Our team’s unpredictability is the opposition’s cruellest enemy!

Published: December 15, 2013
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Pakistan cricket team's practice session. PHOTO: Reuters

By now, the Sachin Tendulkar farewell Test and retirement euphoria has, considerably, died down and the Pakistan cricket are currently being tested by the Lankan Lions, on their desert ‘home’ tour of Pakistan.

Although things have started to, somewhat, come back on track for the Pakistan team, by returning the South Africans a favour of their desert carnage by beating them fair and square in the short return visit to the Protea Land, their ruthlessness and consistency needs to be maintained and for that the seniors would certainly have to show the way.

The body language of the team that looked down and out of sort in their own ‘home’ conditions, against the Afrikaans, was way different to the resilience they showed thereafter. Shahid Afridi is a match winner. A fact no one can deny, but his gifted ‘natural’ instincts would have to be curbed to maintain consistency.

Take West Indies of the 80s and Australia of the 90s onwards as an example. The way they played cricket, no matter what format it was for, the term ruthless always lingered on their heads. They never compromised on just winning a series, it was a matter of demolishing the opposition altogether. To quote a memorable instance, the West Indies, fresh from their fluke defeat at the hands of India, toured India in 1983 and demolished them five to nil.

Do I need to go on?

Pakistan’s team’s performances have been shrouded by a sneering enemy who laughs at their, at times, astonishingly abject performances and stuns at their astute brilliance.

But all in all, their cruellest enemy, to date, remains our unpredictability.

This unpredictable nature for the national team have, at times, turned positive, when seeking to revive their fortunes and tagging outsiders in many a contests. They turn the tables on the opposition but when people root for this team to repeat the magic, they are as sordid as any lowly-ranked teams.

As stated earlier, lack of consistency is what is being missed in our team. Gone are the days when the dreaded pair of the two Ws, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, would win you matches even on low scores. In this the modern era, where cricket has ruthlessly transformed, even a score in the excess of 350 is considered insufficient.

We keep reminding ourselves that there is no shortage of talent in this country. The advent of young guns Bilawal Bhatti and Anwar Ali, the two promising youngsters during the recently concluded short tour to South Africa, have given the selectors some options, if not permanent answers, to fill up the late order batting slots. We need good batting all-rounders and lower down the order, which was successfully portrayed by Bhatti and Ali.

Let’s hope that their success is by no means short-lived.

Talking of promising young talent in Pakistan, Umar Akmal’s name always comes to the fore, but we are compelled to wonder if he is beyond the hill even before his career has taken off. This youngster needs serious brainwashing to play the ball on merit. India’s young batting icon and now captain in the making, Virat Kohli and Akmal broke into the international circuit about the same time. Both played for their respective country’s under-19 team and both showed immense promise. But today, Kohli has reasons to repeat the iconic lines from the famous Indian movie, Deewar,

Hum dono ek saath iss cricketing circuit me aaye the. Mere paas behtar technique hai, mere paas back-up captaincy hai, mere paas behtar form hai. Tumhare paas kya hai?

(We both entered the cricket circuit together. I have better technique, back-up captaincy and better form. What do you have?)

But Akmal doesn’t have an answer of the calibre or similar lines of that of Shashi Kapoor, which broke all records for the film,

Mere paas Maa hai

(I have a mother)

After all said and done, the young Akmal would definitely have to curb his technique and shun the ‘natural game’ if he is to survive and compete in this ruthless international arena. Misbahul Haq, Younis Khan, Abdul Razzaq, Afridi, Shoaib Malik, are all beyond the hill and no matter how hard we may convince ourselves that Misbah, the ‘Captain Fittest’, is a resolute campaigner and is in steady form too, the fact of the matter is that he is, after all, an ageing stalwart and will have to hang his boots soon.

As I write ‘Sahibzada Shahid Khan Afridi’, I pause between words to breathe because such is the colossal effect that this name has, not just in the writing of it, but also in cricketing fraternities. Afridi, in short, has to realise that 350 plus ODIs is a huge achievement and by this time he should have been in a position to dictate his own terms.

I don’t term Indian Captain MS Dhoni as technically very sound when it comes to batting and his too is a rather flamboyant styled approach of scoring rapidly. Be it the Tests or the ODIs, he has successfully held the reins of India’s Tests, ODIs and T20 teams.

It came as a horrid surprise to me back in 2010 when our fearless Pathan shied away from Test captaincy after being thrashed comprehensively by Australia in England.

Where was the fearlessness of the Pathan to lead from the front?

Years ago, when Javed Miandad was the coach of the cricket team, he tried to curb Afridi’s technique and persuaded him to learn and stay at the wicket. The latter showed dissent of being asked to slow down his ‘natural game’.

This is what playing your natural game does to you and the team.

You become all the more predictable and the opposing team easily psyches you out.

Afridi must realise that cricket is just not about hitting booming sixes out of the park but also about contributing significantly to the success of the team. It’s up to him to decide what’s better, the epic sixes in a losing cause or the calming effect of an anchor role in a winning effort?

The bowlers have had their share of problems for the Pakistan team. Umar Gul has been out of favour for injury reasons and so is the towering Mohammad Irfan. Sohail Tanveer was initially thought of as a replacement to the injured Umar Gul, whom the team has more than badly missed since the South African full-away series. His injury has been prolonged a wee bit longer than anticipated and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) would be in a better position to clarify when this amazingly talented bowler fully recovers to serve the team. Irfan has, with the passage of time, gained immense experience and prowess in his bowling and this is a major reason why he is seen as a potent threat by the opponents.

Saeed Ajmal, for a long time, has been overburdened to wipe out the opposition albeit the score has nothing to offer. Ajmal has been all the more predictable and the opponents read and play him well. He is a match winner, no second thoughts about it, but burdening him would only result in a downward slope in his form.

The management’s decision to under play left-arm, rookie spinner Abdul Rehman in UAE and South Africa shows their slackness in naming a balanced unit for tests, ODIs and T20 teams. Rehman should be given an opportunity to test the Lankans since he has had a reasonably good bowling record with touring teams on UAE pitches.

With Pakistan’s reasonably good showing in South Africa and their positive start to the Lankan series, good old Dav Whatmore would be breathing easy for now since his contract expires thereafter. But given the likes of Zaheer Abbas, Inzamamul Haq, Miandad, Mohsin Khan, do we really need to retain Whatmore or go for someone like the make-shifter likes of Moin Khan, whose own batting technique was based on whopping than on skilfulness?

Would the PCB still play a blind man’s bluff for hiring a coach or will a serious contender step in?

What do you think?

Although things have started to, somewhat, come back on track for the Pakistan team, by returning the South Africans a favour of their desert carnage by beating them fair and square in the short return visit to the Protea Land, their ruthlessness and consistency needs to be maintained and for that the seniors would certainly have to show the way.

The body language of the team that looked down and out of sort in their own ‘home’ conditions, against the Afrikaans, was way different to the resilience they showed thereafter. Shahid Afridi is a match winner. A fact no one can deny, but his gifted ‘natural’ instincts would have to be curbed to maintain consistency.

Take West Indies of the 80s and Australia of the 90s onwards as an example. The way they played cricket, no matter what format it was for, the term ruthless always lingered on their heads. They never compromised on just winning a series, it was a matter of demolishing the opposition altogether.  To quote a memorable instance, the West Indies, fresh from their fluke defeat at the hands of India, toured India in 1983 and demolished them five to nil. Do I need to go on?

Pakistan’s team’s performances have been shrouded by a sneering enemy who laughs at their, at times, astonishingly abject performances and stuns at their astute brilliance. But all in all, their cruellest enemy, to date, remains our unpredictability.

This unpredictable nature for the national team have, at times, turned positive, when seeking to revive their fortunes and tagging outsiders in many a contests. They turn the tables on the opposition but when people root for this team to repeat the magic, they are as sordid as any lowly-ranked teams.

As stated earlier, lack of consistency is what is being missed in our team. Gone are the days when the dreaded pair of the two Ws, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, would win you matches even on low scores. In this the modern era, where cricket has ruthlessly transformed, even a score in the excess of 350 is considered insufficient.

We keep reminding ourselves that there is no shortage of talent in this country. The advent of young guns Bilawal Bhatti and Anwar Ali, the two promising youngsters during the recently concluded short tour to South Africa, have given the selectors some options, if not permanent answers, to fill up the late order batting slots. We need good batting all-rounders and lower down the order, which was successfully portrayed by Bhatti and Ali. Let’s hope that their success is by no means short-lived.

Talking of promising young talent in Pakistan, Umar Akmal’s name always comes to the fore, but we are compelled to wonder if he is beyond the hill even before his career has taken off. This youngster needs serious brainwashing to play the ball on merit. India’s young batting icon and now Captain in the making, Virat Kohli and Akmal broke into the international circuit about the same time. Both played for their respective country’s under 19 team and both showed immense promise. But today, Kohli has reasons to repeat the iconic lines from the famous Indian movie, Deewar,

“Hum dono ek saath iss cricketing circuit me aaye the. Mere paas behtar technique hai, mere paas back-up captaincy hai, mere paas behtar form hai. Tumhare paas kya hai ?”

(We both entered the cricket circuit together. I have better technique, back-up captaincy and better form. What do you have?)

But Akmal doesn’t have an answer of the calibre or similar lines of that of Shashi Kapoor, which broke all records for the film,

“Mere paas Maa hai”

(I have a mother)

After all said and done, the young Akmal would definitely have to curb his technique and shun the ‘natural game’ if he is to survive and compete in this ruthless international arena. Misbahul Haq, Younis Khan, Abdul Razzaq, Afridi, Shoaib Malik, are all beyond the hill and no matter how hard we may convince ourselves that Misbah, the ‘Captain Fittest’, is a resolute campaigner and is in steady form too, the fact of the matter is that he is, after all, an ageing stalwart and would have to hang his boots soon.

As I write ‘Sahibzada Shahid Khan Afridi’, I pause between words to breathe because such is the colossal effect that this name has, not just in the writing of it, but also in cricketing fraternities. Afridi, in short, has to realise that 350 plus ODIs is a huge achievement and by this time he should have been in a position to dictate his own terms. I don’t term Indian Captain MS Dhoni as technically very sound when it comes to batting and his too is a rather flamboyant styled approach of scoring rapidly. Be it the tests or the ODIs, he has successfully held the reins of India’s tests, ODIs and T20 teams.

It came as a horrid surprise to me back in 2010 when our fearless Pathan shied away from test captaincy after being thrashed comprehensively by Australia in England. Where was the fearlessness of the Pathan to lead from the front? Years ago, when Javed Miandad was the coach of the cricket team, he tried to curb Afridi’s technique and persuaded him to learn and stay at the wicket. The latter showed dissent of being asked to slow down his ‘natural game’. This is what playing your natural game does to you and the team. You become all the more predictable and the opposing team easily psyches you out. Afridi must realise that cricket is just not about hitting booming sixes out of the parks, but also about contributing significantly to the success of the team. It’s up to him to decide what’s better, the epic sixes in a losing cause or the calming effect of an anchor role in a winning effort?

The bowlers have had their share of problems for the Pakistan team. Umar Gul has been out of favour for injury reasons and so is the towering Mohammad Irfan. Sohail Tanveer was initially thought of as a replacement to the injured Umar Gul, whom the team has more than badly missed since the South African full-away series. His injury has been prolonged a wee bit longer than anticipated and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) would be in a better position to clarify when this amazingly talented bowler fully recovers to serve the team. Irfan has, with the passage of time, gained immense experience and prowess in his bowling and this is a major reason why he is seen as a potent threat by the opponents.

Saeed Ajmal, for a long time, has been overburdened to wipe out the opposition albeit the score has nothing to offer. Ajmal has been all the more predictable and the opponents read and play him well. He is a match winner, no second thoughts about it, but burdening him would only result in a downward slope in his form. The management’s decision to under play left-arm, rookie spinner Abdul Rehman in UAE and South Africa shows their slackness in naming a balanced unit for tests, ODIs and T20 teams. Rehman should be given an opportunity to test the Lankans since he has had a reasonably good bowling record with touring teams on UAE pitches.

With Pakistan’s reasonably good showing in South Africa and their positive start to the Lankan series, good old Dav Whatmore would be breathing easy for now since his contract expires thereafter. But given the likes of Zaheer Abbas, Inzamamul Haq, Miandad, Mohsin Khan, do we really need to retain Whatmore or go for someone like the make-shifter likes of Moin Khan, whose own batting technique was based on whopping than on skilfulness? Would the PCB still play a blind man’s bluff for hiring a coach or will a serious contender step in?

What do you think?

Mansoor Rizvi

Mansoor Rizvi

A banker by profession, who likes to write. He tweets as @mans786 (twitter.com/mans786)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Gappi

    The blog is tooooo long to grab. In short cricket is messed up and we need Imran Khans team back, but how??Recommend

  • Iftikhar Ali

    it needs second birth to finish your blog.Recommend