Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Despite this win, Pakistan's ODI team needs a FIX

After losing 5 successive ODIs, Pakistan finally broke their losing streak yesterday by beating New Zealand in the first ODI in Dubai.

Despite this victory, Pakistan has a lot to think about leading up to the World Cup, which is just 2 months away now.

Saeed Ajmal's ban did not hamper Pakistan's preparations as much as Mohammad Hafeez' ban has. Pakistan have coped well without Saeed Ajmal, both in tests and ODIs, however without Hafeez' bowling, Pakistan will struggle more often than not.

With Hafeez not being able to bowl, Pakistan's entire balance and make up of the ODI team is impacted. Hafeez' presence in the top order and ability to bowl 10 economical overs with a wicket or two has been a luxury that Pakistan has enjoyed over the past 4 years.

However, now, in the span of just 7 ODIs, Pakistan has to come up with a viable alternative strategy for the World Cup.

The first solution was Haris Sohail. A prolific scorer in domestic First Class cricket, Sohail had played only 4 ODIs and 3 T20s for Pakistan before yesterday. He had not produced much with the bat in those 7 outings, and he had not delivered a single ball.

In his entire cricket career, Sohail had bowled 80 deliveries before the first ODI against New Zealand. Yesterday, Sohail bowled 75% of his entire career's deliveries in a single ODI!

There is no doubt that he did a great job. 10-0-39-0 are returns that Hafeez regularly produces for Pakistan. Sohail made sure that Pakistan does not miss Hafeez' services with the ball; however it remains to be seen if he can do it regularly or not.

Sohail came on to bowl when New Zealand were already on the back foot. Irfan and Wahab had provided vital breakthroughs and Sohail benefited from a batting unit that was under pressure.It will be a different situation when the batting team is on top or when a team is chasing a target against Pakistan.

I'm taking nothing away from Sohail's performance yesterday. He was superb. With both bat and ball and played an instrumental role in ensuring victory for Pakistan.

But, there is still a lot to think about. Three key things to think about:

1. The Professor's Dilemma

The biggest question that needs to be answered is the one regarding Mohammad Hafeez' place in the side. Does he still warrant an automatic selection given that he cannot bowl?

Nasir Jamshed is waiting in the wings. Sarfraz Ahmed can open the batting. There are middle order batsmen who deserve to be playing but are not.

Given all this, does Hafeez make the cut solely as a batsman?

Probably not in my opinion. He was severely exposed in South Africa, and majority of his good innings have come in the subcontinent; so to persist with him solely as a batsman for the World Cup in Australia might not be the best idea for Pakistan.

2. Keep Shoaib Malik OUT!

I could not believe my ears when I heard Rameez Raja mention Shoaib Malik, not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times during the entire match.

You got to be kidding me Rameez. Shoaib Malik is your answer for a batting allrounder? What has the man done in the past 5 years to warrant selection?

Just because he can bowl off spin makes him an option for Pakistan?

NO IT DOES NOT!

Fawad Alam, who happens to be Pakistan's best ODI batsman this year, and Sohaib Maqsood, who has had a tremendous start to his ODI career, can both bowl.

These are your batsmen, along with the newly found Haris Sohail, who can collectively contribute 10 overs in an ODI game for Pakistan.

Shoaib Malik needs to be kept in the wilderness. Or even beyond that if possible.

3. Fix the Middle Order

I still can't get over the fact that Pakistan went into this ODI with the middle order reading Asad Shafiq, Younis Khan, Haris Sohail, Misbah Ul Haq.

I wondered whether Misbah had confused the format of the game because that middle order sounds like one for a test match!

Asad (Test Ave: 40.2; ODI Ave: 25.9); Younis (Test Ave: 53.4; ODI Ave: 31.6); Haris (FC Ave: 52.0; List A Ave: 35.4) are proven performers in the longer version of the game. Anyone with some sense can tell you that the difference between those averages is too significant for them to be considered good for ODIs.

Once again, Haris showed immense potential and won the game for Pakistan, but would he have been able to do the same if Pakistan were chasing a score in the vicinity of 300?

Maybe he would have. I won't take any thing away from him after yesterday's knock. But what in the world are Asad Shafiq and Younis Khan doing playing at 3 and 4 for Pakistan's ODI team!!!?

That too with Umar Akmal and Nasir Jamshed on the bench, and Fawad Alam all the way in Pakistan.

Seriously?

This middle order needs a fix and it needs a fix soon.

Pakistan is running out of time and persisting with Hafeez when he can't bowl, thinking about Shoaib Malik when he can't bat nor bowl, keeping Umar Akmal and Fawad Alam out of the XI when they happen to be your two best batsmen in ODIs, and paying heed to someone's twisted demands to play Asad and Younis will not help their cause at all.

The World Cup is only 2 months away and everything seems to be in disarray.

Make your pitch on this post...



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4 Pitched:

  1. Ali Anwerzada said...
     

    Qazi,

    Tell me your starting eleven for the first match of the world cup, given hafeez and saeed ajmal are banned?

  2. Q said...
     

    1. Ahmed Shehzad
    2. Sarfraz Ahmed
    3. Fawad Alam
    4. Misbah Ul Haq
    5. Haris Sohail
    6. Umar Akmal
    7. Sohaib Maqsood
    8. Shahid Afridi
    9. Wahab Riaz
    10. Mohd. Irfan
    11. Junaid Khan / Umar Gul

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