ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
Sri Lanka v Pakistan, Group A, World Cup 2011, Colombo
Pakistan mull three specialist bowlers
February 25, 2011
If indications from Waqar Younis are anything to go by, Pakistan are unlikely to pick a fourth specialist bowler for Saturday's crunch game against co-hosts Sri Lanka at the R Premadasa. Pakistan comprehensively beat Kenya in their tournament opener on Wednesday, but played, in Umar Gul, Shoaib Akhtar and Abdur Rehman, with just three specialist bowlers. Shahid Afridi is as good as a specialist bowler but the caution to fill the line-up with batsmen and batsmen who can bowl, has led to an under-utilisation of Abdul Razzaq.
Razzaq batted at No. 8 in the last game, as he has done in 14 of 18 ODIs in the last year. He has played a few significant innings but more than his performances, the question has been whether he is being allowed, in the current line-up, to have the fullest impact on a game. Pakistan have compensated by using him as an opening bowler, but even there he remains under-used: in those 18 ODIs, he has bowled 91.4 overs or, on average, roughly five overs a game. Never once has he bowled the whole quota and he has picked up eight wickets.
Instead, Pakistan have combined him and Mohammad Hafeez to provide a fifth bowler and have also been making Ahmed Shehzad bowl in practice, with a view to using him if needed. Though Waqar admitted that Razzaq didn't "really fit" in the current line-up, he maintained that they were happy with his bowling contribution.
"I think Razzaq has done really well with the ball," Waqar said, ahead of the Sri Lanka game. "He hasn't delivered the goods with the bat apart from one game in Abu Dhabi [the hundred against South Africa]. He is no doubt our striker in both batting and bowling. He bowls with the new ball and we've got to push him a little more in that.
"You're right he comes at eight, but we have five batsmen, the keeper is more a batsman and then there is Afridi, so he doesn't really fit in at the moment. But if we need to send him up the order if quick runs are required we might push him."
Pakistan's batting, in actual fact, has performed well over that period, crossing 250 13 times in their last 20 ODIs. But clearly the management remains concerned. The inclusion of Abdur Rehman ahead of Saeed Ajmal - circumstantial to an extent after a personal tragedy forced Ajmal to return to Pakistan during the New Zealand tour and allowed Rehman to take his place - against Kenya surprised some. But it has been done to shore the batting up further still.
"It is unfortunate Ajmal is not playing right now," Waqar said. "He has won matches for us over the last 4-5 years. But right now Rehman is a utility player. He bats a little, he is a very good fielder and the way he is bowling, from what I've seen, he is the best spinner here."
For the moment, Waqar said, the final XI had not been decided and hints from the camp suggest it is likely to remain unchanged. But the nature of the surface, re-laid recently, might compel a re-jig. "We don't really know at the moment," Waqar said. "These pitches are brand new, so we're not really sure how it has played. We're just going to go with the best combination, what we probably had in the last match but we haven't had a meeting yet. Until we come back in the morning and see something different, but at the moment I don't think there will be changes."
Though Waqar played down the threat Muttiah Muralitharan might pose, he acknowledged Sri Lanka will be a stern test. "It's an important game. For this tournament, for momentum it is important and to get to the quarter-final, and in which position you get there, in that sense very important. If you want to go ahead, you have to build momentum so you treat all the teams as one. Sri Lanka at home is very difficult to beat. But the way we've played and trained, I am hopeful we can beat them."
India have a range of selection headaches ahead of the Centurion Test