Despite continuous ODI losses against England, I still have hope for my team

Published: September 1, 2016
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Small but concrete steps need to be taken to rebuild the morale of our team. PHOTO: AFP

The pounding taken by the Pakistan team in the third ODI against England didn’t come as a surprise for me. I mean, we are ranked number nine and were playing against a team ranked number five in the world. The difference in rankings was obvious on the field. England outclassed Pakistan (like they have been throughout the ODI series so far) in every department.

England’s players celebrate victory in the third one-day international (ODI) cricket match between England and Pakistan at Trent Bridge cricket ground. Photo: AFP

England has been good in the field, exceptional with the bat and much better than us whenever they’ve come on to bowl. Apart from all the records that were broken on Sunday – truth be told, Pakistan has been playing ODI cricket in a pretty similar fashion over the last two years.

In the last 24 months, Pakistan has played 41 ODIs, out of which they have only won 15 (that rounds up to about a 36.5% winning percentage) out of which eight victories came against sides like Ireland, UAE and Zimbabwe. These statistics paint a gloomy yet true picture of our men in green and the 50 format game.

Pakistan will probably end up playing the qualifying round for the 2019 World Cup, but they will definitely have to pull their socks up.

Having said that, I am not very pleased with the negative comments that social media is being flooded with regarding our team. People have started questioning Mickey Arthur’s coaching and the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) management for their decision making process.

Arthur’s pre-tour camp at the Ageas Bowl has been funded by the PCB to the tune of £70,000. Photo: Telegraph

This is the very same PCB that manages the number one Test team in the world and the same Mickey Arthur who coaches Misbahul Haq’s Test team. What we need to understand here is the nature of both, or even all three formats of the game.

Rumours regarding Misbah’s return to ODIs and changing the teams’ fortune are circulating. I completely disagree with this notion, mainly because of the difference in the nature of Test and ODI cricket.

Under Misbah’s leadership in the ODI format over the last two years, Pakistan had won only five out of 13 ODIs (38% matches won). Compare that with Azhar Ali’s captaincy and you’ll realise that he has led Pakistan to victory in eight out of the 23 ODIs (35% watches won).

Misbah-ul-Haq (right) hoped his team will be more effective with its batting, fielding and bowling. Photo: AFP

Not a lot of difference right?

The difference, however, can clearly be seen when it comes to comparing Misbah and Azhar’s individual performances in matches where they’ve captained the side and in matches where they’ve played under other captains.

Misbah excelled in his individual performances while serving as captain, whereas Azhar’s batting average has taken a dip since he was handed the captaincy. This is definitely not a good sign for any international player and it indicates that the player cannot handle the added responsibility of leadership. Even legends like Sachin Tendulkar have had performance issues while captaining the whole pack on the field. Misbah is definitely an exception.

However, at the end of the day, it all comes down to match results and that is where Misbah is not too different from Azhar.

Sarfraz was one of the standout performers in the World Cup for Pakistan. On the other hand, Azhar has been given added importance post-Misbah because he can bring stability to the side. Photo: AFP

Asking Misbah to captain the ODI format would be like repeating history. Legends like Javed Miandad, Jansher Khan and Shahbaz Ahmad (Sr) have been recalled to rejuvenate their respective sports in the country, which only ended up in making a mockery out of these greats. I’d rather keep Misbah where he is currently and salute him for what he’s doing for Pakistan in the toughest and most original format of the game.

As for Sarfaraz Ahmed, he has only led Pakistan once during ODI matches, and that too, against Zimbabwe back in October last year. It was a low scoring match which Pakistan won by seven wickets. Other than that, we have only seen him captain the Quetta Gladiators in the inaugural edition of the Pakistan Super League early this year where he did pretty well as a captain – but we must remember that the team was loaded with talented superstars such as Kevin Pietersen, Luke Wright and the great Kumar Sangakkara. For me, Sarfaraz may be the right choice to captain Pakistan in the ODI format, but this opinion stems out of my admiration for his talent and passion rather than his leadership skills.

Pakistan batsman Sarfraz Ahmed hits out during his impressive knock of 105 in the second ODI against England at Lord’s on Saturday. Photo: AP

Wherever the on-going series against England (which we have already lost) goes from here, one thing is for sure, PCB will have to take serious steps and start working towards lifting our side up again.

The inversely proportional performances and ratings of the Test and ODI sides do not reflect well on the overall condition of the game. Experimenting with fresh blood is always something that sides do in order to build bench strength. However, that needs to be done in a controlled manner and not in a way where Mohammad Nawaz and Hassan Ali are brought into the side and are put to the test straight away. This will only hamper their confidence and ruin their game.

Small but concrete steps need to be taken to rebuild the morale of our team. Our nation needs to stand with them, through thick and thin. These are difficult times, but with the current talent and potential this country has, we will emerge as champions again.

We must keep in mind that King Misbah was once Tuk Tuk and the most ridiculed sportsman of the country.

hammad.mateen

Hammad Mateen

The author is a mechanical engineer, education management professional and freelance writer working in the social sector, he tweets as @hammadmateen (twitter.com/hammadmateen)

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