Sunday, June 17, 2012

Is Pakistan's ODI Team Really that Bad?

The past year, 2011, was one of the best cricketing years in the history of Pakistan in terms of team results. Even though there were no outstanding individual performances, as Pakistan is used to, nor were there earth shattering results, but Pakistan won more games than they lost in all formats of the game, and even ended the year with the best win:loss ratio in ODIs among all teams.

They won more games than any other team in ODIs, reached the semi final of the World Cup, and dominated most teams they played against.

The turn of the new year, however, has not been the same, which begs the question to be asked - what has gone wrong?

In all ODIs played in 2012, Pakistan lost 4-0 to England, won the Asia Cup while dropping a game to India, and in the current series against Sri Lanka they are behind 2-1.

Not the kind of results you would expect from a team that was the best ODI outfit of the year. But at the same time, can we really judge that the team is a really bad ODI team?

After the loss against Sri Lanka last night, the fans' reactions were outrageous. Some called Pakistan the worst ODI team out there, some blamed it on Misbah, some called for Afridi to be dropped, while the chants for axeing Younis Khan grew ten folds. All very typical.

But is all this criticism fair?

The way Pakistan collapsed last night deserves some criticism at least. But then seriously, it is not every day that you lose 4 wickets in an over, 5 wickets for 3 runs, or your last 8 batsmen for 33 runs.

It was a sensational collapse and not one that Pakistan experiences often. It is the type of collapse that we generally inflict on other teams. We have rarely collapsed in such a horrendous way.

Pakistan have botched a number of chases in the past, but not by losing wickets the way they lost yesterday.

So I really think that it was a one off.

Sure the team is not a strong ODI outfit, even though the same team notched up win after win in ODIs last year and also won the Asia Cup just a few months ago.

Sure the team requires some changes, but I don't think they warrant such a huge negative reaction.

Mohammad Hafeez has a century and an 89 in his last 8 ODI innings. Azhar Ali is growing as an opener with every game. Asad Shafiq shows promise with starts and with time will learn to convert them. Misbah is taking responsibility and batting well. Umar Akmal is going through a bad patch. Afridi cannot be criticized for his batting. The bowlers have been doing well for a long time.

You can't look to axe any of these players.

Younis Khan has had a prolonged bad patch and I think he needs to be replaced in the ODI squad. Pakistan also need to find a good wicket keeper who can bat and going back to Kamran Akmal is not the answer. There must be someone out there.

Just a few changes on these lines can bring back the balance in the team and may even turn Pakistan's fortunes around.

But an overhaul, or a change in captaincy, or dropping Hafeez and Afridi, or sacking Umar Akmal are not answers to a team that has more often than not done well in the recent past.

We are the Asian Champions after all, and we are allowed one bad day like last night.

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