Thursday, 11 August 2011

Future of Pakistan’s Batting

In order of rating:
1) Azhar Ali: He has only really played 1 format, but test cricket has priority and Azhar has been most effective & successful there out of the under 30 batsmen in the last 10 months or so so he clearly tops the list for me. He has been a true revelation, excellent find and a general breath of fresh air because Pakistan have finally found a genuine test class batsmen who has the capabilities to dig in hard, grind it out, occupy the crease for lengthy amounts of time & close one end up in an age where there have been way too many inconsistent flashy stroke makers flourishing through the ranks from Pakistan. His application, patience, temperament, mental toughness & solid and sound defence is immense. He knows his game plan well & operates within his limits which will inevitably maximise his effectiveness. He has found success from a classical and slightly traditional style of batting. He comes across as a mature, responsible & focussed youngster. He is not fussed about taking his time & getting bogged down and therefore is confidently able to put a price on his wicket & see out patches of play. He is totally at the ease at the crease and unfazed by what is going on around him so rarely gets distracted. He has played 12 consecutive tests without being injured or dropped which is rare by Pakistani tendencies that are known for their inconsistent selection policy. This is a reflection of how well he has performed, impressed and settled.

Technically he looks to get behind the line and cover the movement of the ball, play the ball late, defends comfortably from the back foot against the slower bowlers and typically like many sub continental batsmen uses his wrists to good effect when looking to find the gaps, but ultimately it’s his concentration and sheer determination which gets him through and can frustrate fielders and bowlers to high degrees. He strives/fights hard and works out of his skin. Once he’s in he’s a tough cookie to dislodge and it usually takes a quality delivery to dismiss him. He can hold the innings together and give himself a firm platform to capitalise from. He is controlled, methodical & with an abundance of steadiness. He has been tipped to be groomed as Pakistan’s vice captain as he has cemented his place at the all important number 3 position, but also done it in an admirable fashion. He has captaincy experience from league cricket in Scotland where he has been representing Huntly CC as the overseas professional. He is a good fielder with sharp reflexes which adds to the overall package he brings in the team. He is a bowler turned batsmen as he used to be a front line leg spinner in his younger days and for the record has 2 List A 5fors next to his name. This is a reflection of a quick learner on top of everything else. His style may not be the most appealing or attractive, but nonetheless proper test cricket appreciators cannot speak highly enough of the man who has scored 8 half centuries in his first 23 test innings (all which have contributed to a positive team result). He has been an integral member of Misbah’s test team which has reformed & rejuvenated the respect & fortunes of Pakistan’s test outfit in challenging circumstances and seems to be learning well under his leadership & guidance. However, he is vulnerable against outswingers in the corridor of uncertainty which is an area he can brush up on and improve his judgement. He doesn’t mind doing the hard yards by standing at short leg and getting stuck under people’s noses and taking a few blows for the team which speaks volumes about his attitude, willingness and bravery.

He is the Hanif Mohammad equivalent of this generation. He is a Dravid, Chanderpaul, Kallis, Trott, Michael Atherton style player in how he goes about his approach and business. This is how he should be looked at. Limited in ability or natural talent you can say but he makes up for it by strengthening his technique, temperament, hard work, fighting resilience, game sense & maturity. A lot of Westerners and non-Pakistan journalists and followers of cricket love watching him bat. One of them told he was the one thing which has been instrumental in bringing back their interest for following Pakistan Cricket. He is good to watch in how he applies himself at the wicket & demonstrates the spirit and guts he does. Plays straight and is hungry to stay at the crease for extended periods of time. He has a commanding structure about him with his stance and sturdy approach. A proper student of the game.

2) Asad Shafiq: 4 consecutive boundaries against Tim Bresnan when he was coming into bat at a difficult time and stage on his 2nd ODI , half century in his 3rd ODI, half century on test debut against a top class attack, half century in his 2nd test innings in alien conditions, half century on WC debut, a crucial 46 in a high pressure game against Australia in a low scoring winning cause- we have seen enough of this guy to know he can play and has a bright future ahead! Mohammad Yousuf himself has praised him as one of the finest technically correct young batsmen he has seen in a long time. A very elegant and classy young chap. One that is bound to go far. Nevertheless he has a weakness of playing down the wrong line outside his off stump where he been dismissed a few times too many. Plays the ball late, times the ball sweetly, strong of his legs & superb in the field.

3) Umar Akmal: What immediately comes to mind is amazing hand eye coordination, top notch foot work, quick bat speed, fantastic athleticism, brain farts, ill discipline and temperamental deficiencies, but he is an exceptionally gifted talent and when you say this for Umar Akmal you really mean it with both heart and mind. He is one of a rare kind. He is a dominating cricketer who operates with a fearless and aggressive mindset. He is an extremely efficient and cool headed ground fielder and catcher. He started his international career sensationally well with a century on test debut & one within his first few ODIs against Sri Lanka. He shone in the 2010 ICC T20 WC scoring 50s against South Africa & Australia. He followed it up by a spectacular 31 ball 64 in Edgbaston against Australia in the MCC Spirit of cricket series. He had a quite 2010/11 winter which found himself lose his test spot to Asad Shafiq before regaining his popularity and confidence with 2 MOM awards during the qualifying stages of the 2011 CWC in Sri Lanka. With his elder brother away from the international scene it should be interesting to see how Umar responds and acts in the future. He had a decent tour of the West Indies recently when newcomer Salman was behind the stumps. Maybe county cricket experience will come in handy for him. Bottom line, an adorable talent and one that you try to back to accomplish his potential.

4) Zain Abbas: Uncapped player. In his teens. Multan based lad. Left handed opening batsmen and therefore unsurprisingly with the role model of Saeed Anwar. Has had an outstanding start to his domestic career where he completely caught the eye and took everyone by storm with his consistent performances in both the longer and shorter versions of the game.

5) Babar Azam: Uncapped player. In his teens. Cousin of the Akmals. Inspired by AB from South Africa. Represented Pakistan at the U19 WC in New Zealand at the age of just 15 where they reached the final. He scored a century in Pakisan’s opening match of the tournament against the West Indies. Has a good cover drive. He is serious and passionate about his cricket. Occasional off break bowler to go along with a safe pair of hands in the field. Definitely one for the future.

6) Ahmed Shehzad: 2 centuries at the age of 19 and a T20 international half century against New Zealand which came in Pakistan’s highest ever run margin victory last December. Has brilliant hand eye coordination, reasonably good foot work & makes full use of a strong bottom hand to generate power in his strokes. He is stylish & naturally aggressive. An excellent outfielder too. A confident and slightly cocky character. There is no shortage of ability for sure. He has recently been dropped from the tour of Zimbabwe on disciplinary grounds.

7) Azeem Ghumman: Skipper of the 2010 U19 WC team. A cricketer from the Hyderabad region with the role model of the legendary Sachin Tendulkar. Has captained Hyderabad in domestic competitions. A batsmen who is bound to play for Pakistan at some stage. He possesses a healthy FC average. He is a strong cutter and puller & extremely ambitious which always helps the cause. Technically and temperamentally pretty sound. Relies on timing and placement. Short chap in stature. Communicates well in English.

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