ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

Canada v Pakistan, Group A, World Cup 2011, Colombo

Pakistan's defensive tactics almost cost them

Taking the batting Powerplay with tailenders at the wicket; plans to bowl maidens when defending 184; five outside the circle when an Associate nation is eight down - surely Pakistan are being too cautious

Osman Samiuddin at the Premadasa Stadium

March 3, 2011

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Pakistan dodged a bullet, for which there will be some relief. That the bullet came from a gun they were pointing at their own head will bring only resignation and bemusement. It is what they do every now and again, though it must be said they don't usually miss. John Davison spoke before the match of Pakistan being the kind of side that has a "poor day" very often; he spoke only fact. Against Pakistan, Associates can always dream.

Pakistan played as if spooked by a ghost. Shahid Afridi admitted that the defeat to Ireland four years ago - which he missed because of a ban - flashed through his mind when Canada were batting. "I told my boys that we must play for a win, to not be negative, we will win this game, work hard and don't worry about the result," he said.

Predominantly the batting was poor, wracked by nerves and unclear thinking. In any case, Pakistan, despite three wins, have been overcautious in this tournament, playing a line-up that bats till eight; if seven haven't scored, it's very rare the eighth will, yet they persist with an approach that, traditionally, suits them as well as the sun does vampires.

The clouds and pitch at the Premadasa were doing a little bit, so panicked shot selection was inevitable, something Afridi realised would not cut it against better teams. "There was poor shot selection and it was a very poor batting performance. If we want to play good cricket against good teams then we must improve. It's a good wake-up call for us."

Shahid Afridi looks to the heavens after completing his five-for, Canada v Pakistan, Group A, World Cup 2011, Colombo, March 3, 2011
Shahid Afridi has taken 14 of the 29 wickets Pakistan have taken in the World Cup so far © Associated Press

A third failure for the openers Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez will be taken all the more seriously given that two of the games have been against Associate sides. Afridi, though, was more critical of the middle order. "We had a very good opportunity for me, for Abdul Razzaq, for Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal to carry on batting; we could have scored more runs but we didn't. We need a good start.

"The condition of the pitch was such that we needed to bat with patience. It was a totally different pitch and the sun didn't come out. There were clouds and the ball was stopping so there was a need to wait while batting and we couldn't do that. If we had spent time at the wicket runs would have come."

But where was the sense in not taking the batting Powerplay when Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal were set, or when Afridi and Abdul Razzaq were together? In no scenario can it be right to take the Powerplay when Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal are at the crease. It appears that Pakistan plan beforehand to take it after the 40th over and don't readily budge from that plan, no matter what the situation of the innings.

To see no slip to the possibility of a Saeed Ajmal doosra when Canada chased, or as many as five men on the boundary when they were eight down, only completed the picture of a quite unnecessary defensiveness. The team's plan was to bowl "maiden overs, so that their required rate goes higher," Afridi said, and you can see some smidgeon of logic in that. But against Canada? and when you've only got 184 to defend?

Afridi's bowling, at least, was much sharper than some of the moves he made as captain, and a second five-wicket haul in three games keeps him comfortably in the leading wicket-taker's spot in the tournament so far. With 14, he has taken nearly half of all Pakistan's wickets in three games.

Conditions, he acknowledged, are ideal for his fastish spinners. "I try to bowl wicket to wicket and I get spin on these pitches where it skids, so I'm getting wickets. The conditions are very good: perfect for spinners but also good for fast bowlers if you hit the right areas."

If there was a system to Pakistan's performances, then it would have been tempting to conclude that they have gotten a shocker out of it early, without any real damage in the long run. If they haven't done that yet, they have at least put themselves on the verge of a quarter-final place.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 56 
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Posted by Dummy4 on (March 6, 2011, 6:15 GMT)

Send razzaq at number 4 then see pak will score over 300, but Afrikaner is the worst captain and waqar is a worst coach when it comes to make aggressive decision.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 5, 2011, 12:00 GMT)

I think it was moment to realize that we were too defensive with the bat & the field, Ahmed Shahzad needs to be pulled for his Slack performance it's much better to send Asad Shafiq or Kamran Akmal for opening meanwhile Razzaq should be promoted to number 3, we have to get another pacer for the opening bowling pair, Afridi alone won't let us win the match !!!

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 5, 2011, 10:57 GMT)

Two akmals should not play in same team, I think hafeez and shahzad are under pressure. No worries give them another chance and drop one akmal. Drop kamran send younis at number 3 razzaq 4 misbah 5. shafiq should play after misbah and low confident captain afridi should always bat after 43rd over. One more thing afridi stop blaming razzaq and misbah if you have decided you will take power play after 40th over then we can only blame you. why u took powerplay when gul and ajmal were at the crease? that shows how stupid and jerk captain you are. Change the plan send razzaq at uper order, we have seen your worst captaincy at t20 2010, but dont wana see it again.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 5, 2011, 10:42 GMT)

Another worst captaincy from afridi, i think waqar and afridi should be eliminated from there positions. Both akmals cant perform in WC, drop kamran and give chance to razzaq at number 3. Else send razzaq after younis or before misbah. afridi why dont you understand?? razzaq is the best hitter and a stable batsmen. just send kamran at number 8 or drop umer or kamran.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 5, 2011, 10:35 GMT)

The batting order has remained the same, the bowling changes have been predictable and the use of the batting powerplay has been mystifying. It's all too familiar and the opposition could basically plan exactly what Pakistan are likely to throw at them with bat or ball.

Waqar was an aggressive fast bowler, Afridi is an aggressive cricketer, but neither can be described as aggressive with their leadership or approach. In fact one could argue that it's very much a defensive and safety first policy.

Posted by Umar on (March 5, 2011, 8:34 GMT)

@jarr30 .... Dont under estimate the minnows in either pool ! You believe that teams in Group A are easier , then I think you should look at the fact that their are two world champions teams in Pool b " India - West Indies " .. where as Pool A has " Australia, Pakistan & Sri Lanka " .... so just stop looking at minnows , and divert your attention to the main teams and then weigh the pools ! Both pools are well balanced .... back to the topic ! I believe Shehzad should be dropped , open with akmal and hafiz, bring in Asad Shafiq at one-down , the boy has potential and let this karachite show his potential !

Posted by Owais on (March 5, 2011, 8:03 GMT)

Last four wickets falling within 10 runs is unacceptable. What is the problem with Umar Akmal ? why is he not coming good. Generally if you look at score cards, you see that few who get good starts push for 70's or 100's but our Umar Akmal seems like a permanent under achiever - if at all the potential is there. Secondly when are we going to get rid of Kamran Akmal ? the whole world jokes about "Pakistani butter fingered wicket keeper" and not from today mind you. We need to drop one batsmen, Umar or Kamran and add Riaz / Junaid Khan / Ajmal. If Kamran leaves than either Umar or Younus can keep. Both of them I am 100% sure can be at least as good as Kamran.

Posted by Maaz on (March 5, 2011, 7:12 GMT)

Pakistan batting order needs a change. Its M.Hafeez who needs to be dropped and not Shahzad. Another regular bowler should be included instead of him, i think Junaid Khan should be given a chance. Opening with K.akmal and Shahzad and Younis Khan at 3 followed by Misbah and U.akmal. Another change should be to send in A.Razzaq before Afridi. That would give the Palistani lower order a bit more stability because A.Razzaq is better at rotating the strike in case of a collapse, not like Afridi who would quickly throw his wicket away even if the asking rate is not very high. And A.Razzaq, once settled, can be at his devastating best if the situation requires it.

Posted by Hassan on (March 4, 2011, 21:23 GMT)

@Jarr30: Easy group? You mean Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka are easy, whereas Bangladesh, Ireland, and Netherland are tough?

Posted by Azam on (March 4, 2011, 20:15 GMT)

Afirdi should go with an extra bowler...Either drop shehzad and get akmal as opener playing both ajmal and rehman or ajmal with junaid khan..otherwise give razzaq a break and play a pure bwler instead of him..I can bet million dollars that razzaq won perform with bat during the whole wrlcup

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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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