Sunday, November 9, 2008

Pakistan's Comeback

Now that the dust over Mohammad Yousuf's defection to the ICL has settled, and Pakistan's new team management has taken control, we can look ahead to their up coming ODI series in Abu Dhabi against the West Indies.

The Pakistan team lands in Abu Dhabi tonight after going through a 2-day training camp at the National Stadium in Karachi (see pictures).

The camp was supervised by the team's new management including coach Intikhab Alam, assistant coach Aqib Javed, and manager Yawar Saeed. Ijaz Ahmed, who is part of the new selection committee, was also present helping the players with fielding drills.

All the right messages seem to be coming out of the camp with Intikhab saying that the players have gelled well and that the team is raring to go.

While Yawar has talked about how well disciplined the players have been during the camp.

How good everything really is, will only be witnessed once Pakistan they take the field and return to ODI cricket after a gap of 5 months.

Their last outing was the Asia Cup, in which they failed to make the final and prior to that was the Kitply Cup, which they won beating India in the final.

The squad that has been selected by the new selection committee, after monitoring a few players in the Pentangular Cup, includes all the familiar faces, yet their seems to be a different look to the team, particularly due to the absence of Yousuf and presence of Shoaib Akhtar.

Lets take a look at the probable team composition.

THE OPENERS

Salman Butt, Nasir Jamshed, Khalid Latif

Salman has over time become one of Pakistan's most dependable batsmen and he is going to Abu Dhabi after a good string of scores in the Pentangular Cup.

Intikhab has said that he would use specialist openers in the 3 ODIs against the Windies, which means that Nasir will most probably partner Salman at the top.

The Salman-Nasir combination showed a lot of promise during the Asia Cup this year. If the selectors show some patience and persist with them, Pakistan could finally boast of a strong opening pair.

Khalid has been drafted into the squad in place of Yousuf and why an opener was chosen to replace a middle order bat is beyond my understanding. Surely there are other promising middle order batsmen that could have been selected.

On top there are other openers such as Khurram Manzoor and Shoaib Khan, that have done better than Khalid in the domestic competitions. Khalid is no doubt a talented batsman, but he should defnitely be lower down the pekking order.

THE MIDDLE ORDER

Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik, Misbah Ul Haq

After over a decade and a half, Pakistan will go into an ODI without either of Inzamam or Yousuf in the starting XI. Inzamam and Yousuf have been the backbone of Pakistan's batting line up in the past, a role they are now fulfilling for the Lahore Badshahs.

Yousuf was Pakistan's highest scorer in ODIs this year and his absence leaves a glaring gap in the middle order. With him not there Younis, Misbah, and Malik will have to play more responsibly and stand up to be counted.

In this situation, I would rather see Younis bat at 4 with Malik coming in at number 3. Malik has always done better in the top 3, averaging more than he does lower down, and with him leading the side its high time he does so by leading from the front.

Younis has become increasingly dependable lately and his experience at the number 4 position would do Pakistan good in Yousuf's absence.

Misbah has batted mostly at 5 or 6 and I believe he should now look to make the number 5 position his own. The team management might be tempted to put him in at 4, but I think Misbah is a much better batsman near the end of an innings than he is at the start.

THE ALLROUNDERS

Shahid Afridi, Fawad Alam

Afridi returned to some batting form during the Pentangular Cup with a few good innings, but I wouldn't look at those with any hope.

His leg spin is invaluable to the team and his presence gives the team a more aggressive look, which Pakistan badly need during these times. Afridi is a good option to have batting at number 7 or 8, but as I have always maintained, he needs to be treated like a bowler who can bat a bit.

With Yousuf gone, this series provides Fawad with the perfect opportunity to cement his place in the top 6. Though he is more of a batsman, I have put him in this category as he would be required to fill in as a 6th bowling option.

Intikhab is right in saying that Yousuf's absence provides chances to youngsters. Not only that, but in my view his absence gives Pakistan a more balanced look as well.

THE WICKETKEEPER

Kamran Akmal

Akmal would finally feel comfortable knowing that he will not be required to open the innings and he can settle into his role in the late order batting at 7 or 8.

Akmal returns to ODI cricket after Sarfraz did the job during the Asia Cup, lets hope his gloves don't have any holes in them anymore.

THE SPINNER

Saeed Ajmal

Ajmal made an impressive debut during the Asia Cup and is the most promising spinner to come out of Pakistan since Saqlain and Mushy were sidelined 5 years ago.

He is an attacking off spinner and even though he may not have a permanent place in the XI, his presence in the side gives Pakistan's bowling attack the much needed variety.

THE PACERS

Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir, Abdur Rauf, Ifitkhar Anjum

Shoaib Akhtar returns to the ODI side after over a year and this is being viewed with a lot of skepticism.

Only time will tell whether Shoaib is back in full form and fitness, as Intikhab has been mentioning, or is this just like his previous comebacks, which will be short lived due to some reason or the other.

For Pakistan's sake, lets hope its the former.

His presence does provide impetus to the Pakistan pace attack, but no one really knows what Shoaib is going to bring to the table this time round.

Umar Gul and Sohail Tanvir were in tremendous form in the Pentangular Cup, however they will need to put in strong performances to shed the tag of being T20 bowlers.

With the team management putting all their faith behind Shoaib and also looking to recall Asif, Gul and Tanvir would need to step up their performances to remain permanent fixtures in the XI.

Abdur Rauf has had a promising start to his ODI career picking up 8 wickets in 3 matches. He was impressive in the Asia Cup and provides a good back up option to Pakistan.

Why Rao Iftikhar continues to be considered is beyond me. Sohail Khan should have been in the squad instead of him. The selectors continue to sideline Sohail for unknown reasons. He has been Pakistan's best bowler on the domestic scene and deserves a prolonged run with the team.

He might have benefited with Shoaib and Aqib's presence with the team, but the selectors thought otherwise.

THE TEAM

On paper the team looks like a well balanced outfit but we all know Pakistan better than that to give them any label.

As unpredictable as ever, the new management would be looking for positive results. Intikhab has talked about resolving the small rifts that existed in the team. If he is to be believed then the Windies need to watch their guard for there is nothing more dangerous than a united Pakistan team.

Malik will for the first time have more say in the playing XI than he has had before so it will be interesting to see what combination he plays, but I think for now the starting XI does choose itself in the form of:

Salman, Nasir, Malik, Younis, Misbah, Alam, Akmal, Afridi, Tanvir, Gul, Shoaib.

I would like to see this batting order as well, however Malik would probably persist with Younis at 3 followed by Misbah and himself. That could be disastrous.

Saeed Ajmal's inclusion remains a dilemma as going in with 2 pacers is not an option, niether is him replacing Afridi unless Malik thinks so. Fawad could be the one to miss out if Saeed is to play but that would weaken the batting. It will be interesting to see how Malik handles this.

The team management has to fill in a number of roles and their task is cut out.

Everything will fall into place over the next few days as Pakistan land in Abu Dhabi today, hold their practice sessions tomorrow and on Tuesday, and then take the field on Wednesday.

Make your pitch on this post...



Labels: , , , , , , , ,


11 Pitched:

  1. khansahab said...
     

    Q

    According to my sources Nasir Jamshed did not leave Pakistan and he has been ruled out. He has been suffering from malaria and he got 103 temperature.

    Khurram Manzoor has replaced him.

    I agree with your balanced analysis; generally I like including 4 pacers in any playing XI but I think the Abu Dhabi pitch will assist spin. I would remove Alam and play Ajmal. If Afridi and Malik do the job with the spin department then I would play Abdur Rauf in place of Fawad Alam.

  2. khansahab said...
     

    I don't understand why Nasir Jamshed was training without his shirt on if he has been suffering from malaria and fever?

  3. Q said...
     

    Khansahab, I heard that Nasir was passed fit to travel yesterday.

    The news was reporting the same.

  4. Q said...
     

    So you think Alam is not a sure starter? I thought with Yousuf gone, it was the best time to groom him as batsman...

  5. khansahab said...
     

    I thought Alam would make it in the final XI but looking at the squad something doesn't add up.

    West Indies are not a strong side so Pakistan might to okay with 3 pacers and 3 spinners.

    If Saeed Ajmal is going to be played, one batsman would have to lose out, and Alam is the most likely option because he is being used as an all rounder.

    I don't know why the selectors thought of Khalid Latif replacing Yousuf when Alam is already a good batsman who deserves to play in the middle order.

    I would have left either Rauf or Anjum and included Arafat not because I think less of Rauf or Anjum, but because I think Arafat has improved his bowling manifold since we last saw him playing international cricket.

  6. khansahab said...
     

    Have you noticed how Sarfraz Ahmad's batting has improved?

    He made a century with a strike rate of 86 against Punjab in the Pentangular Cup match. That probably saved the match for Sindh.

    I don't think his keeping was particularly bad, and with the way he has been batting I don't think there is a huge difference between his and Akmal's batting. He averages 46 in first class cricket whereas Akmal only averages 32.

  7. Q said...
     

    Your sources were right Khansahab - Nasir is out of the series and Khurram has been drafted into the squad.

    I don't get it. He was passed fit just yesterday and as we saw he was practicing topless.

    Strange.

    I agree with u that something is not adding up. Saeed Ajmal might in fact play instead of Alam, though Alam deserves a shot as a batsman.

    Sarfraz I think is a better bet than Akmal in the long run. I think both of them could have a Moin vs Rashid type rivalry going forward.

  8. Damith S. said...
     

    Q (finally I get it right).

    When is this series going to be held ?

    Check out the Moobs on Shoaib lol. He should be leading the charges.

    He should be the guy doing ten more laps while the rest of the team does fielding practice.

  9. Q said...
     

    Damith the 3 ODIs are on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.

    I'll let u know in advance what i'll be wearing at the ground in case u decide to catch the action on TV ;-)

  10. Faisal.K said...
     

    I think it is good that Moyo has left...he was a great batsman but new blood has to be groomed after all if we are to rise as a team again.

  11. Q said...
     

    Welcome to Well Piched Faisal. I agree, in the longer run it might be better for Pakistan.

Post a Comment