Monday, January 7, 2013

Pakistan's ODI Team Requires Major Fixing

A series victory typically covers up a team's weaknesses as the focus then lies on how the series was won, which players performed exceptionally, and generally how good the leadership and management was.

However, such is not the case in Pakistan’s 2-1 series victory over India.

It is a great feat no doubt. Beating India in India and almost clean sweeping them is an achievement and a half, however the PCB should not shy away from assessing the overall team performance during the series and fixing the ODI team.

Pakistan’s test and T20 teams are quite brilliant in my view. The test team has a stable batting line up where all the batsmen have scored heavily over the past two seasons; and the bowling remains a threat with the world’s best spinners.

The T20 team has a settled look under Hafeez. It has explosive batsmen as well as accumulators, and the bowling is potent with the likes of Ajmal, Gul, and Afridi – the leading T20 bowlers in the world.

The ODI team however, requires fixing. It has required fixing for a long time now.

The series win over India was largely due to the brilliance of Junaid Khan, the efficiency of the overall bowling attack, the markedly improved fielding, and Nasir Jamshed’s superb form with the bat. Besides him, only Mohammad Hafeez and Younis Khan displayed some semblance of form with the bat; no other batsmen looked in touch.

The ODI team's middle order, Misbah's position in the team, the vacant allrounder slot(s), and the wicket keeper are key issues that need to be addressed by the PCB.

They need to be addressed sooner rather than later!

1. Middle Order requires more Fire Power! Misbah has got to go!

A middle order comprising of Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Misbah Ul Haq, and Shoaib Malik looks quite damn ugly on paper. On the field, it looks even uglier.

That is not the middle order of an ODI outfit. For a test team, it looks great; but not for ODIs. You absolutely cannot have Azhar, Younis, and Misbah playing for the same XI. If the three of them bat 50 overs, they would collectively put on a 100 runs.

Failing to capitalize on an opening stand of 140 odd in 23 overs and folding in a chase of 167 clearly demonstrates the inability of Pakistan’s current middle order to push for runs in ODIs.

One cannot expect an Azhar or a Younis or a Misbah to maintain the sort of momentum that was required to build on the platform provided by Hafeez and Jamshed in the second ODI. Nor can one expect constant rotation of the strike or a push for singles to apply pressure on the fielders when any two of them are at the crease together.

One of the biggest reasons for Pakistan’s failure to chase 167 in the 3rd ODI was Misbah’s 'swashbuckling' innings of 39 off 82 deliveries. His approach was simply block, block, block, and he sucked the blood out of Pakistan’s chase, which should have been a cakewalk.

Misbah has failed time and again. His supporters argue that besides him, no one in the team even has the ability to stay at the crease, and that without Misbah, Pakistan would not be able to play 50 overs.

Utter bullshit!

Misbah occupies the crease, blocks 75% of the deliveries he faces, scores at a strike rate of 40, and loses his wicket after being around for over an hour when he should have started seeing the ball like a football.

For Pakistan’s sake, for our sake, and for his own sake, please someone sack him from the ODI team!

Misbah has done immensely well as a leader of the team and his contribution as a captain will always be remembered, but more so in test matches than ODIs.

His supporters say that Misbah was responsible for taking Pakistan out of the rut following the spot fixing scandal. But they forget that Misbah only took over the test team. The ODI team was still under Shahid Afridi, who played as a big a role if not bigger, than Misbah did in the after math of the spot fixing saga.

It was Afridi who led Pakistan to the semi final of the World T20 and the World Cup. It was Afridi under whom we managed to end 2011 as the leading ODI team of the year in terms of W:L ratio.

If it wasn’t for a spat with the coach and the then PCB chairman, Misbah would probably never have replaced Afridi as captain of the ODI team.

So to say that Misbah has done a lot for Pakistan and he should not be dropped is wrong. Yes he has done a lot for the test team and undoubtedly he should continue to lead the test team; but there is absolutely no place for him in the ODI team.

Especially when you have someone like Azhar Ali to do the same job.

If Afridi can be sacked despite leading the team to the World Cup semi final and a series win over the West Indies, so can Misbah despite the series win over India, where he hardly played any role.

In Azhar Ali, Umar Akmal, Asad Shafiq, Shoaib Malik, and the untested Haris Sohail, Pakistan has a very capable pool of middle order batsmen who can become the core batting line up in ODIs for Pakistan.

It is highly unlikely that Younis Khan (nor Misbah) will be around in two year’s time for the World Cup in 2015. It is time that the PCB asked Misbah and Younis to move on from ODIs and the team management started working on the above-mentioned 5 batsmen by giving them ample experience over the next couple of years leading to the World Cup.

Mohammad Hafeez has shown that he is ready to take over the captaincy of the ODI team. Plus with him and Nasir Jamshed, Pakistan finally have a well settled opening combination. It is time that more attention is paid to the middle order.

2. Allrounders Slot(s) Empty

With Shahid Afridi’s and Abdul Razzaq’s ODI careers pretty much over, the selectors need to search for a capable replacement or two.

Shoaib Malik is not the answer.

A large factor driving the success of Pakistan’s ODI team in the 90s was the presence of brilliant allrounders in the mould of Wasim Akram, Abdul Razzaq, Azhar Mahmood, and Shahid Afridi.

They were all attacking cricketers - primary bowlers and hard hitting late order batsmen.

Pakistan is sorely missing similar cricketers in its ODI line up.

Asad Ali and Anwar Ali, both of whom were part of the squad that traveled to India, have similar reputations in domestic cricket, however they remain untested in the international arena. Niether got the chance to display their talent though.

Hammad Azam is another player who has a glowing domestic reputation for being a finisher. His batting is explosive and his steady medium pace can be more than handy in the middle overs of an ODI.

Hammad did no wrong, yet he was dropped from the team without getting enough chances to display his potential.

The PCB and the team management need to blood these youngsters soon and provide them with more exposure to international cricket. At the same time they need to continue looking for allrounders who can potentially replace Afridi and Razzaq in the long term.

3. Where are the Good Keeper Batsmen?

The wicket keeper's position has troubled Pakistan for a long time now.

Kamran Akmal was quite efficient behind the stumps in the series against India. But the reason he is the first choice keeper is because he is a very good batsman.

Yet, he has been a miserable failure in T20s and ODIs since his return to the team.

He failed continuously during the World T20, and he hardly scored a run in the T20s and ODIs against India.

The PCB selectors really need to work hard to find a good keeper batsman for Pakistan.

I hope that the series win over India does not mask these issues with the team and that the PCB takes some notice and fixes them in time.

The success of Pakistan's test and T20 teams has been based on specialist players who have fulfilled their roles really well. 

It is high time that the same kind of attention is paid to the ODI team and specialists are included in the squad and playing XI.

Make your pitch on this post...

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9 Pitched:

  1. Unknown said...

    very well written article and i agree with all the points 100%. Misbah should make way for young blood and he should restrict hi,self to test only. we still have talented players like Anwar Ali, Haris Sohail, Wahab Riaz, Zulfiqar Babar, hammad azam and asad shafiq who just fly with the team but nevers gets to play. its high time these players are given chance so that we can prepare our team for next world cup.

  2. Fayez Asar said...

    Younus is not slow. He scored a run a ball 60 in the first game (and in my opinion played a bigger role than Nasir in the first game victory), got out to a horrible decision in the second game and well third was bad (everyone has a bad day).

  3. Fayez Asar said...

    i dont think azhar ali is an option for ODIs. every player in odi should be capable of scoring at least run a ball when needed. he might score a run a ball by playing some ugly shots, but naturally, he seems incapable of doing so... so i would opt for asad shafiq (or the now forgotten fawad alam). frankly, actually i feel misbah needs to be given one more series.

    hammad azam is a must though. maybe create a healthy competition between him and shoaib. as soon as shoaib fails bring him in. both should know the other is waiting in the wings.

  4. Fayez Asar said...

    given younus' fitness i think he can play till 2015 if his form persists.

  5. Abdullah said...

    Misbah should stay till Champions Trophy and assess his one day future there. He deserves to lead Pakistan in at least one ICC event. Every team in the world has the same test and ODI captain apart from South Africa (in that case Smith plays in the ODI side as a player.) He is the only Pakistan ODI captain since the Woolmer era to beat major sides in bilateral series and also the first in 12 years to win a major piece of 50 over silverware – the Asia Cup. As an ODI captain he has outperformed the likes of Malik, Younis, Yousuf and Afridi. Wasn’t he Pakistan’s leading ODI run scorer in 2012 and declared cricinfo batsmen of the year 2011 for both tests and ODIs combined? It was only when he was back in the ODI side as a player and formally vice-captain that Pakistan got back on track in the one day format. Afridi was the man who ran away from test captaincy, attacked his players in the media, struggled to perform apart from against minnows in the World Cup, lost more than he won in all formats and gave irresponsible media statements so to credit him for Pakistan’s resurgence is madness. As a captain in this ODI format Misbah has:

    - Beat Sri Lanka 4-1
    - Won the Asia Cup
    - Beat India in India
    - Clinical 3-0 vs. BD (who have beaten NZ and WI at home in last 3 years and beaten SL and India and England in Cups)
    - Won 21 and lost just the 12

    This is my squad for SA/CT:

    Nasir Jamshed
    Azhar Ali
    Mohammad Hafeez
    Misbah ul Haq ©
    Umar Amin
    Umar Akmal (WK)
    Hammad Azam
    Abdur Rehman
    Saeed Ajmal
    Mohammad Irfan
    Junaid Khan
    Reserves: Gul, Safraz, Anwar Ali, Raza Hasan

  6. Abdullah said...

    I do agree on Kamran, Malik and Younis, but don't be suprised if you see them play on.

  7. Abdullah said...

    In 15 innings since returning Kamran has been OUT for 5 runs or below 11 times.

  8. Anonymous said...

    I have tried to find logic and sense in your article but I failed. About the last ODI against india, you failed to mention that all the batsmen from both teams scored at the exact same pace as misbah, those who tried to be aggressive lost their wicket. Both Nasir and Misbah said that the pitch was very tough to bat on and it was very obvious for a viewer who has knowledge of the game. And when Misbah got out Pakistan needed 55 runs for 95 deliveries, please show me at what point did Misbah ruin it for the other batsmen. The truth is Misbah steadied the chase after the top order collapse but afridiots like you refuse to understand that for illogical reasons. And you talk about no room for 3 slow paces batsmen in the squad? If we had Azhar Ali in the 3rd ODI we would have won this easily. And YK plays according to the situation so he is not a slow-paced batsman. Why don't you talk about the lower middle order which fails every single time to build on good starts? The middle order that includes malik, kamran, umar akmal and afridi, why dont you talk about sacking these 4 batsmen?
    I also fail to understand how exactly did afridi steady the team after the spot fixing saga when he has more losses under his belt than victories. Under his captaincy, Pakistan has played 54 matches across all formats, won 26 and lost 27. He is a good LOI captain you say? Well, Pakistan has played 34 ODIs under Afridi, won 18 and lost 15, and in T20Is, Afridi has led Pakistan in 19 games, won 8 and lost 11. If you still don’t understand, these statistics mean Afridi was not a good captain. Moreover, as a captain, Afridi has scored 1093 runs in 51 matches across all formats with 2 hundreds and 2 fifties at an average of 22.30 with the highest score of 124, whereas Misbah (under Afridi’s captaincy) has scored 805 runs in 28 matches with 7 fifties at an average of 40.25 and the highest score of 93*.
    On the other hand, Pakistan have played 59 matches across all formats under Misbah’s captaincy, won 36 and lost only 15. Pakistan has played 34 ODIs under Misbah’s captaincy, won 21 and lost 12. Misbah has led Pakistan in 8 T20Is, won 6 and lost only 2! As a captain, Misbah has scored 2384 runs in 67 innings across all formats with one hundred and 18 fifties at an average of 50.72 with the highest score of 102*, whereas Afridi (under Misbah’s captaincy) has scored 445 runs in 25 matches with only 2 fifties at an average of 19.34 with the highest score of 75.
    With Afridi as captain, Pakistan have played 13 series, won 5, lost 7 and drawn 1. Under Misbah’s captaincy, Pakistan has played 22 series, won 15 (12 in a row) lost 5 and drawn 2.

  9. Anonymous said...

    Coming to Misbah slowing things down in a chase and costing Pakistan the match, Misbah-ul-Haq has seen 65 successful chases by Pakistan across all formats, out of which he has batted in 59 scoring 2507 runs at an impressive average of 80.87 with 2 centuries, 19 half-centuries, 28 not-outs and 1 duck. Misbah has been a part of 38 successful chases in ODIs for Pakistan, out of which he has batted in 28 scoring 1012 runs at an average of 84.33 with no centuries, 8 half-centuries, 16 not-outs and 1 duck. Whereas in T20Is Misbah was a part of the team in 10 successful chases out of which he has batted in 7 scoring 206 runs at an average of 68.66 with no centuries, one half-century, 4 not-outs and no ducks. Misbah has led Pakistan in 25 wins across all formats while chasing, out of which he has batted in 29 innings scoring 1309 runs at an average of 81.81 with no centuries, 13 half-centuries, 13 not-outs and no ducks. In ODIs, Pakistan has had 12 successful chases under Misbah’s captaincy out of which he has batted in 10 scoring 381 runs at an average of 95.25 with no centuries, 3 half-centuries, 6 not-outs and no ducks. Whereas in T20Is Misbah has led his side in 2 successful chases batting in both of them scoring 72 runs at an average of 72 with no centuries, no half-centuries, 1 not-out and no ducks. Across all formats, Misbah has been a part of the Pakistani team in only 32 (9 as captain) unsuccessful chases, out of which he has batted in 39 innings (10 as captain) scoring 917 (300) runs at an average of 24.13 (30.00) with no hundreds, 6 half-centuries (2 as captain), 1 not-out (none as captain) and 4 ducks (none as captain). In ODIs, Misbah has been a part of the side in 17 defeats (6 as captain) while chasing, out of which he has batted in 17 (6 as captain) scoring 464 (205) runs at an average of 27.29 (34.16) with no centuries, 3 half-centuries (1 as captain), no not-outs and 1 duck (none as captain). And in T20Is, Misbah has been a part of Pakistan in 8 defeats (2 as captain) while batting second, out of which he has batted in all 8 (all 2 as captain) scoring 159 runs (41) at an average of 19.87 (20.50) with no centuries, no half-centuries, no not-outs and 1 duck (none as captain).
    Lastly, while it is true that Hafeez is a very good and clever captain as well as a player, it is too soon to hand him over captaincy of all formats and suddenly increasing the load on him, which will result in the plan backfiring and Hafeez destroying his career.
    So for Pakistan's sake, for cricket's sake and for sanity's sake, stop writing highly biased articles such as this which don't contain any logic or common sense, and go play Brian Lara Cricket instead.

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