For the past four editions, Pakistan cricket team has gone into the Cricket World Cup with all on its mind, except winning the tournament.
The team that was quite strong on paper could have qualified for the second round in 2003 and 2007; instead one World Cup saw the end of a captain (Waqar Younis), the other resulted in the death of a coach (Bob Woolmer). By the end of the 2011 World Cup, Pakistan had lost the last of its Express pacers (Shoaib Akhtar) and if all goes as planned by the Pakistan Cricket Board, Misbah-ul-Haq will be made to say good bye to cricket after the next World Cup, for which Pakistan is anything but ready.
Why we are not ready is really the question here. The mega event will be played early next year in Australia and New Zealand, the grounds where Pakistan managed to clinch the Cup 22 years back under the leadership of Imran Khan.
Yes, the players in that team were not the best selected but they had a captain who never said never, who was in it to win it. Can the same be said for the current Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq who argues that the team fared badly in Sri Lanka because they had no match practice? Anyone with brains would disagree because practice makes you get used to the conditions, not make you a better batsman. How many matches did Javed Miandad play before he went onto mastermind the 1992 victory? The former captain of the national side wasn’t even in the squad that left for Down Under due to injury and had to be drafted in on his reputation, not on his performance in the practice matches.
Many cricketers in the current side seem to be playing on their reputations and their performances in Sri Lanka is a proof of their ‘greatness’.
Had Sarfraz Ahmed been the Test side wicket-keeper of a nation with sensible management, he would have been retained in the one day squad for his amazing form with the bat. But sadly, he is a Pakistani cricketer and was sent back home despite being in the form of his life.
In his place, Umar Akmal was preferred who fared badly (as usual), and was also sent (read wasted) at the coveted number 4 position in the first two matches.
There was no reason for the captain (or the management) to send Sohaib Maqsood at number 7 in all three matches. After his fighting innings in the first one dayer, he should have been promoted but that didn’t happen. What did happen was that the out-of-luck Sharjeel Khan was recalled, Mohammad Hafeez was asked to bat at number 3 and the batsman in form — Sohaib Maqsood — was sent so low down in the order that it meant he contributed virtually nothing.
The same goes for Fawad Alam who should bat higher in the order, considering he has scored a Test century as an opener (in Sri Lanka), and Pakistan doesn’t have a reliable bat at the top of the order. For those who think that it’s too much to ask, how about sending him at number 4 instead of Umar Akmal who shouldn’t be in the side in the first place!
Pakistan also missed a quality all-rounder in Sri Lanka. The hosts seemed to have been rich in the department since Angelo Matthews and Thisara Perera outdid the competition big time. The Sri Lankan skipper made 182 runs and finished with two wickets, while Thisara Perera managed to score 78 runs (that included an unbeaten knock of 65 runs) and take as many as nine wickets in just three matches! Pakistan on the other hand didn’t even think of selecting Anwar Ali in the final XI who can bat as well as bowl. Even Zulfiqar Babar would have scored more runs than the so-called all-rounder Wahab Riaz who fared well with the bowl, surprisingly.
As for Anwar Ali, the right-arm medium pacer would have been a breath of fresh air in the all-left pace attack of Pakistan. I have nothing against Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Irfan and Junaid Khan but having three pacers who deliver the ball from the ‘other side’ is more like a liability than an asset. And Anwar Ali in Sri Lanka is always a dangerous combo since it was in Colombo that he took five wickets for 35 runs against India in the final of the Under-19 World Cup in 2006.
So why did Pakistan lose the ODI series? Was sending Saeed Ajmal away for the first two matches, for his biomechanics test, a miscalculated blunder? Was selecting a half fit Mohammad Irfan for the series a haphazard decision? Yes they were. Saeed Ajmal was not in the right frame of mind in the second Test and he should have been sent away during the Test series, instead of ODIs.
As for Mohammad Irfan, the lanky pacer ended with three wickets for 150 runs in three matches which was the last thing one expected from him. Junaid Khan also looked tired in the one dayers; it would have been better had he been rested for the two matches he played — he ended with just one wicket for 139 runs! If anyone is to blame for the debacle in Sri Lanka, it is the management and one hopes that one-person-per-job policy of the newly elected Chairman Shehryar Khan will help Pakistan in the longer run.