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Back to square one

Pakistan cricket team’s performance in the Asia Cup was like a grenade, waiting to explode. ...

Back to square one

Pakistan cricket team’s performance in the Asia Cup was like a grenade, waiting to explode. Every person who follows the game with his brain rather than his heart knew that Pakistan’s selection was faulty; the players were incompetent and the selection of the captain was flawed. The Men in Green didn’t disappoint their detractors and crashed out of the race for the final before their match against fellow disappointers Sri Lanka.

So what went wrong in a country where every other batsman is a master blaster, every other bowler tries to break 100-MPH and every second person is a critic. During the last five years, our players have brought more sorrow than happiness to cricket fans; they don’t play as a unit but as individuals and that too for a place in the national team. Their skills aren’t questionable but their temperament is; there are so many cricketers out there waiting for a chance yet the captain goes for tried and tested cricketers who are still searching for their glory at the expense of Pakistan!

Let’s talk about the usual suspects; Mohammad Hafeez is just an ordinary batsman when it comes to his abilities as a cricketer. He may be good in Tests or other formats but T20 isn’t his thing. There is Shoaib Malik in the squad as well who is neither a dependable batsman nor a dependable bowler. He has been around since the late 90s and while all of his contemporaries (in foreign teams) have retired, the only team to have players from that era remains the team he represents — Pakistan.

Words will end, people will leave the game but Umar Akmal will continue to be ‘player with immense potential’ just like Shahid Afridi used to be at one time. Sadly, whenever the chips are down, Umar Akmal takes them even below. He has no regard for situation of the game, no respect for his fellow cricketers who might have better intentions an above all lacks the finishing touch that makes any cricketers a match winner. Had it been in my power, I would never have selected him after the Australian tour in 2010 where he refused to keep wickets in place of his elder brother Kamran Akmal who was in the business of ruining careers by dropping catches.

And then there were Sharjeel Khan and Khurram Manzoor. Their statistics, their stay at the wicket and the easiness with which they gifted their wickets proved that the selectors were once again wrong in their assessment. You don’t select players on their one-off performance and besides the prolific scoring Younis Khan who made it into the side on the basis of a performance in a side match that shouldn’t have been played, no one-match hero has proved his worth. As for Khurram Manzoor, his place in the side was always in jeopardy ever since his name was mentioned in the squad. He displayed his lack of knowledge regarding T20 Cricket and every time he went to bat — even when it was against UAE — he made a fool of himself. He wasn’t playing for the country like his teammates, he was playing for a place in the final XI and he failed miserably.

Afridi was a failure from the first match till the moment the team was ousted from the race to the final but wasn’t that expected? He is one of the main reasons why Pakistan hasn’t been able to click in T20s as he thinks of himself rather than the team; cares about his performance than the country’s and select a bunch of yes-men so that they can do whatever he ask them to. Just think, Pakistan’s Test performance is much better than the T20Is or ODIs – he isn’t in the Tests team and it has been doing well. As for the ODIs, had there been a better skipper than Azhar Ali along with different sets of players in ODIs, Pakistan might be a force to reckon in the 50-over format.

His presence in the team has the wrong effect and instead of giving his best, he delivers his worst despite trying. Afridi has no place in the Cricket setup of Pakistan and the sooner the men in charge realize that, the better. Besides his fans, nobody wants him to linger on because a) he can’t bat anymore, b) his bowling has become rusty and c) his captaincy is a disgrace. Just as is the selection of Mohammad Sami who makes a comeback on merit, gives flawless performance in his comeback game and then does an Umar Akmal with a ball when it matters the most. Even Wahab Riaz with all his aggression and speed and Mohammad Irfan with his height haven’t been able to prove their mettle as spearheads and are now playing second fiddle to the man who according to Rameez Raja shouldn’t have been in the Pakistani side.

The two positives to come from Pakistan’s disgraceful performance in the Asia Cup are Mohammad Amir’s emergence and Sarfraz Ahmed’s resurgence. Both were outstanding throughout the event and if the coach and his staff is sensible enough, they will build their match strategy around these two and include the rest of the players accordingly. Amir has been phenomenal in his comeback and those who saw him bowl fast and furious hope that he continues to shine in days to come.

As for Sarfraz, his fans and well-wishers of the Pakistan cricket team want him to open the innings and keep wickets but the one-dimensional brains behind the Greenshirts seem to pick him only for one of his abilities; and not both. He can attack the opposition unlike Khurram Manzoor, Mohammad Hafeez and even Sharjeel Khan combined yet the selectors feel he fits better in the middle order. Had AB de Villiers been in the Pakistan side, he would have been dropped after two matches citing poor wicket-keeping as a reason. Thank God he isn’t a Pakistani… but then, God works in mysterious ways and the Pakistan team remains a big mystery.

Omair Alavi

omair alavi
The author is a freelance journalist. He may be contacted at [email protected]

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