Monday, July 8, 2013

Pakistan out to get its Balance Right!

There was a time when Pakistan used to have wicket keepers who used to add valuable runs lower down the order. In those days, besides Alec Stewart, no other team really had men as capable with the bat as Moin Khan or Rashid Latif; especially when it came to getting some fast runs near the end of an innings.

There was a time when Pakistan also used to have players like Wasim Akram, Azhar Mahmood, Abdul Razzaq, and Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik in their prime. Men who could bowl and bat. Genuine allrounders.

The team also boasted of players like Aamer Sohail, Salim Malik, and Ijaz Ahmed - batsmen who could turn their arm over and were more than just part time bowlers. (Did you know Aamer Sohail bowled his full quota of 10 overs in the 1992 World Cup Final).

No wonder Pakistan was such a great team during the 90s. Genuine allrounders, wicketkeepers who could bat well, batsmen who could fill in with a few overs - what more can an ODI team ask for!

Sadly, gone are those days.

Azhar Mahmood's career was prematurely ended due to PCB's mismanagement; Abdul Razzaq fell to politics and has since then been in and out of the team; Shahid Afridi lost his magic with the bat and then his bowling form ditched him too; and Shoaib Malik became a specialist boundary catcher leaving Pakistan with no allrounders.

Kamran Akmal got tangled in fixing allegations, became an eternal dropper, and then forgot how to bat, leaving Pakistan with no wicket keeper batsman.

Mohammad Hafeez provided some balance to the side as his bowling improved with every match; there was a time when he was ranked higher than Saeed Ajmal. Hafeez undoubtedly has become one of the best ODI bowlers for Pakistan; but that is all he is now. He has forgotten that he came into the team as an opening batsman with the prime responsibility of making runs; not stopping them.

Shahid Afridi can no longer be trusted to bat as high as number 6. Actually even number 7 seems too high for him. Wahab Riaz has shown that he can throw his bat around but he is not the allrounder that Pakistan need.

Anwar Ali is considered to be a potential allrounder who could replace Abdul Razzaq in the longer term but his batting is no where close to Razzaq's or Afridi's in their hey days.

Hammad Azam seems to be the public's favorite, but I don't see why. The boy can bat and hit hard, but he cannot bowl to save his life. He is not a wicket taker and he cannot be trusted to save runs. If he is to become the allrounder that Pakistan is looking for then his bowling needs to develop significantly.

It is a sad situation really that Pakistan has not been able to get the balance of its ODI team right. It is always in a situation where they are either a batsman short or a bowler short. It is always a risky situation to go in with only 5 specialist bowlers and whenever Pakistan has tried to play a 6th bowling option, they have weakened their batting line up.

What has been sadder is that no one has done anything about the situation.

Till now.

A major step has been taken in naming Umar Akmal as the first choice wicket keeper for the ODIs and T20s against the West Indies.

It is a great move. In fact, it is a very bold move. It is a move that will go a long way in giving Pakistan's ODI team the much needed balance it requires.

With Umar Akmal batting in the top 6 and donning the gloves, Pakistan can actually play 5 bowlers, in addition to Hafeez.

It also allows them to fit Shahid Afridi in the XI, as it is difficult to include him in place of a pacer, and he can't really replace Ajmal or Hafeez.

What is also heartening is that the Pakistan management has come out and openly talked about this move. The chief selector has stated that Umar has been given the wicket keeping duties as it will help Pakistan improve the balance of their team. The coach has mentioned how this will give added responsibility to Umar.

And Umar Akmal himself has talked about how he is ready for this challenge.

Some critics have argued that it will be an extra burden on one of Pakistan's most talented ODI batsmen. I don't agree with that.

In fact, it might actually help Umar cement his place once and for all in the team. Certain players require that added responsibility to discover their true potential.

Rahul Dravid became a better ODI batsman when he was given wicket keeping duties. Kumar Sangakkara and AB De Villiers have done the same for their teams whenever they have faced balance issues.

Sure those batsmen are in different leagues altogether, but there is no reason why Umar can't handle the added responsibility. He has got nothing to lose.

And neither does Pakistan.

The selectors could not have picked a better ODI squad than the one they have for the tour to West Indies. And for once it feels like some strategical thinking has gone into the composition of the squad and someone has taken the initiative to speak about roles.

Lets hope the same thought is applied on tour and in the composition of the playing XI.

Make your pitch on this post...

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  1. Khurram Suhwwardy said...
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