq has been bothering me also. I think Razzaq has played much better at number 7 than at 8 historically. I was happy when the batting order was announced in the Colombo ground for the match against Australia; but Afridi came at 7 and what happened? That worked out ok at the end because the chasing total was not high. If Australian total would have been higher- around 250-this could have been disastrous. After all Vettori plays at No 9 so why can't Afridi play at No 8??

Posted by lateswing_witholdball on (March 23, 2011, 5:57 GMT)

Hafeez should be dropped ... A Razzaq seems to be in good enough form to get 10 overs through... saeed ajmal should be added... Pakistan should think about the semi/finals...

for a wicket which would help bowlers ... my team would be A Shafiq, K Akmal, Y Khan, Misbah H, U Akmal, A Razzaq, S Afridi, A Rehman, W Riaz, S Ajmal, U Gul

for a batting wicket ... my team would be M Hafeez, K Akmal, A Shafiq, Y Khan, Misbah H, U Akmal, A Razzaq, S Afridi, W Riaz, S Ajmal, U Gul

Posted by   on (March 23, 2011, 5:47 GMT)

C'mon Pakistan..Lets Beat dis West Indies Team..We did it against Australia...and we can do it against West Indies......The current line up is really superb...

And Afridi bat like u batted in the Twenty20 world cup.....Go slow and steady and hit the bad balls in the gaps for SIX......U arnt gona lose ur fans if u go slow and steady...the fans are alwaz behind U. :)

Posted by   on (March 23, 2011, 5:28 GMT)

Thanks Osman...being a Pakistan Team Fan, i didn't enjoy the initial part of your article but i'm glad i read the whole thing. I loved the part where you wrote "They have a right-arm fast bowler, a left-arm fast bowler (and both are fast, not fast-medium or some such dilution), a left-arm spinner, an offspinner, a legspinner, a right-arm medium-pacer; save for the chinaman, each and every angle is covered here. They have new ball wicket-takers, old ball reverse-swingers, death-over specialists, choking spinners through the middle, attacking ones through the same."

Boom Boom all the way!

Posted by Vnott on (March 23, 2011, 4:30 GMT)

Given the fickle batting line up, Pakistan is capable of losing to anyone and likewise they are a dangerous side who can upset any team though personally I cant see them go all the way. The fickleness is bound to give way at some stage. Windies in some ways mirror pakistan in bowling. They are bowling beautifully. Roach, Rampaul, Russell, Bishoo, Gayle and Pollard can be a handful for any side ( assuming Benn does not play). However Windies batting looks more fickle than Pakistan and this may ensure a windies win. But you write windies off at your own peril. A Gayle or a Bravo or a Pollard may all choose to come good on a single day.

Posted by   on (March 23, 2011, 4:17 GMT)

This article is about the bowling options for Afridi.In my opinion Saeed Ajmal should be the first choice as speciallist spinner against WI.There are four left hander in top 5 for WI. The off break of Ajmal will left outside and chance for caught behind or catch in slip.A Rehman is best against right handed batsman like Australia or India.Now the experience of Shoaib and even the commitment he is showing in this world cup deserve to play the QF against WI.Wahab riaz is lacking line o length. So many times he wasted his two good deliveries by delivering wide or No ball. he lack of consistency in his length.That's Y shoaib is good choice for Afridi to make his bowling unit more strong. Good luck Afridi and his team

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Osman SamiuddinClose
Osman Samiuddin Osman spent the first half of his life pretending he discovered reverse swing with a tennis ball half-covered with electrical tape. The second half of his life was spent trying, and failing, to find spiritual fulfillment in the world of Pakistani advertising and marketing. The third half of his life will be devoted to convincing people that he did discover reverse swing. And occasionally writing about cricket. And learning mathematics.

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