Home > Pakistan > Opinion: Woefully Spineless Pakistan

Opinion: Woefully Spineless Pakistan

I was talking to a friend yesterday, and I mentioned to him that Pakistan cricket team has a funny history of giving their worst performances when they are in do or die situations…… perhaps there are a few exceptions to that, but from memory, in the last 10 years, whenever Pakistan has been faced with a must win match, they have not just choked, they have ended up playing like they are still in their sleep. From memory, there is the 1999 WC final, which had a mountainous build up, and it was a bit of a mouse in the end. The 2003 WC  game against India also comes to mind, as do the performances in the Champions Trophies of the past.  

Yesterday, Pakistan faced off South Africa in what ended up being the quarter final of the Champions Trophy. Pakistan had SA down at 42/5, then SA fought back to 213. While watching the match, I had a couple of things going around in my head. First off all, I knew that on that pitch, Pakistan would make a mess of even chasing 100 runs (they eventually did prove that point). Secondly, I knew that if the second string Pakistan attack was doing this to the stronger SA batting, what would the stronger SA bowling do to the weaker Pak batting?

In Pakistan, when kids play cricket, the group of friends usually takes turns to select 1 player for their team. If the friends are odd in number, 1 kid is left out in the end. He is usually the worst player, explaining why he wasnt chosen by anyone for their team. To incorporate him in the play, he is made into a “Relu Kata”. He bats and bowls for both sides. It never creates a problem because essentially he cant bat, nor bowl, so he never makes a difference to the outcome of the match.

Pakistan Cricket has created a more acceptable word for a relu kata i.e. the Utility Player. In yesterday’s game against SA, we had Razzaq, Malik, Afridi, Hafeez, Arafat who were utility players. As it stood yesterday, the utility players demonstrated that they can neight bat nor bowl, exactly the opposite of an all rounder!. At some point in time this was likely to show up.

Malik had been improving and was a candidate to hold his position in the team as a batsman alone. But after seeing him play a couple of games on pitches which offer a bit of bounce and assistance to the bowler, I think he is just a flat track bully. So is Kamran Akmal, who many considered to be in the Gilchrist league.

The only unplayable ball that was sent down by the South African yesterday was the one that Pollock bowled to M Yousaf. Apart from that, it was just a terrible display of batting, and towards the end when Pak was 4 or 5 down, it looked like they just didnt care and were just trying to finish the match off as quickly as possible.

PCB needs to handle Afridi accordingly. In my opinion he should be opening. There is no point in him coming down the order, no matter what he thinks. He is averaging under 10 in the last 20 matches coming down the order. And we are talking about more than 18 months here. How long will the PCB persist before they realize that its only Afridi’s fantasy to bat at number 5 and nothing else. Afridi is not really a batsman, he is just a hitter, and an amazing one at that. If 6 runs are needed of 6 overs, he will try to hit a 6 and probably get out. He has never seen Pakistan through in any game towards the end , though he has bludgeoned them to victory on many occasions while opening. I do think that Afridi should be in the team, but perhaps the Afridi card should be played in the way it was always played, as an opener.

Losing both Akhtar and Asif was a big blow to Pakistan, I agree. But nothing can excuse the body language of the players in yesterday’s match. It looked like they were saying that we dont want to play because this pitch is too tough. Hey Morons!, there is another team that you are playing against, that you are supposed to be arguably better than, and their keeper and bowler dug in to take the score to 213. If they can do it, you should be able to do it. You are not getting the money, fame, respect and hero worship for just showing up to play in a cricket mad country. You are getting that to fight hard, and win the match.

I cannot understand why Asim Kamal, perhaps one of the few batsmen in Pakistan who have shown the grit to fight it out in trying conditions is overlooked for the ODI sides. I cannot understand PCBs obsession with Arafat, and finally, I cannot understand how someone can seriously say that Salman Butt is not good enough to be in the team.

ODI teams usually play with 4 front line bowlers, and they try to make up the 5th bowler through part timers. Pakistan instead is not even comfortable playing 5 front line bowlers, and they still need an all rounder in addition to that in order to be comfortable. Thats just crap.

Hafeez has the shots, but he perhaps does not have the temperament. Reminds me of Bangladeshi players evertime. He has improved a lot in the last 2-3 years, but need a little more time.

And now Razzaq….. the puzzle. What the hell is he? A bowler? A batsman? someone who does both every 10 games, and fails at both for the remaining 9?. The guy cant play spin, he cannot play bounce, he is suspect against movement. He will keep hitting you for 4s if you keep bowling him straight yorkers, or if you are Kenya/Zim/ Bang etc. As far as his bowling is concerned, he is like a robot. Comes in bowls, and walks back. It never looks like he is putting his heart into the game, never looks like he is trying to do anything, and usualyl starts off bowling like a rookie instead of someone who now has been playing Test cricket for 10 years. There are many games in which Razzaq neither bats, nor bowls !!. He has lost a lot of pace since his heydays in 2000, when he was genuinely a front line bowler. Now he bowls like he is a batting all rounder, and bats like he is a bowling all rounder !.

All in all, with the World Cup being only 6 months away, I dont want Razzaq out of the team, because I was thinking that whatever combination is working for the team should be carried forward. However, there are other problems now. Pakistan is hopeless unless the pitch is so bad for bowling that even 350 is chaseable! All that any country needs to do when they host Pakistan in the future is to make a pitch that offers a bit of help to the seamers, and Pak would crumble like dry leaves!

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Categories: Pakistan
  1. rego
    October 28, 2006 at 2:42 am

    mate..cut razzaq some slack..hes by far the best “all rounder” pakistan have got, and though I myself can’t figure out whether hes more of a batsman or a bowler, hes done the job for pakistan on many occasions with both the bat and the ball. He bowled pretty well last night as well. I think the Pakistanis have got to get their balance right, which isnt tooo hard a job. I never liked Imran Farhat because he just doesnt seem to have the temperament for a big score. I think Hafeez is a decent bat with the ability to bowl in one dayers as well, and he should be pursued with some more. Butt certainly should be opening with him, with Yasir Hameed or Taufeeq backing them up. I think Shoiab Malik should be occupying the no. 3 spot for now..and yusuf and younis should be at 4 & 5…slugging it out when the ball gets old, the pitch gets slow and low, and the spinners get purchase. I would actually get Akmal to work on his batting so he could occupy the no. 6 role..he is a decent bat (nowhere near gilchrist..or even dhoni)..but decent..and capable of batting 6..Razzaq or Afridi at 7 & 8 depending on the situation..and 3 frontline quicks…Iftikar…Gul…and possibly…Rana Naved…Arafat is a waste of time…

    Once Inzamam returns you could have him in the middle order dropping one of the quicks or Afridi..or possibly Hafeez (playing Afridi as an opener)…I dunno..Pakistan have serious issues with their team balance at the moment..and have to sort em out before the World Cup..They also need to find a couple of top order batsmen…to fill the void left by inzamam when he retires…Butt and Malik have to be developed as pursued further..

  2. October 28, 2006 at 6:34 pm

    If you have 5 full batsman, a keeper and 4 front line specialist bowlers, then Razzaq or Afridi filling the final slot is fine…….. but I am afraid thats not how it is done……..

    Afridi is actually a better all rounder than Razzaq is…..

  3. rego
    October 29, 2006 at 2:41 am

    Afridi is not a better all rounder than Razzaq is..you just have to look at the averages for that..plus Razzaq can be as destructive on his day…remember the 90 off 44 against NZ..I would say Malik qualifies as a full batsman..add that to.YOusuf Younis Inzamam and Butt or Hameed..you have ur five batsmen..plus Razzaq Akmal and Afridi..with three frontliners..Thats a decent combo..especially in the Caribbean..where Afridi Razzaq and Malik can do a fair bit on the slower pitches..

  4. October 29, 2006 at 4:25 am

    i think thats the combination that will be there, given that there is no time now to start off from a scratch….. whatever they have been doing in the last 2-3 years would have to be it……

  5. Nishadh Rego
    October 29, 2006 at 7:09 pm

    My point is..its a very respectable team…The batting still depends on Younis Yousuf and Inzamam.quite a bit.but the situation is far from what you described..getting a bit carried away with their losses as a pakistani fan eh..

  6. October 29, 2006 at 10:36 pm

    losses after losses my friend….. cant be all that good if they keep losing all the time….. esp on pitches which offer help to the bowlers

  7. November 6, 2006 at 10:12 pm

    Been meaning to comment on your blog post for a few days now. I think I’ll do it now.

    I agree with parts of what you say and disagree with others. Naturally its our right to be upset when we lose in clutch situations, though any Indian fan would tell me, Pakistan fights more to the end then others. India made 349 in Karachi and we batted second and fought to 344. We fought hard. Then we went to India and played well and won a game on the last ball.

    I think most of the issues you touch upon are solid. Though, I have always felt the need to distinguish between and ODI team and a test team

    ODI’s

    I dont mind this allrounder strategy in ODI’s. On slow dusty pitches, Razzak is virtually unplayable. He isn’t pacy, but our strength in the past 3 years has been our allrounders, each of whom can change the game. I think they should stick with Razzak, Afridi et all in ODI’s. Though they really need to work on their game. For some odd reason, besides Yousuf and Inzy, no one can play the moving ball!!! That’s just unbelievable.

    Tests

    Asim Kamal SHOULD def. be back.

    I’m just worried about our bowling…..

  8. November 7, 2006 at 1:00 pm

    Lets take a look at it this way…… Younis, Yousaf and Inzi are definite picks…….. after the recent ouster of Akhtar and Asif, it looks like the Relu Katas are going to be in the team as well, so Razzaq, Afridi and Malik are definite picks…….. Kamran Akmal is a definite pick…… so the only spots left are for the 3 pace bowlers, and the 1 opener……. Pak can choose to open with both Malik and Afridi and choose 1 middle order batsmen instead…… or they can choose 1 opener alongwith Afridi …….. somehow, I dont think Asim Kamal is going to make the ODI team for the WC now, because they are unlikely to draft him in this close to the tournament……
    Regarding the 3 pace bowlers…… Rana Naveed used to be excellent, I dont know what has happenned to him in the last year…….. Gul is quite good, so he can be the definite pick…….. Rao Iftikhar is average, so they need to find someone better than him…….. in fact, 2 pacer spots are still open for them………. Shahid Nazir is ok if there are 2 front line seamers in the team, but I dont think he can manage being the front liner himself…….. Arafat needs to go…….

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