Pakistan v West Indies, World T20, Group 2, Mirpur April 1, 2014

Pakistan consumed by waves of panic

The performance against Australia gave Pakistan fans hope but, not for the first time, they produced a polar opposite display
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Pakistan never fail to surprise us, do they? If you had come expecting a thriller between two similar, explosive T20 sides, what you got instead was Pakistan showing us multiple, and all equally self-destructive, states of panic.

Two of their best bowlers, Saeed Ajmal and Umar Gul, cracked under pressure and gave away a combined 59 runs in three overs at the death. The top order went down heaving, and the middle order shut shop in response.

It was one of those nights from Pakistan. As was the night when they had sparked that incredible Australian collapse earlier in the tournament. We know both happened, separated by a matter of a few days. We also know Pakistan are capable of both kinds of displays within such a short span. We can try to delve into what happened and how it happened. Exactly why it happened, we will never really know.

Each wave of panic against West Indies only brought about another, albeit different one, from the following cast. When the opposition is 84 for 5 after 15 overs, and you have overs left from two of the most experienced and best T20 bowlers in the world, the last thing you are expecting is for both of them to lose it suddenly. And Gul lost it so much in the 18th over that as many as three fielders ran up to him at various points in the over with words of advice, or encouragement, or whatever it was that they felt could work at that moment.

Mohammad Hafeez, Shahid Afridi, Sohail Tanvir. All those interventions did not stop the over from going for 21. They also revealed Pakistan's state of mind at that point. When three different men are needed to rush to your premier fast bowler, all in the span of half an over, you tell the opposition you are on the edge, and are expecting the worst.

And the worst came in the next over. Ajmal is usually the master of these situations. He will toss one up a bit more, or he will hold it back a bit more, or he will bowl the one that turns the other way from which the batsman was expecting it to. And the batsman will have a clueless slog and fall. None of this was happening. Ajmal instead bowled short, he bowled flat, he bowled quickly. He became what your average spinner is usually at the death in limited-overs cricket - a massive risk. For that one over, he lost the aura that makes him Saeed Ajmal. He will doubtless regain that, as he did after the 2010 World T20 semi-final, but the damage had been done again.

Heaven knows how the Pakistanis felt walking off the field at the break, having allowed West Indies to nearly double their score in five overs. Heaven knows what was spoken in the Pakistan dugout at the break. All we saw was that their top order and middle order came out in two extreme states of trance - one suicidal by dint of action, one suicidal by dint of not acting at all.

Ahmed Shehzad can be excused for getting a ripper of an inswinging yorker first ball. Kamran Akmal, Umar Akmal and Shoaib Malik cannot be. Not for facing a collective, unproductive 14 deliveries between them. But for reacting in such a frenzied manner that would have you believe they had been collectively unproductive for 14 overs, and that frenzy was the only way out.

To be 13 for 4 in the sixth over is nowhere near the start you want when you are chasing 167 in a virtual quarter-final. To bottle up like Sohaib Maqsood, and particularly Hafeez, did is probably the worst response you want from your middle order when you are 13 for 4.

Pakistan consumed 40 deliveries before they hit their first boundary. One-third of a T20 innings without a single boundary. One-third of a 20 innings that had already seen a batsman heave to mid-off, and two batsmen stumped. And yet, there was not a single boundary during the fielding Restrictions. Maqsood and Hafeez added 24 in five overs. And then fell within an over of each other. It was like the cast of a play frozen in extreme stage fright after the opening acts had bungled their lines by trying too hard too soon.

If you admire Pakistan cricket for showing you the Australia collapse, tonight you were dealt so many shocks you went numb. You then attempted to make sense of each of them. Batsmen throw their bats around in T20, and as Dwayne Bravo said, even the best bowlers go for runs at the death. The top order had no choice but to try and make the most of the fielding restrictions. The downside was that they could fall while doing so, and they did. The middle order, as Hafeez said, was faced with too many jolts too soon and had absolutely no momentum to build on.

You weigh up all these arguments. Maybe they are justified standalone, maybe they are not. But how do you find explanations for such a collective and varied brain freeze? Which is why, exactly why it happened, we will never really know.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • waja_hussain on April 4, 2014, 17:55 GMT

    I think this is the best time to replace misbah as a captain by afridi in odis,though misbah is the best player recently in pak team.but there should be someone to lead the team from the front and to lead them aggressively.and afridi have the guts to do that.and i hope that malik should not be in the team no more bcz his game is over.

  • gdalvi on April 3, 2014, 4:11 GMT

    I see many Pak fans suggesting a house cleaning - but don't forget what happened when Aus did the same late last decade - they are still building up. Pak should weed out non-performers but keep some seniors around to mentor and mold the team. Otherwise you will be re-building for a long time.

    Although many criticized India for keeping the seniors (Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Sehwag) - the real unexpected benefit was that many of the batsmen matured quickly in the presence of and under the influence of seniors. As a result even after their depature, India was able to find able (though admittedly still not fully proven) replacements). Don't try to follow Aus/Eng way of doing things - in our sub-continent we learn things differently. An appeal/request from Indian cricket fan. Please publish.

  • SenseStatement on April 3, 2014, 3:36 GMT

    Pakistan Cricket Management please wake-up this is the right time to make right decision,,,Bring 7-8 new players to T20 and groom them for the next WORLD CUP from now.

    Get rid of old players we believe they are two old to play this format.

    Please understand.

  • SenseStatement on April 3, 2014, 3:30 GMT

    I think it is too much now for giving chances to the seniors specially in T20, Pakistan cricketing should take some BOLD decisions to remove all the players above 30 years even Afridi and Hafeez should keep away from this format we should give chance to young players,,,organise T20 talent hunt program in the country and find-out 7-8 new talented and hard hitting cricketers,,we should understand there are very less techique involve in the T20 cricket.

    Sorry Kamran, Malik, Hafeez and Mr. Afridi we salute your contribution to Pakistan Cricket and off-course that can be remembered forever but please make room for young cricketers. Thank you

  • Toescrusher on April 2, 2014, 22:23 GMT

    Pakistan's batting problem is only one and that is, all players are selected from one region. Karachi is known to produce great batsmen here are the list: Hanif Mohammed, Zaheer Abbas, Miandad, Asif Iqbal, Mustaq Mohammed, Tasleem Arif, Mohsin Khan, Shoaib Mohammed, Basit Ali, Qasim Umer, Saeed anwer ... There are no batsmen selected from Karachi in this current team, why? It is not a rocket science to figure this out. There will be more humiliations if we continue to ignore deserving batsmen from Karachi.

  • dummy4fb on April 2, 2014, 19:08 GMT

    There has always been one thing between Pakistan Cricket and Success and that is Frame of Mind.They lost the game when their premier spinner went round the stumps and bowled nothing bt quick and short deliveries. NO one plated spin that good in this Wt20. Saeej should have gone positively and tossed the bowl up.He made a mess of it and those five overs disturbed their mind set up and they were as negative as they are in their worst performancea.Nevertheless they should learn rather than ignore...

  • android_user on April 2, 2014, 18:18 GMT

    It was totally a mismanagement, your inform, matchwinner player is coming at No. 7 to bat when already match has been slipped from your hands. Kamran, malik and even shehzad were wrong choice. Hafeez should come down the order, Sharjeel and Fawad should come in and Please make Afridi captain again coz he is having the positive attitude.

  • FicklePak on April 2, 2014, 17:29 GMT

    Can't figure out why include Malik and keep Misbah out??? Makes no sense. Pick a team of young quality players and stick with them for a season and see how they mature...we are not going to get anywhere if keep bringing back the likes of Malik, and play the revolving door game with the batsmen

  • FicklePak on April 2, 2014, 17:21 GMT

    Simply - both Ajmal and Gul were over confident. When I saw Ajmal bowl those short pitched deliveries I knew this was over. It was sheer PANIC, and they never recovered.

    If the goal is to win big events, and I am managing Pakistan, I would put the opposition in every single time and chase until the team is mentally strong enough to handle it!

    They say controlling nerves is half the battle - I don't think so, it is the entire battle...if you can't keep calm, you're done, TOAST (the krispy and totally burnt kind!). Very disappointing.

  • dummy4fb on April 2, 2014, 16:28 GMT

    This is what happens when you don't have any reasonable domestic cricket. You can pull couple games but consistent performance need physical and mental endurance which is lacking. Nothing will get better for Pakistan cricket until domestic situation improves and this is the situation in every field for the country at this point. whoever performs at this point is one-off exception we should respect that. Rest is just bad management, poor skill assessment and personal choices that play in these situations.

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