Why Shahid Afridi must bat up the order?


Shahid Afridi
(Photo credit: R@VITH)

If one looks back and does even a very high level analysis of Pakistan’s batting performance over the last decade or so, they would know that how miserable it has been all this while and how it has gone from bad to worse.

Another trend that one could easily notice is that the aggression quotient has gone down substantially when it comes to how they have been batting in the recent past. And it is not natural for them we all know. From a side that the world knew as the most unpredictable, it has turned into one which the world knows with a good degree of certainty for their batting would fail.

While the history tells you all that, what it would also tells you, and there is a correlation going one here by the way is, that this change from aggressive mind set to a defensive circumspect one started happening about the same time when Shahid Afridi aka ‘Lala’ started coming down the order for Pakistan. It was considered as a damage control move but the reality is, that it turned out to be of huge damage to their cricket. Oppositions didn’t react of course, but they were quietly celebrating it all this while.

We must believe data and the data is shouting on our faces. On top of it’s voice it says ‘Afridi must bat top of the order’, because that’s where he is at his destructive best. Down the order he is a total waste. He isn’t someone who will revive a crumbling batting line up coming down the order. He is someone who best knows how to launch it at the top. And even if he fails then, their side has nothing to lose because anyhow he is not able to ‘boom boom’ at 7.

With the ICC World Cup in Australia just a few months away, the team management must take that call. Afridi more than anything is a mindset issue, and he should be allowed to set the mental tone upfront. Else ladies and gentlemen, keep watching the not so predictable Pakistan side, no harm, but then it’s no fun too, unfortunately!

Pakistan missing Afridi at CT13, already


Shahid Afridi Match WinnerTwo highly unpredictable sides clashed in a low scoring but high intensity Group B thriller last night at Oval, London, the first of their matches in the round-robin league. The West Indies got over the line with two wickets in the bag but not before Pakistan’s pace and spin combination made them experience a good 40 overs of restlessness.

On a wicket that offered some assistance to the quicks early on, Pakistan were sent into bat by the new West Indian ODI captain Dwayne Bravo. On the West Indies playing XI, there was no Darren Sammy and that meant only Gangnam style was on offer and so London was going to miss the baby dance. Pakistan went in with four specialist bowlers and Hafeez the all rounder filled in for the fifth bowler, which meant that the idea was to strengthen their batting with an additional batsmen which they know is probably their weakest link for some years now.

But the extra batsman strategy didn’t work and Pakistan’s batting failed yet again. They couldn’t bat the complete quota of 50 overs and despite Misbah’s fighting 96*, they were bowled out for mere 170 in 48 overs. Kemar Roach ran through the top order and Sunil Naraine did the rest.

Pakistan’s bowlers were superb once again with Mohd. Irfan, Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz bowling fast and in the right areas, getting a good bounce and carry from the Oval pitch. Saeed Ajmal bowled beautifully as always and West Indians had a hard time reading his doosra. At one stage West Indies were reduced to less than a 100 for the loss of 5 wickets but Pakistan’s attempt of going for the kill wasn’t strong enough and they probably had a weapon less. Somewhere they missed that fifth specialist bowler and one would agree that to an extent Afridi absence was felt.

The Pakistan selectors have missed a trick by not including Shahid Afridi in the squad. And the reason we think that’s the case is because however bad Afridi performs with the bat, he still is a top class leg-spinner and there aren’t many spinners in the world who can match him for his deceptive variations.

Over the last few years or so, Afridi has been more of a bowler who can bat and not really a batting all-rounder and thus the expectations from him should be set per se. The team, the selectors and his fans at large should do a reality check and understand that now he is someone who is more likely to win Pakistan matches with the ball and not with the bat. Yes, on his day, if he comes off with the bat that’s a huge bonus but overall that shouldn’t be the expectation upfront.

Pakistan missed him last night as a bowler and also for the attitude that he brings with him which is very capable of lifting the whole side. And he may be missed all tournament.

Afridi is a match-winner and there isn’t any doubt about that. How Pakistan plans to leverage him in this later part of his career is a question that they need to find an answer for. He still has some cricket left in him, and you never know what he may win Pakistan before he bids adieu!

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Can Bangladesh spell some magic and stay alive?


Bangladesh vs. Pakistan
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Alright…So all of you thought till ‘Super Eights’ things would be nice, calm and easy, teams can sing lullabies to each other, try different combinations in order to identify their best eleven and that there won’t be too many twists in the tale. Well, for some teams these imaginations did realize, but fairly tales aren’t told in the ‘group of death’ and here we are ready to witness this face-off tonight; which is all but comfortable for the two sides involved.

Bangladesh would take on Pakistan in last of the Group ‘D’ games (it also happens to be the last game in the ‘Group Stage’), that the ‘Bangla Tigers’ must win and win handsomely to be able to advance into the ‘Super Eights’. Here is the magnitude of this handsomeness – Bangladesh, in case they bat first, must win this game by a margin of at least 36 runs to better Pakistan on net run-rate. If they win by exact 36 runs they would still advance because they’ll be one up head-to-head. If however they happen to chase, number of overs that they’ll get to chase and advance would depend upon how much can Pakistan put on the board. For instance, if Pakistan sets them a target of 150, they must chase it down in 15.4 overs or less. Looks really tough given the way both sides have gone till now in this tournament, but who knows; one good innings or a deadly spell from someone.

If we briefly look at the teams, both sides have match winners on them. For Bangladesh Shakib-Al-Hasan, Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim can spring a surprise with the bat plus they have some good spinners, their fielding is also very good. Pakistan on the other hand looks better balanced, with their bowling arguably the best of the lot; Saeed Ajmal – the magician, Umal Gul and Shahid Afridi can trouble any batting line-up; and their batting is also coming good of late. Nasir Jamshed in particular is a very good addition to the side. He is a guy to watch out for; his lofted sixes over extra-cover against the Kiwis were spectacular.

For records, of the 44 times these two sides have met, Bangladesh has won only once; that was in the 1999 ICC World Cup. So, Pakistan start as clear favorites but for sure they’ll be under lot of pressure; we know what sort of situation that infamous 1999 loss resulted in; and what we also know is – there is no reason it won’t repeat if they lose tonight.

10 Years On, Pakistan aim for a series win against the Aussies


English: Saeed Ajmal in the field during a 50-...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It has been 10 years since Pakistan won an ODI series against the Australians. Yes, it was the year 2002 when they last beat the Aussies to win a series. They have a good chance to change these stats when they play at their second home on dry pitches where their spinners can be really dangerous.

Sharjah and Abu Dhabi are scorching hot during this time of the year with temperatures soaring to around 45’C and this can test the fitness of both the sides, especially, Australians’ who aren’t much used to such conditions. More than the heat, its the humidity that really saps a lot out of the players. It is like a sauna in the middle, where the players sweat profusely and with dew cover in the outfield it a two prong battle — outplay the opposition and at the same time fight the dew.

Both sides have won a match each with the decider to be played at Sharjah on Monday-Tuesday night. Australian pacemen ran through the Pakistan batting in the first ODI and after few hiccups in the middle of Aussies innings, the new guns Bailey and Maxwell held their nerve to make sure Australians cross over the line safely. Pakistan’s spinners bowled really well but as the batting again failed to deliver it was little too much of an ask for them.

Pakistan however bounced back in the second ODI, with their spinners, especially the magical off spinner Saeed Ajmal again bowling tremendously well to confine Australians to a modest total of 249. It was followed by a superb almost run-a-ball innings of 97 from Nasir Jamshed who dominated the Aussie attack and Pakistan surpassed the total with more than six overs to spare to set up a comprehensive and convincing victory. For a long time now Pakistan is in search of a genuine opening batsman and it seems with the arrival of Jamshed this wait is over. He just needs to watch out his injuries.

The decider promises to be an exciting contest with both sides looking to end on a high which would give them a psychological advantage ahead of the T20 series. Australia may make a change or two in their line-up by considering playing an additional spinner. For Pakistan, if Afridi recovers from his strain he may come back in place of Rehman whose figures were not too impressive in the last game. Also, with Afridi you have a potential chance of dominating the game if he fires with the bat. Though on that, I rest my case :) !!!WW6PXY4QQTKV

A Sri Lankan white-wash on a day when rain threatened to wash out


English: Mohammad Hafeez bowling during a 50-o...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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In Pallekele, it was overcast since morning and when such is the weather, despite a true batting surface to play on, all cricketing captains around the world are faced with the ‘Toss Dilemma’. And on one of these days, its always good to lose the toss. Misbah-ul-Haq was the lucky one on this occasion as Mahela won the toss and elected to bat first.

There were multiple interruptions due to rain, and on more than one occasion it threatened to wash out the game. But it was not to be, though it did result in a curtailed game; 42
overs each side.

It wasn’t Sri Lanka’s day and they never got going. Most of their batsmen got out attempting shots which were too ambitious given the conditions and class of Pakistan’s bowling. Gul, Tanvir, Sami, all three pacemen bowled fast and in right areas and made life really difficult for the Lankans. They were well supported by the spin trio of Ajmal, Afridi and Hafeez. A steady innings from Thirrimanne and a late cameo from Kulasakera took them past 100 but 135 was never going to be enough in a one day game. Other than the early loss of Azhar Ali there were not many hiccups in the Pakistan’s innings (Misbah’s run out was unnecessary though). It was a chase well executed.

As I mentioned in my last post too, its usually Pakistan’s batting that fails them and if their batsmen can manage even the ‘just about right’ batting performance, they are a very tough side to beat.

For second ODI on Saturday, at the same venue, both teams would want to apply themselves more, (even more in terms of batting) as conditions remain testing. Pakistan has all the momentum at the moment but we very well know how quickly it shifts between these two sides !!!

Pakistan must fix their batting order


INZAMAM UL HAQ
(Photo credit: paddynapper)

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Asia Cup win in Bangladesh was a high for Pakistan cricket in the limited overs’ format and they would have loved to continue from there. But coming from a break of over two months from international cricket they really looked short on match practice. This is also where the impact of non inclusion of their players in IPL can be felt. With players from all other countries, including Sri Lanka, got more than decent exposure to T20 cricket, Pakistan players looked rusty. Despite restricting Sri Lanka for a moderate total, it turned out to be a one sided affair…Pakistan’s batting failed yet again.

We talk, read, hear and discuss this all the time; and it goes on, Pakistan’s batting remains an ideal example of “inconsistency”. Their batting order looks skewed as ever, it’s hard to recall when was the last time, for two consecutive series, they played with the same top four. May be late 90s!!! Anwar, Sohail, Ijaz, Inzamam.

Hafeez’s captaincy should bring positive changes to the side because he has a good cricketing head. They obviously call him ‘Professor’ for some reasons. Whatmore is a proven mentor too and his methods showed effective results during his stint with two of the subcontinents’ sides. But, given their experience and class, the first thing they should look into, which is highly apparent is – batting order. Yes it is right to nurture young talent and they should be given their share of opportunities, however, at cost of team’s performance, it doesn’t seem to be a good idea.

Afridi and Umar Akmal, especially in a T20 game, must bat higher in the order. You have Ahmed Shehzad the ‘dasher’ alright but there is a definite need to add more fire power up there. There is another dasher in their ranks, who has been out of the side for quite a while now – Imran Nazir. One can argue he is too reckless as times but on his day he is a match winner. In T20 games, match winners of his ability must play, even more because, Pakistan batting anyways operates in the repair mode. Their top order invariably fails and lower-middle order comes to their rescue. So even if Nazir fails, their modus operandi remains.

Sunday evening they play their second T20 of the series and they must sort out their batting before going into it. Over the years, Pakistan’s bowlers have taken too much pressure, and kept them in the fray, its time their batsmen arrive.