In the euphoria of success against India in the ICC Champions Trophy final, cricket fans have overlooked a number of things about many cricketers. Everyone is talking about Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali and Sarfraz Ahmed. But there were others who played well but have been ignored. And there were those who failed to do well but have not attracted criticism because Pakistan won.
Nobody is talking about Shoaib Malik who scored only 54 runs in four innings, averaging just 18. He used to complain that he was unable to perform well because he did not have a certain position in the batting line. Now that he has an established place in the order — fourth or fifth — he is still unable to score consistently.
And his utility as a bowler can be gauged from the fact that he was asked to bowl only two overs in five matches.
Imad Wasim played all five matches but got just two wickets despite bowling more than 30 overs. It was because of his and Wahab Riaz’s below-par bowling that India were able to score 319 in the first match. While Shadab Khan, a novice, gave only 5.2 per over, he let the Indian score 66 in his 9.1 overs — 7.2 per over. He bowled well only in one match, against South Africa, as he took two wickets for 20 runs. He needs to be much more consistent if he wants to have a permanent place in the team.
He also failed with the bat, scoring just 29 runs in three innings. His body language suggests he thinks too highly of himself. But he has done little to help the team in recent matches.
The best thing that happened in the tournament was that people were finally happy with the batting of Azhar Ali. People used to write him off as a limited overs batsman. But he proved himself by scoring consistently and often briskly. Actually he has never been a bad batsman in one-day cricket as well. He has an average of 39 and strike rate of 74, much better than many openers our selectors have tried in the last decade.
Similarly, many people were criticising Babar Azam, saying that he was capable of scoring big only on Asian wickets. Perhaps this impression has been there because he scored three consecutive centuries against West Indies in the UAE. But this view is erroneous. He has scored everywhere — in New Zealand, Australia and England. In fact, he was at his best in Australia against Australia, scoring 33, 34, 84, 31 and 100, early this year.
His innings in the final against India was of huge importance, but it was overshadowed by the exploits of Fakhar Zaman first and Mohammad Hafeez later. He took Pakistan from 128 to 267. It was Babar who consolidated the innings. Without his contribution, Pakistan would not have crossed the 300 run mark.
In fast bowling department, everyone praised Hassan Ali and Mohammad Amir, but Junaid Khan has strangely been ignored. He was more consistent than Amir. While Amir took five wickets in four matches, he took eight in as many matches. Rahul Dravid, however, being a great cricketing mind, praised him after the final against India, saying it was his tight first spell that helped Amir shine. Amir had not done so well in the first match against India because the other bowlers were getting hit for boundaries, said Dravid.