Monday, November 28, 2022

Azhar Ali Deserves your Respect

Azhar Ali is probably the most under rated batsman ever to play Test Cricket for Pakistan. I am not too sure why he does not get the respect that a batsman like him deserves.

More than 7,000 test runs; a 40+ average; 19 test centuries; a triple hundred; a double hundred.

The only Pakistan batsmen ahead of him are the greats Javed Miandad, Inzamam Ul Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, and Younis Khan.

I get that he can't be classified as a test great given that his average is quite far from the coveted 50 mark, but he has been the mainstay of Pakistan's test batting line up for the past decade.

He is also the best test number 3 that Pakistan has had, barring the great Younis Khan.

As soon as Pakistan's 18-man squad for the Test Series against England was announced, there were a number of fans questioning the presence of Azhar Ali.

WHY!??

Maybe it has something to do with him not playing ODIs and T20Is, and the fans forget the value Azhar brings to the test side?

Maybe some fans don't fully understand the requirements of a batsman like Azhar Ali in a test batting line up?

I am really not sure what it is.

Especially considering he scored a 185 against Australia in the last home series that Pakistan played; in a game where no batsman from Australia got to a 100!

Some fans pointed out that Azhar has been living of past achievements and does not deserve to be in the team based on recent performance.

WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT!?

Here is a list of the top 20 run scorers in Test Cricket over the period 2020-22.


I see only two Pakistanis in the list.

And I can name a few big names from other countries, as well as, those from the "Fab 4" who are not in this list. Yet they continue to feature in Test Cricket.

Only our fans can have issues with such stars of the game.

I have another stat for you all.

Azhar bats at number 3, which is one of the most crucial positions in a batting line up. Especially in Test Cricket. It is also one of the most difficult positions to bat in.

Here are the best performing number 3s in Test Cricket over the period 2020-22.


I really wonder what these fan critics are on.

And it also does not make sense to drop someone who has been performing consistently!

Here is a summary of his performance in Pakistan's recent Test Series.

2022
vs Sri Lanka (in Sri Lanka): Played 1 Test, scored 3 and 6.
vs Australia (in Pakistan): Scored 300 runs in 5 innings at an average of 60, including a 185 and a 78.

2021
vs Bangladesh (in Bangladesh): 0, 24*, and 56
vs West Indies (in West Indies): 17, 23, 0, and 22
vs Zimbabwe (in Zimbabwe): 36 and 126
vs South Africa (in Pakistan): 51, 31*, 0, and 33

2020
vs New Zealand (in New Zealand): 5, 38, 93, and 37
vs England (in England): 0, 18, 20, 141*, and 31

So where is the failure?

The only series where he failed was against West Indies.

A player is allowed 1 bad series in 3 years; or do Pakistan fans not have the patience for that either?

He has scored runs in every series, against all opposition, in all conditions home and away!

I will never understand the criticism against him.

Azhar is the mainstay of Pakistan's test batting line up, one of the best test batsmen produced by Pakistan.

I hope the fans will leave him alone, give him some respect, and let him play for as long as he keeps scoring valuable runs for the team.

Make your pitch on this post...



Labels: , , , , ,


Thursday, November 10, 2022

Pakistan is into the T20 World Cup FINAL !!!

Can you believe it?

Rewind to a week ago and no one thought that in a week's time, Pakistan would be on the verge of a second T20 World Cup win. It still feels unbelievable that we are there, Pakistan's first T20 World Cup Final since 2009, but we are! 

I have so many thoughts about this World Cup that I am not really sure where to start. I may end up rambling. Let me try to break it down.


THE WORLD CUP OVERALL
It has been one hell of a ride for the past month, no less than a high thrill rollercoaster. It all started for me with the qualifiers when Namibia upset Sri Lanka on day 1!

I haven't missed a single match out of the 44 that have been played so far. I have woken up at odd hours, I have had sleepless nights, but I have been glued to the TV since 16th October. Matches missed due to office hours, I watched later in the day. I watched every single episode of The Pavilion too.

The cricket has been so damn good in this World Cup. Every single game from the qualifying stages was total paisa vasool entertainment.

I have witnessed some amazing cricket, surprising upsets, nail biting wins, heartbreaking losses, some great batting, a lot of great bowling, and simply awesome competition between bat and ball.

I don't remember a World Cup, especially a T20 one, where the fight between bat and ball has been this close, with neither form clearly dominating the other. With the exception of England's onslaught against India.

I guess this has a lot to do with Australian pitches and conditions. If it were not for odd timings of matches for us, I would want every World Cup to be played in Australia.

After Pakistan's shocking loss to Zimbabwe and a World Cup ouster in sight, I maintained that if one keeps emotions aside, this has been a rocking World Cup. Many unexpected results, very closely matched teams with most games ending in the final over, and just edge of the seat cricket!

That kept me hooked to all the matches even after Pakistan's losses in their first two matches.


PAKISTAN'S PERFORMANCE
They are a blockbuster team, aren't they? The drama that unfolds with Pakistan cricket at world tournaments is more thrilling and entertaining than any mega blockbuster movie.

We have all witnessed it over the past 30 years. Yes since 1992.

You all would have seen the similarities with the 1992 campaign that have been circulating on social media.

Sure there are similarities, but more than that I feel that tournaments where Pakistan reaches the knock out stage from a hopeless situation, are the ones that they go on to win.

EXHIBITS: 1992, 2009, 2017

And tournaments where they dominate the group stages, are the ones where they fumble in the knock outs.

EXHIBITS: 1996, 1999, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2021

Nasser Hussain and Harsha Bhogle put it aptly - "When Pakistan are tagged favorites and their fans' hopes are high, they always disappoint. And when you write them off, that is when they come back to play their best cricket!"

In the last three matches against South Africa, Bangladesh, and New Zealand, Pakistan definitely played some of their best cricket.

The two matches they lost were off the final ball. Such a fine margin. Both matches could have gone Pakistan's way so easily.

Pakistan are an amazing team, one of the best T20 teams in the world as records suggest, they played their 6th T20 World Cup semi final - more times than any other team, they are going to play their third T20 World Cup Final - also the most by any team (albeit jointly), they are truly Box Office!


THE EMOTIONS OF A PAKISTAN FAN
These are uncontrollable.

I guess it is the passion, or maybe a lack of faith in leadership, which is borne out of many other issues with the country, or a genuine lack of understanding, or maybe they have short memories and lack patience.

It could also be a combination of all of the above, but one thing is clear - no other cricket fan is sent into a thrilling ride with so many twists and turns than a Pakistan cricket fan.

As I said, Box Office Blockbuster.

There was heartbreak and a lot of disappointment after the loss to India in Pakistan's first match of the T20 World Cup. I know many people who stopped following the World Cup after that match.

It was disappointing to lose undoubtedly, but I felt at the time that the boys played one hell of a game.

A game they should not have lost, but a game that was taken away from them by the best batsman of our generation who played the best knock of his T20 career!

I felt that the boys gave it their all in the match, and I feared that because of the result they may not turn up fully switched on for the next match. It was a physically and mentally draining game, and to bounce back from something like that is nothing short of a miracle.

I had no idea how the team would pick themselves up for the next match.

What I feared came true as Pakistan imploded against Zimbabwe. That result sent the entire nation into shock and all the fans into an emotional frenzy.

I heard all sorts of crazy statements.

"Pakistan do not deserve to play the world cup", "Babar is not a good captain", "Babar and Rizwan should not open, they are wasting the powerplay", and so on.

For the more optimistic fans, the ifs and buts scenarios started.

Pakistan needed to win all of its remaining matches, and then hope for other results to go their way. Some results were likely, others quite unlikely.

After South Africa beat India, the door seemed shut on Pakistan. Everyone I know had lost all hope.

I also felt that Pakistan's campaign was over, but I maintained that let the team play and win its games, and if its meant to happen, things will fall into place.

On the eve of the last day of the Super 12s, I had a very strong feeling that I shared with most of my friends.

Some laughed, some hoped, some promised me all sorts of things.

I truly felt it as I went to sleep earlier than ever to wake up at 4AM to watch South Africa vs Netherlands.

That Sunday, magic happened!

Yet, the critics remained.


"PAKISTAN DONT DESERVE TO PLAY THE SEMIFINALS"
Yes it was a "backdoor" and unbelievable entry into the semifinal for Pakistan, but at the end of the day the two best teams from the group qualified.

For those saying South Africa deserved it more makes no sense at all to me given that Pakistan thrashed South Africa.

For all those saying South Africa would have qualified had their match against Zimbabwe not been washed out - please go look at the NRR. Even if South Africa won that match, Pakistan would have gone ahead with a superior NRR.

Yes the two best teams qualified. Doesn't matter who won the earlier matches and who won the later ones.

When it mattered, Pakistan won!


"BABAR IS NOT A GOOD CAPTAIN"
I have always maintained that Babar Azam is Pakistan's true leader. The way Babar has backed his players, motivated them, and kept the team spirit alive, is unlike any other Pakistan team I have seen in the past 2 decades.

Babar is a phenomenal leader.

His biggest criticism has been his tactics, especially the bowling changes in some crucial matches. But then that can go either way. Some work, some don't.

In my view, he may not be the most tactically sound captain, but he is the kind of leader that the Pakistan team needs. He should be at the helm for as long as he plays, and Pakistan will do wonders.

Under Babar, Pakistan have risen as an ODI team, played the semifinal of a T20 World Cup (2021) after a decade, played an Asia Cup final (2022) after a decade, and now will play a T20 World Cup Final after 13 years!

Tactics aside, he has the results to back him. He has the players that back him. He has a board and management that back him.

All criticism is a load of BS in my opinion.


"BABAR AND RIZWAN SHOULD NOT OPEN"
This has been going on for a while, and largely it is do with their strike rates.

Babar just could not get going in any of the five Super 12 matches. Rizwan still had a couple of scratchy innings in two matches. But they both were far from their best and quite out of form.

The attacking stroke play in display from the bat of Mohammad Haris, brought in at the last minute due to an injury to Fakhar Zaman, escalated the voices demanding a change in Pakistan's top order.

Now here is the thing.

Babar and Rizwan are not only the best opening pair in Pakistan, they are the best opening pair in the world.

Do you break something up that has worked for you for two years on the basis of 5 innings? Do you change your plans overnight because your two best batsmen are not in form?

No, definitely not.

On Haris, yes he played two magnificent knocks in the Super 12s. A 28 off 11 when he batted in the powerplay and a 31 off 18 when he batted in the middle overs.

On the basis of that sample size how do you make a judgement to make Haris open instead of either of Babar or Rizwan?

Senseless really.

Babar and Rizwan came out to open in the semifinal and they batted as if nothing had ever changed.

Both knocked fifties and ensured Pakistan's march into the final on the back of a successful chase that Pakistan's openers are experts at.

Yes I am aware that Babar and Rizwan do not go all out attack in the powerplay and that their strike rates are lower than most T20 openers

Is the way well marketed by the likes of England, India, and Australia, the only way to play?

Surely not, as Babar and Rizwan are the only openers who have successfully chased scores in excess of 190 on multiple occasions. You cannot say that about the Buttlers, Warners, Finchs, Rahuls, Sharmas of the world.

There is a method to their madness, which they believe in. Majority Pakistan fans and critics will keep harping on about strike rates, while Babar and Rizwan will keep winning you games.


WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
To the final ofcourse!

To hell with all the criticism, Pakistan is going to play their third T20 World Cup Final!

Yes it is like 1992! It is Pakistan vs England in the Final of a World Cup at the MCG!

Despite all these similarities with 1992, there are some parallels that can be drawn with the World T20 in 2009 as well.

Back then, I had arranged a viewing party for Pakistan's semifinal and final at Time Cafe at Ramee Royal Hotel. There was a lot of coordination, a lot of requests made to the cafe, and about 25-30 of us witnessed Pakistan's World T20 win together.

This time around, there is another venue, but the same arrangements and coordination has been taking place. A good bunch got together to watch Pakistan's semifinal, and an even bigger lot will be there on Sunday to witness the T20 World Cup Final!

In this World Cup, Pakistan has peaked at the right time and I can't believe that we are one match away from becoming World Champions one more time!

COME ON PAKISTAAAAAAN !!

Make your pitch on this post...



Labels: , , , , , , , , ,


Monday, September 26, 2022

A very Pakistani Win, But still so many Questions

Last night in Karachi, Pakistan levelled the 7-match T20I series against England, in a win that was completely Pakistani in nature.

Defending a middling 166, Hasnain got Pakistan to just the start they needed, as he had England reeling at 14-3 in 2 overs.

When England's new white ball stars - Ben Duckett and Harry Brook - built a partnership and got going, it seemed England will canter to a win. Even after Duckett got out, Moeen Ali continued the charge and England were well on their way.

But the two Mohammads - Nawaz and Wasim - struck in the space of 6 deliveries to dismiss both Moeen and Brook.

England were 6 down and still 54 runs away from the target with 34 deliveries left.

Pakistan were in the driver's seat and they remained there till the end of 17 overs when England needed 33 off 18 with only 3 wickets left.

Just when all looked good, Hasnain, who had made Pakistan's defense possible to start with, was targeted by Liam Dawson.

Dawson smashed Hasnain, who had so far given only 16 runs in his 3 overs, for 24 runs and it seemed all was lost for Pakistan with England needing only 9 runs off the final 12 deliveries with Dawson in fine form.

Enter Haris Rauf to bowl the 19th over of the innings.

6 deliveries. 5 runs. 2 wickets!

Haris, with his 150 kmh+ thunderbolts, brought Pakistan right back into it.

England who had stumbled, and then were cruising, before stumbling and cruising again, were left to get 4 runs off the final over with their final pair at the crease.

A run out, which was caused due to the panic that Haris Rauf had created in the penultimate over, meant that Pakistan had just snatched victory form the jaws of defeat!

It was a magical win. One that only Pakistan can produce, out of no where. Pakistan lost its grip on the match twice during England's chase, yet somehow still managed to pull off a thrilling victory when Cricinfo's predictor had them at 1.5% chance of a win!

Only Pakistan can do the impossible.

Only Pakistan can create such drama and entertainment in a cricket match.

And to steal a line shared by a friend:

"Only Pakistan can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and victory from the jaws of defeat, in a matter of minutes"

That truly is Pakistan for you.

There was another meme that I just loved.


Poor Bhuvi thought, a trusted death bowler at one time, he is just having a horrid time at the death lately. 

But it is ok, we can all laugh a little at India's expense, especially when Pakistan has provided some heroics.

Haris Rauf was truly exceptional.

It really was a great win, and all Pakistan fans were back to cheering the greens on, just 1.5 hours after they had volleyed wide range of abuse on the batsmen who slugged their way to a middling 166.

The criticism, even though harsh, was not unjustified.

Babar and Rizwan, as always, had provided Pakistan a great start, having put on 53 in the powerplay.

The next 4 overs produced only 29 runs, and the critics were out with swords!

82-0 after 10 overs is a score I will happily take every single game. It was a solid platform that had been laid by the best batsmen in the business, who do this more often then not.

What happened after that is the problem.

From 82-0, a score of 180 should be no problem at all.

Yet, Pakistan ended on only 166, that too due to Asif Ali's two 6s in the final over. 

When Babar fell trying to up the tempo in the 12th over, Shan Masood walked out with 8 overs still remaining. 

Pakistan could have been more flexible by sending in a Nawaz or Asif Ali at that point, but given how Shan had batted in the 3rd T20I, it was a fair call in my opinion.

But Shan could not middle a single delivery during his stay at the crease. It was a painful innings from the "saviour" of Pakistan's middle order.

Rizwan also seemed to have lost his touch after Babar's departure.

Shan fell with 9 deliveries left in the innings.

Khushdil Shah, who has been the worst of the lot among Pakistan's middle order of rabbits, walked out and I was shocked!

Only 9 deliveries to go and you don't send out Asif Ali???

WHY!?

Why does Khushdil keep getting game after game?

How is he higher in the pecking order than Asif Ali?

It makes no sense to me.

Why is Pakistan's management not showing more flexibility? Where is the think tank that sent Nawaz up the order against India, and Shadab up the order against Afghanistan, during the Asia Cup?

That flexibility gave Pakistan the desired results, so why not do more of it?

Iftikhar bowled a great spell last night. Why doesn't he bowl more often? There have been previous games where Pakistan could have used additional overs of spin, so why wasn't Iftikhar used?

Despite this great win by Pakistan, there are still a number of questions to ponder on.

One can only hope that in future games Pakistan will be more flexible with their batting options, they will stop relying on Khushdil Shah, and they will utilize more spin.

It is about time!

Make your pitch on this post...



Labels: , , , , , ,


Friday, September 23, 2022

Babar & Rizwan: The Undisputed Champions of T20 Cricket


Last night, Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan gave the world the answer to that question.

Exactly that.

SO WHAT!?

The two stalwarts of Pakistan's T20 team did not leave anything for Pakistan's unreliable middle order batsmen and completed a record chase of 200, against England in the second T20 International, all by themselves. 

They completely destroyed England's bowling attack and romped home with a thumping 10 wicket victory, unlike any other in all T20 cricket.

When Babar and Rizwan bat the way they did in Karachi last night, Pakistan don't need a middle order.

Babar and Rizwan shut down all critics questioning their presence as openers for Pakistan, their strike rate, their ability to utilize the powerplay to full potential, the pressure they were placing on the middle order, and all such garbage that was being said by experts and fans.

Last night in Karachi, the two champion batsmen showed the world why they are the best opening pair for Pakistan and why they are the best batsmen in T20 cricket in the world!

During the epic chase, Pakistan, along with Babar and Rizwan, created a number of records.

PAKISTAN CREATE HISTORY

1. Pakistan successfully completed the highest run chase without losing a wicket in the history of all T20 cricket

Yes, the feat has not even been achieved in franchise T20 cricket, let alone internationals.

Pakistan now have two entries in the list of highest scores chased without losing a wicket in T20Is.

2. Pakistan became the first team to successfully chase 200 against England in T20Is.

3. Pakistan also became the first team in T20Is to defeat England by 10 wickets!


BABAR AZAM & MOHAMMAD RIZWAN - SIMPLY THE BEST

Not too long back they were ranked number 1 and number 2 in T20Is. The latest rankings have them at 1 and 4. I think when the rankings are updated next week, they will be number 1 and 2 again.

Undoubtedly, these two are simply the best in the world. What they achieved last night was quite unbelievable.

Having said that, if anyone had asked me before last night about which opening pair was the most likely to chase a score of over 200 without being dismissed in a T20I, I would have named these two!

Their ability to chase big totals in T20Is is quite unparalleled.

1. Their unbroken 203 run partnership is now the second highest partnership in all T20Is.

Babar and Rizwan now hold the record for 2 of the highest 5 partnerships in T20Is.

2. Babar and Rizwan are a part of all of the highest 5 partnerships for Pakistan in T20Is.

The partnership of 203* was their 5th partnership of 150 or more. No other pair in T20Is even comes close to that many 150+ partnerships.

3. Their partnership of 203* is now the highest partnership in T20Is while chasing.

Babar and Rizwan broke their own record of 197, which they had put on against South Africa last year.

4. Babar and Rizwan, during their partnership of 203 last night, over took T20Is most prolific opening partners - Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan.

Babar and Rizwan now have the highest partnership runs, most number of centuries, and the best partnership average in all T20Is.

5. Babar and Rizwan are the best openers in the world in T20Is in terms of Impact.

Yes you heard that right. Anyone who has any reservations about their strike rates or their impact at the top of the innings is only delusional.

Not only do they have the top two averages among openers in T20Is, they also have strike rates as good as other openers around the world.

When measuring their impact, I used an adjusted average metric (Average x Strike Rate / 100) to determine the overall impact made by an opener in T20Is.

The result is here for everyone to see and wonder.


BABAR AZAM: THE UNDISPUTED KING

Anything I say about him will not be enough praise, nor will it do full justice, to the absolute talent that he is as a batsman.

Babar Azam is the best batsman in the world across formats.

Here is what he achieved last night with his epic unbeaten knock of 110.

1. Babar became the only batsman from Pakistan to score two T20I centuries.

2. Babar joined Faf Du Plessis and David Warner as the only three batsmen in this world who have scored a century in each format at the same ground - Karachi, the Wanderers, and Adelaide Oval, respectively.

3. Babar is now level with Rohit Sharma with the most (2) centuries in T20Is as captain.

He also has the third most runs in T20Is as captain; is only behind Virat Kohli in terms of average as captain; and is ahead of everyone else with 16 50s as captain.

4. During his knock last night, Babar raced past 8,000 runs in all T20 cricket, getting there faster than all batsmen, barring one.

He got there in only 218 innings, 5 more than the Universe Boss - Chris Gayle.

5. Babar's 110* last night was his 10th century as captain of Pakistan across formats, beating the legendary Inzamam Ul Haq's record of 9 centuries as Pakistan captain.

6. Babar Azam won his 30th T20I last night, beating Sarfraz Ahmed's record of 29 T20I victories as captain of Pakistan.

I am still in awe of what Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan achieved last night.

And I am still in shock at experts and fans who have been harping on about how Pakistan needs to change their opening combination.

Last night was a good reminder about previous chases of 208, 201, and 189. Of previous wins set up by Babar and Rizwan. Of the so many platforms that these two have provided this team.

It is not their fault that the middle order is not good enough. It is surely their fault that the middle order does not get enough chances to bat, but certainly not their fault if the middle order can't finish games.

Babar and Rizwan will not always do what they did against England in the second T20I of the 7 match series.

They can't be expected to set up a platform as well as finish games. At times they will do both, at times they will just do their part and leave it to the rest to finish, at times they will fail.

Pakistan has two champions at the top of their order who need to be cherished by one and all. Such batsmen are produced once in generations. Savor their performances!

Make your pitch on this post...



Labels: , , , , , , ,


Wednesday, September 21, 2022

What is Babar's Aversion with Utilizing Spin?

It has now happened way too many times for it to be a lapse of judgement.

Babar Azam has some aversion to fully utilizing his spin resources in T20Is, especially after the 14th over an innings.

EXHIBIT 1: Pakistan vs Australia, T20 World Cup 2021 Semi Final


The first time I noticed it was in the Semi Final of the T20 World Cup in 2021.

Pakistan had imposed a challenging 176 and had Australia in a precarious situation at 103-5 in 13 overs. 7 overs to go with 74 runs to get.

Imad Wasim had bowled his 3rd and the innings' 12th over giving away only 3 runs. Shadab bowled the final over of his spell and the innings' 13th over, where he gave away 8 runs and picked up a wicket.

Imad should have bowled the next over, i.e. the 14th, and finished off his spell. Especially considering a new batsman on the crease and Imad's previous 3-run over.

However, Babar turned to pace and handed the ball to Haris Rauf. It was a decent over and went for only 6 runs.

Still time to bring Imad back to finish off his spell.

But no, Babar went to Shaheen. Still a decent over with only 6 runs conceded.

Continue with Haris would be the wise choice, or even Imad; but Babar handed the ball to Hasan and that opened the flood gates.

Each of the next overs was a double figure one and Australia raced home with an over to spare.

Why didn't Imad complete his spell?

EXHIBIT 2: Pakistan vs Sri Lanka, Asia Cup 2022 Final


In the Asia Cup Final, Babar brought on Shadab and Iftikhar right after the Power Play, as they bowled the 7th and 8th overs of the innings.

The reason he went with Iftikhar, and not Nawaz, was because the left handed Rajapaksa was at the crease.

Fair.

Both Shadab and Iftikhar bowled beautifully and had Sri Lanka by the throat on 62-5 after 9 overs.

At the end of 12 overs, Sri Lanka were 85-5, and Shadab and Iftikhar had bowled 3 overs each, giving away less than 7 runs an over.

For the 13th over, Babar went back to pace, and Hasnain leaked 14 runs!

Shadab bowled the 14th over for 7 runs and completed his spell.

The 15th was bowled by Haris and it went for 11 runs.

Why not let Iftikhar finish his 4 overs?

Instead of letting Iftikhar complete his spell, Babar turned to Nawaz for the 16th over, whom he had not bowled at all till now due to Rajapaksa's presence. Yet he still brought him on while Rajapaksa was smashing it around.

Nawaz gave only 3 runs in his over.

Now, with 4 overs left in the innings, Babar had the option to bowl Iftikhar for 1 over, and Nawaz for another 2!

But no! 

He went with pace and in the next 4 overs, Rajapaksa and Sri Lanka raced away and smashed 50 runs!!!

Why Babar Why?

Where is it written that your pacers need to complete their 4 overs? Where is it written that you cannot utilize spin in the death overs?

Clearly the Lankans were liking the pace and the spinners had kept them quiet.

Could Babar not read the game the way we did?

EXHIBIT 3: Pakistan vs England, first T20I


Pakistan's pacers bowled 11.2 overs and gave away 102 runs at a run rate of 9 runs per over.

Pakistan's spinners bowled 8 overs and gave away 56 runs at a run rate of 7 runs per over.

England's required rate at the start of the innings was 8 runs an over.

It was clear that England's batsmen were comfortable against pace, but struggled a bit against spin.

A few more overs of spin from Iftikhar or Khushdil could have pushed the asking rate a bit higher making it a difficult chase for England.

But no, Babar will never think of spin to win.

I find it really strange why he keeps repeating the same mistake in every match.

Has the coaching team not advised him on this?

Is there no one in the whole Pakistan set up that sees this?

Pakistan has world class spinners that can win them games...

... but why doesn't Babar utilize them more?

Make your pitch on this post...



Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Why Shan Masood Batted at 4

We all know Shan Masood the opener as that is what he has been for the most part of his career.

Even the international cricket he has played for Pakistan has been as an opener in Tests and in ODIs.

An average of 29 in Tests and 22 in ODIs suggests that he has been mediocre in international cricket, despite turning it on in domestic cricket for the past few years.

He was never regarded as a T20 batsman. So much so that he did not even make it to the XI at times for his PSL franchise, the Multan Sultans.

However, in 2022, Shan Masood transformed his game. He has had a fine year in T20 cricket in 2022 and he has credited Mickey Arthur for this success.


In yesterday's first T20I between Pakistan and England, Shan Masood walked out to bat at 4 and the commentators, particularly Wasim Akram and Urooj Mumtaz, went on about how Shan is an opener and that he would find it difficult to adjust to batting at number 4.

I wondered why both commentators were so clueless when making those statements. I also wondered why no one in the combox corrected them.

The thing is that Shan Masood has not only transformed his game to become an attacking batsman suited to all formats of the game, he has also shifted to playing at number 4 in T20 cricket.

I believe he made this switch considering that Pakistan currently possess solid opening pairs in all three formats. With no opening position up for grabs in the Pakistan team, Shan likely wanted to create his space in the middle order.

And this is how he did it.

In the just completed National T20 Cup, Pakistan's domestic T20 competition, Shan Masood played 9 matches for Balochistan, and he batted at number 4 in all of those 9 matches.

In these 9 innings, he scored 215 runs at an average of 31 and a strike rate of 128.

Decent returns that definitely made a case for his presence in Pakistan's abysmal middle order.

Here's a breakdown of his 9 innings at number 4 for Balochistan in the National T20 Cup:


So no, Shan Masood was not new to batting at 4, nor did the Pakistan team management make it difficult for him by making him bat at an unfamiliar position.

Shan Masood batted at 4 in the Pakistan's T20 competition with some success, which resulted in his selection for Pakistan, who were looking to shore up their middle order after the consistent failures in the Asia Cup.

Shan Masood batted for Pakistan in the same position that he batted in Pakistan's most recent T20 competition.

Would be good if the commentators had a bit more knowledge.

Anyhow, not that it makes any difference to Pakistan's middle order though - they are all damn rabbits!

Make your pitch on this post...



Labels: , , , , , ,


Monday, September 12, 2022

Pakistan doesn't have a Middle Order - So what?

Leading up to the Asia Cup, there was an article about how Pakistan's middle order was not getting enough time in the middle to showcase their ability. The prolific form of the top order was the culprit, who were facing too many deliveries and scoring at less than an ideal strike rate.

Now that the Asia Cup is over, one can look back and see that Pakistan's middle order got ample chances and they failed miserably. Every. Single. Game.

Babar Azam was not at his best. I would say grossly unlucky rather than woefully out of form, but considering he was back in the pavilion within the powerplay every game (barring one), the likes of Fakhar, Iftikhar, Khushdil, and Asif got plenty of chances.

And they all collectively showed the world how useless they are.

FAKHAR ZAMAN
Asia Cup Scores: 10, 15, 5, 13, 0. Yes, I am not counting the 50 odd against Hong Kong.

Even leading up to the Asia Cup, Fakhar had scores of 10, 10, 12, 0. 

Add to that the fact that he dropped Kohli second ball, and that his misfields gave India 8 valuable extra runs. He is lucky Pakistan chased down 180 odd and didn't lose by 5 runs or so.

It is time Pakistan move on from Fakhar the T20 batsman.

IFTIKHAR AHMED
I am sorry but we do not need batsmen who score run a ball 30 odds. What is the point?

In a team that has openers that are accumulators, you don't need another batsman who does the same.

Please look elsewhere.

KHUSHDIL SHAH
Why is he even in the T20 team?

In 18 T20I innings, he has a highest score of 36. Against Zimbabwe.

His next highest is 35. Against Hong Kong.

He also has a 34. Against Bangladesh.

In the remaining 15 innings he has not crossed 20.

Why is he in the team?

ASIF ALI
He is way too over rated. 

He has played 45 T20 Internationals now, and the only game that he has actually won for Pakistan is the one against Afghanistan at the T20 World Cup last year.

Besides that, if all what you want is 16 off 8, your bowlers can get you that. You do not need Asif Ali.

Haris Rauf - 13* off 7 vs India
Shahnawaz Dahani - 16 off 6 vs India
Naseem Shah - 14* off 4 vs Afghanistan

These are actually better returns than Asif. 

Please move on from this over rated slogger.


Is blaming the top order fair? 

Now that it is established that Pakistan does not have a middle order, I feel the blame given to the top order for not giving other batsmen enough chances was unfounded.

Pakistan's T20I top order gave us successful chases of 208/3 vs WI, 205/1 vs SA, and 189/6 vs SA in the last 12 months.

Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, despite their "below par" strike rates and low risk approach in the powerplay led Pakistan to 3 record chases in 12 months.

Not to mention all the other chases of scores between 120 and 170.

It has worked in the past. It will work again in the future.

Unfortunately Babar did not score this Asia Cup. If he did, it may have been a different story.

What do we do about the middle order then?

I don't see any replacements to be honest.

Yes there is Haider Ali, who was in the Asia Cup squad, but did not get a single game.

In my view, he is better than the 4 batsmen mentioned above.

Shan Masood has been in the runs in domestic and county cricket. He has a strong case for inclusion in this side.

Even if you bring in these two, Pakistan will be left with two passengers. 

And honestly, I do not think it will make a difference.

Whether you have Fakhar, Iftikhar, Khushdil, Asif or you have Shan, Haider, Khushdil, Asif. Whether you bring in Shoaib Malik. Or even if you bring in Javed Miandad.

It will make no difference whatsoever. You can play rabbits in the middle order for all I care.

Pakistan's T20 success has been achieved on the back of great knocks by Babar and Rizwan, and some outstanding pace and spin bowling.

That is your team right there - Babar, Rizwan, Shadab, Nawaz, and any 3 out of Shaheen, Naseem, Haris, Hasnain, Dhahani, Waseem Jr.

The middle order is just a formality. Whoever is there, however they play. Unless Babar Azam scores, Pakistan will not win consistently in my view.

T20 World Cup Squad

With the 15-man squad for the T20 World Cup to be announced by 15 September, it seems unlikely that there will be any major changes.

You can't go into a World Cup with inexperienced players, and the current crop are the ones Pakistan has banked on for the past year.

Perhaps Shan Masood may get a look in. Any of Fakhar, Iftikhar, Khushdil, and Asif can be dropped for Shan really.

Haider should find a place in the constantly failing middle order. I don't get why he wasn't given a chance especially considering that he has scores of 45, 68, and 31 in his last three T20Is.

Having said all this, I would also like everyone to note that this Pakistan team under Babar is a very good team.

They reached the semi finals of the T20 World Cup in 2021, after not qualifying for the knock outs in 2014 and 2016.

They reached the final of the Asia Cup 2022, which they did not qualify for in 2018 and 2016.

So something is right about this team. They are moving in the right direction.

With some tweaks, they will win a tournament too, in the not so distant future.

This is what I think Pakistan's 15-man squad will look like:

Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, Fakhar Zaman, Khushdil Shah, Haider Ali, Shan Masood, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Waseem, Mohammad Hasnain, Shahnawaz Dahani

And Pakistan's first XI should be:

1. Babar Azam 2. Mohd. Rizwan 3. Shan Masood 4. Haider Ali 5. Mohd. Nawaz 6. Shadab Khan 7. Asif Ali 8. Haris Rauf 9. Mohd. Waseem 10. Naseem Shah 11. Shaheen Afridi 

A strong bowling line up with 4 pacers and 2 spinners will be ideal for Australia I believe.

And there is enough batting there for 20 overs.

After all, Pakistan only need Babar Azam and Rizwan!

Make your pitch on this post...



Labels: , , , , ,