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Saturday, October 6, 2012

World T20 2012: What went wrong for Pakistan?

So the storm has passed over and there is now a semblance of gloomy tranquility around. Pakistan Cricket Team reached Colombo with a reputation of a mercurial bunch that could surprise any team on their day. They did surprise on a number of occasions, at time outdid themselves too.

 It is, perhaps, not surprising that they managed to make the semi-finals, but it is also a fact that they did not deserve to go beyond either. The necessary ingredients to win a major tournament were, perhaps, not lacking, but the planning and will to utilize those ingredients were clearly missing. We lacked how to implement a plan B when a preset plan failed.

A T20 team needs a good mixture of old and young and a captain who could lead from the front while utilizing his resources intelligently. The situation in a T20 can change in a blink of an eye as a good over or a cameo from a batsman can turn the tables. But the team which usually comes out on top is the one which has more cricketing sense. We lacked the cricketing intelligence.

Big tournaments are won when you show a brave face. If you are willing to adapt to a situation, keep the team above your personal likes and dislikes, and you are brave enough to go against the tide, you invariably come on top. It is usually horses for courses in cricket. If you are scared of dropping yourself down the order, despite the obvious arguments favouring the move, for whatever reason, then you do not deserve to sit on top. We lacked the unselfish approach.

 If you are reluctant to drop a player having a star value, who has become a liability to the team, just to evade the wrath of fans and a section of media, you do not deserve to be champions. It is no harm to support a struggling player but ignoring the bigger picture and ditching the main objective is the height of shortsightedness. We lacked courage; we could not make bold decisions.

The problems started with the selection process. Selection based on sort of a virtual quota system, nepotism, and for appeasing different quarters do not produce good results. It is baffling to see Junaid Khan being ignored for a habitual let-downer like Mohammad Sami. It is beyond comprehension to see both Yasir Arafat, a mediocre cosmopolitan T20 specialist and all-rounder, and Abdul Razzaq, a proven match-winner, in the same team. Abdul Razzaq, inexplicably, again failed to win the confidence of another World Cup captain. We lacked reasoning.

 There were definitely few positives. The emergence of Raza Hasan and re-incarnation of Nasir Jamshed are bright spots on our failed campaign. Although Mohammad Hafeez as captain was disappointing, his ability to rally his troops and keep everyone along has been quite impressive. With more support and good results, he has the ability to become a good captain. The day he dismisses the fear of losing his job from his system he would become a brave captain, and of course you need not listen to distracting voices. Our captain lacked backing of the fans and the board by and large.

Now is the time to look into the future. We should build our team around youngsters like Nasir Jamshed, Umar Akmal and Raza Hasan. Although Kamran Akmal fills the void of a keeper batsman, but his below-par wicket-keeping nullifies his exploits with the bat. Imran Nazir cannot handle world class bowling. Asad Shafiq is being wasted – he is a good batsman who can adapt to any format and has a big heart.

Shoaib Malik seems to be in no man’s land. He is a good T20 player and can be a match-winner but he is a misfit in the team unless he is made captain again. But handing him the reigns will only ruin our team’s growth away from the ghosts of the past. Umar Gul needs rest. He has lost the pinpoint accuracy in the death overs which made him a lethal bowler. He needs to come back strong. It is time that we do not put extra pressure on Saeed Ajmal. He is a match-winner but needs support especially from the quicks. Sohail Tanvir was sent considering the ball might swing, but unidirectional and predictable swing at medium pace can never pose a threat. We missed Junaid Khan.

Boom boom Shahid Afridi has past his prime, if ever there was any. His reflexes have slowed down and there are doubts over his contribution to the team. If any other player had failed like Afridi, he would have been shown the door, but it is Lala of course. He needs to decide himself.

The world has not fallen with this loss. Our cricket is growing albeit sluggishly. It is remarkable that with no cricket on our soil for the last four years, we have managed to reach semi-final of every ICC tournament since 2007. There is no reason to lose hope for Team Green.

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  1. Published in CricketSoccer.con on October 5, 2012

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