Why did Pakistan opt to bat against West Indies?
Inzamam-ul-Haq's curious move to bat first in Pakistan's Champions Trophy semi-final game against West Indies has attracted plenty of adverse comment, and most of the team management are already trying to distance themselves from the decision.
An AFP report on Saturday quoted Bob Woolmer, the coach, as saying that the decision was prompted by the advice from "high sources". He didn't name those sources, fuelling speculation in the media about who they may be. Today, the Pakistan board was quick to issue a clarification, as Shaharyar Khan, the board chairman, and Wasim Bari, the chief selector, denied that they had in any way influenced the decision.
"I have spoken to Woolmer and he did not mean board officials or selectors when he said `high sources'," Shaharyar clarified in a report which appeared in The News, a Pakistan daily. "What he meant was that the team management fielded first on basis of advice from people who have vast experience of playing at and of the Rose Bowl.
"So, basically, the team management took advice from people associated with Hampshire who had vast experience of playing besides having knowledge about the Rose Bowl conditions like players, umpires, groundsman etc. But in the end it was a unanimous decision of the Pakistan team management, and, in hindsight, you can say it was a bad decision to bat first. But personally, I believe we didn't lose because of this. The fact is we lost because we didn't bat well at all."
Despite losing an early wicket in that game, Pakistan were a relatively healthy 65 for 1 before things went awry, as the last nine wickets went down for a further 66. Woolmer later indicated that batting first had been a mistake. "Our initial plan throughout the tournament was to field first and chase so it took quite a lot of persuading for us to change, but unfortunately it backfired on us, and in hindsight we might say we would have liked to bowl," he told AFP. "But I am quite comfortable with the fact that if I made a mistake. I am prepared to put my hands up and say so but it wasn't done lightly."
Pakistan's decision came in for severe criticism from the local media, with reports claiming that Yousuf Youhana, the vice-captain, was another who favoured fielding first. At the post-match press conference, Inzamam justified the decision by saying that a score of around 220 would have been very difficult to chase. As his team found out, setting such a target proved to be even tougher.