When Pakistan faced India in the World Cups 1999 and 2003, they had the best teams that they had ever had. Look at the names that took the field at Old Trafford on June 8, 1999: Saeed Anwar, Shahid Afridi, Ijaz Ahmad, Saleem Malik, Inzamamul Haq, Azhar Mahmood, Moin Khan, Abdul Razzaq, Wasim Akram, Saqlain Mushtaq, Shoaib Akhtar.
Now look at the team that played against India at Centurion. Saeed Anwar, Taufeeq Umer, Abdul Razzaq, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, Younis Khan, Shahid Afridi, Rashid Latif, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar.
There can be no comparison between the current squad and the two teams mentioned above. So, if the teams in 1999 and 2003 failed to beat India, how can this team that has been sent Down Under defeat them?
None of Pakistan’s bowlers today can claim to be as good as were Wasim, Waqar and Saqlain. Similarly, none of Pakistan’s batsmen today is capable of orchestrating chases as was Inzamam.
The current team seems incapable of beating any strong team whether it is batting first or bowling — unless the opponents do something extraordinarily stupid.
Can Mohammad Irfan bowl like Wasim Akram — a bowler whom many a world class batsman regard as the best fast bowler they came across in their entire careers? Allan Border, Martin Crowe, Brian Lara and Jacques Kallis are some of Wasim’s admirers. Irfan is going to be the spearhead of our pace bowlers, but he may not have a single admirer among the batsmen playing international cricket currently although his height makes him look very threatening.
The other bowlers are even less gifted and experienced. What can you expect from Ehsan Adil (four ODIs), Rahat Ali (one ODI) and Sohail Khan (five ODIs)? Yes, Wahab Riaz took five wickets in the previous India-Pakistan World Cup encounter, but that was perhaps his last such performance. In the last four years, he has given so many runs and taken so few wickets that he cannot be relied upon against any strong batting line up.
Pakistan perhaps have never had such problem in bowling 50 overs as they have today. They have had Ahmed Shehzad, Younis Khan, Haris Sohail, and Sohaib Maqsood bowl because there are no genuine all-rounders in the team like Abdul Razzaq and Azhar Mahmood. Absence of Mohammad Hafeez, the man who has been counted on by the selectors and captains for the past few years, has made things very difficult.
It will be a pleasant surprise if India bat first in today’s match and fail to score over 300 runs.
All of this is the result of poor planning — if there has been any planning? Our selectors failed to groom a single genuine all-rounder in the last four years. Some players with skills in both departments were given chances, but not enough. Hammad Azam, Anwar Ali and Bilawal Bhatti could have been polished. They could have served as Azhar Mahmood did in the second half of 1990s and the first of 2000s. But the selectors failed to do their job properly.
When you will be reading this piece, the match will be about to begin. So pray for our team to win because this team needs a lot of prayers for a win against the arch-rivals.