Saturday, February 26, 2011

Can the Pakistan Senior Players Please Stand Up?

I was going to do a piece after Pakistan's record breaking win over Kenya but then I stopped short of doing it because many people turned around and said - its only Kenya, we were expected to beat them, and that its not a big deal that we beat a minnow nation.

What I saw in the Kenya victory was a team that rallied around each other, a captain that led from the front, a middle order that collectively fired, and a happy bunch of cricketers enjoying every moment of the game.

That fun factor in a game is what has been missing from the Pakistan side for a long time. I don't think it was there during Inzamam's tenure, and it definitely was not there under the many captains that took over after Inzamam. We were playing good cricket under Inzamam but it was never a happy team.

This Pakistan side looks like a happy one. One that is having fun on the field and enjoying playing cricket with each other.

I saw that in the game against Kenya and that's why I thought it was a meaningful victory for Pakistan.

I thought at the time that if Pakistan can maintain this atmosphere in the dressing room and on the field then they can be a very tough team to beat.

We have been hearing all the media hype about how all the players are getting along, about how the seniors are putting their hand up and taking responsibility, and about how Waqar Younis and Afridi have managed to keep the team going despite all the controversies.

Glimpses of all this were visible during the Kenya game, but today against Sri Lanka even the performances spoke volumes and showed just how much responsibility the seniors are willing to take.

It was heartening to see the senior players, namely Younis Khan, Misbah Ul Haq, Shoaib Akhtar and the captain Shahid Afridi bring out the best in them to shut down Sri Lanka.

Younis and Misbah forged a partnership that was reminiscent of the many partnerships that Inzamam and Yousuf have had for Pakistan in the past; or even of the Imran Khan - Javed Miandad partnerships of 1992.

Younis and Misbah are the two senior batsmen in the team and they took the responsibility to guide the team during the middle overs against Kenya, and again against Sri Lanka today.

While, Shoaib Akhtar gave a performance that dismissed all speculation about his fitness. He bowled an opening 5-over spell, got a crucial wicket each time he was brought back for another spell, completed his quota of 10 overs, and was the most economical and effective bowler for Pakistan bar one.

Shoaib's determination to perform and dedication to this Pakistan team was visible throughout the day. The way he ran in, the way he sweat it out, the way he celebrated the wickets - you can see it that he is determined to show the world that he can still win matches for Pakistan.


And finally, Shahid Afridi.

The man that matters the most.

The man that led from the front.

Against Kenya, and against Sri Lanka.

Many think that a 5 wicket haul against Kenya doesn't mean much and that Afridi is easy picking for the stronger opposition.

Today, he proved that his 5 wicket haul against Kenya was no fluke.

He bowled with guile, beat batsmen with his spin, and completely controlled every one of the 10 overs he bowled to the Sri Lankan batsmen.

The one that got Samaraweera was a beauty!

Today was undoubtedly one of the best I've seen Afridi bowl.

His captaincy may not have been spot on throughout the innings, but his involvement, control, and energy is more than enough to keep the other 10 players on their toes.

After two matches into the World Cup, Afridi is the leading wicket taker in the tournament, Misbah is the 2nd highest run scorer, and Pakistan is sitting pretty at the top of Group A - ahead of Australia, Sri Lanka, and New Zealand after just as many matches.

The best part about these two victories is that all the media hype about senior players taking responsibility, Pakistan being united, Waqar and Afridi working towards making the players gel well together is not just hype.

Its true as has been visible in the two matches that Pakistan has played and won.

If these senior players continue to perform this way then there is no stopping Pakistan at the ICC World Cup 2011.

Make your pitch on this post...

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6 Pitched:

  1. Anonymous said...

    Q, good article. A few questions/ points. Pakistan played a damn good game today but akmals errors and lollipop catches being dropped are mistakes that the likes of Australia will not forgive. I don't think either of these can be taught at this stage. It seemed like Gul was choking under the pressure at the end and it seems Ike Afridi wasn't able to talk his nerves out ( even though he seemed to be trying). hopefully waqar spoke to him today.

    Questions: what indicated happiness to you?
    Did you notice Gounod getting into the huddle and talking to the guys? I haven't seen misbah interacting with anyone like that yet. Seems like younis is defacto vice-captain.

  2. Kuram said...

    It was a good win, and Afridi looks the part when Pakistan win, but he does crack under pressure and starts hurling abuses at his players.

    There is no opinion he should be captain, but needs to control his emotions.

    I have really liked the work both Shahid and Waqar has done with the team.

    and Kamran needs a swift kick at the backside.

  3. Gaurav said...

    Like most Pakistan teams not playing under a captain names Imran Khan Niyazi, this one too is filled with little cliques and side agendas. Whenever Pakistan is successful, it is because all the sidebars have decided to temporarily forget their individual self-interest. That is what I saw today. The Akmal brothers have their own little camp of 2. Akhtar is playing for his retirement. Misbah is anyway a misfit in the team - he gave an entire post match interview without once saying Bismillah, Insha'allah or Allah-o-Akbar. I'm sure he was fined by the team/PCB for that and may invite lawsuits and/or suicide attacks under the blasphemy law back home. That said, their game plan is rather one dimensional, specially in the batting department - Openers to support a possible Kamran explosion. Failing that, Younis and Misbah to consolidate through the middle overs. Then in the last 10 overs unleash Afridi, and if he fails, unleash Razzak. Problem is, there are no backups - Kamran fires 30% of the time. Umar AKmal is far too impatient to be a proper backup if Younis or Misbah fail. Afridi fires maybe 15% of the time. Razzak fires 15% of the time. Umar Gul fires 10% of the time. Consistency is the biggest problem. You cannot rely on Younis and Misbah to keep getting 50s in every match to steady the middle overs and prepare the platform for the final explosion.

  4. Anonymous said...

    Your reader gaurav is obviously on drugs. Let go of your racism and watch cricket you little shit... You don't want to come back in the next life as a gay man's asshole do you????

  5. Fayez said...

    Good writeup Umair. The team has definitely been shaping up well since the NZ series. Bowling still seems weak though. Gul needs to get to his best for this bowling line-up to start looking formidable. They need to bring Ajmal in place of Rehman - the next game against Canada will be a good time to do so. Going into next round with Ajmal not having played any games will be suicidal.

    I was actually quite happy with Afridi's captaincy. His bowling changes were based on the situation and not some pre-planning script.

    It was heartening to see Shoaib bowl the way he did. All Pakistan has ever asked for is a serious and matured Shoaib.

    It's sad to see how Razzaq's unbelievable batting talent is being wasted.

    I predict a big one from Ahmad in the next game.

  6. Fayez said...

    so ajmal is playing in place of rehman. perfect!

    someone will be replacing misbah - i'm guessing that will be asad shafiq. though they could get adventurous and play wahab/junaid in place of misbah.

    i hope they send razzaq in before afridi and umar akmal in the game against canada.

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