Saturday, 26 February 2011
Beware The Cornered Pakistani Tigers!-By Umer Rana
Last two years have been forgettable for Pakistan Cricket, what has not went wrong in that time from touring team to be attacked to no cricket at home, from revolts in teams for captaincy to the spot fixing saga, losing Champion Trophy and World Cup hosting rights really it had been dread time for cricket in Pakistan. One after the other controversy jolted the team at regular intervals. This side can be best explained in a word “bruised”, when this type of word associated to Pakistan, mind rolls back all those years to famous King Khan interview of “cornered tiger”, which over the years has become the style of cricket of his successors. Truly, the circumstances are perfect for cornered tiger to be themselves, they have corned over the last two years and now no one fancying them for the World Cup. This is I’m talking about experts not fans like me who cannot help themselves waiting for the next game to start anxiously even after the worst of defeat as was the case in most of time in last two years. Expect opinion does not take time to change, does it??? It may well change in next two weeks time comes the 26 March.
There are plenty of things that go with Pakistan, first thing is Pakistani fast bowling. It is not as strong as it would have been had Amir been there but never the less, it is still formidable one, in my view best of world in given conditions that are for world cup. Many will raise eye brows on it and put the names of South Africa or Australia but matter of fact is that this World Cup is in sub-continent not in South Africa or England where bowlers can get help from wicket; here fast bowlers have to do everything by their own by their own skill like variation in pace and reverse swing. There is not much after Styen and Morkel in South African fast bowling tank though Tosobe has done well. Even Styen and Morkel are cut to halves to that they are when they have no help from track as it would be in sub-continent. Australia has good fast bowling attack but then again inability to use reverse swing as compared to Pakistanis leave them lag a bit. The most important thing in this World Cup would be death bowling to me, in this regard Pakistan have the tools to function very well under pressure in Gull and Wahab. Gull as we all know is the best exponent of reverse swing and bowling at death, no one has more unquenchable lust for toes or stumps then his guy but Wahab is not far behind his mentor either, he has made serious in roads in last two years and so. He does not have the confidence as that of Gull right now, bowl yorkers bit away from right hander’s toes but once he got the confidence that he eventually will have after getting through the defenses of some right hander then he would be lethal with slingy action targeting the toes. Shoaib may miss out on some games in playing 11 but he is not a bad option to be ready whenever needed. He can also perform the jobs of a Gull or Wahab with equal efficiency. Juniad is good inclusion sighting the bowling form of Sohail, he might not get many games but it would be a learning experience for this guy for future. Razzaq’s bowling is the major worry for Pakistan because his bowling has come down, he is not what he was used to but Pakistan do not need anything more than 5 or 6 good tight overs, stopping the batsmen onslaught in opening overs.
Spin will play a major role in his World Cup, Pakistan have an ever dependable leg spinner in Afridi, skillful off-spinner in Ajmal and steady left arm spinner in Rehman. To back them up, Hafeez’s canny like fox off spin. Ian Smith kept on ruing the fact that Kiwis have not gotten a part timer away in last series, someone should tell him any bowler who bowls in power play is not part timer. Hafeez continuously came to rescue the bowling attack in Dubai and England in mandatory and bowling power plays when ever called on, he did it pretty well. He is not like the part timers that India has, he thinks like a bowler and most importantly he bowls like a bowler. In my view, Pakistan should go with Ajmal, he is attacking one that can give wickets, Rehman is good bowler that has a lot control but when it comes to shoot out, it should be Ajmal with his skill of bowling in death and his variations. Another good thing for Pakistan is that Ajmal absence made Afridi to bowl in death and batting power play. It has opened another good option because more you vary in death and batting power play better it would be. Best thing of this bowling line is that it functions like well oiled machine when under pressure defending a score then Gulls, Wahabs and Ajmals get very deadly. Should Pakistan put a par score on board, it would be hard to chase against down.
Now, let’s take a look at batting side. Opening partnership looks to be taking shape at last after so many tries. Both the men are in good form, Hafeez looks always good for big one when he is stoking the ball brilliantly but he gets out to much in range of 20’s and 30’s too often. He should now take responsibility for big ones at up front. Ahmed is good inclusion, the best thing is that he is in form, when I first looked at this guy in U-19 World Cup in Malaysia 08, I straight away got a notion of something very very special. Kamran, Younis and Misbah form good middle order, middle order does not looks as strong as it used to a few years back but it has ability to do the job well most of the times. Putting Kamran in between Younis and Misbah would be a great idea because it will separate both same type of players the accumulators, but this deprive of Pakistan the quick runs of Kamran but I think after fall of wicket going for stability would be wiser idea. Then, the strength of batting line up, which is undoubtedly best is business the Pakistani power hitting. Three terrifying bashers can make any world class bowling like a club level bowling but they need to have a platform to make bowlers dance on which is to be provided by top 5. Umar is the key to me, he should be sent up in some games to give him confidence and he should be let to play 20 to 30 overs because using his great talent for just hitting will be huge waste he is much more than it. Razzaq also needs a good time in the middle, sending him up against minor teams or in warm ups would not be a bad idea. Shafiq will be the go to man in case of some injury for this batting side, he is not a bad player to has to have along, but he should be given a game or two to keep him in the groove, overall batting looks all ok but the major worry of this batting lineup is batting collapses, that have been happening too often in last two years. Other than it, it has every ingredient which is needed.
The most important thing that this team has in its favor is that team is united and not many Pakistan sides are so united as it is in past as it is. They have charismatic captain supported by cool headed vice captain. Team is full of genuine match winners who do not anyone else to win the game on their day. The other important thing that goes in the favor of Pakistan’s in big way is format of tournament, this time knock system around will suit Pakistan style of play. Pakistan over the years has developed habit of winning crunch game completely opposite to South Africa. I brought up watching it happen over years, “When it gets do or die, South Africa always die” but Pakistan is completely opposite way around. Pakistan over the years and this side in general has been very good winning the tight game by handling the pressure well. This is very important believe to have especially in the knock out games. This side is momentum oriented side; once they got the on role it will become deadly dangerous irrespective of the opposition to stop Pakistan from the glory. So, it would be very important that this team clicks first in start of tournament and gains momentum as league stage ends, that are the things will decide for me how far this team can go. One thing is for sure that no opposition would want to face Pakistan in knock outs. Expert may have not given cornered tigers a chase but I will have Pakistan is top three contenders along India and Sri Lanka. An all Asian final would not be a surprise to me.
An article by Umer Rana.