Sunday, March 6, 2011

Stumbled but not down

After a very heartening performance at least with ball and bat last week against co-hosts Sri Lanka, Pakistan batsmen produced another shabby show. Batting collapses are part and parcel of this batting line ever the great Inzi has called it a day but frequency of these collapses have certainly reduced a fair bit ever since Pakistan resurgence in ODI series in England, return of experienced man Misbah and Younis has helped in this regard but even though, this line up with willow have ability to shock everyone now and then as they did in last ODI of English series and first ODI’s of two series in UAE and New Zealand. Batting show against Canada was of similar league, who are pretty much outsiders in setting and standard here in Sub-Continent. The pitch had little nibbles in it and cloudy weather did help the bowlers but playing a low rated opposition got to Pakistanis more than anything else which was not new, in fact there is fair bit of history of it, in 99 World Cup edition, Pakistani batsman stumbled against Scots and laid down against Bangladeshis, in 03 World Cup they labored against first timers Namibians and most notorious of them all, last World Cup 07, against Irish which was nothing short of a worst horrible night mare for all of us. Fortunately, this time around they put just enough on board largely due to Umer and Misbah, it was always going to be defended with bowling talents of Pakistan. Fielding against the Sri Lankans was very ordinary, though ground fielding was just okay but the catching once again let Pakistanis down. Waqar and Aqib have done a remarkable job in this regard, they really put great stress on fielding, there is fair bit of improvement but still a lot to be done even now, at least approach is right and moving in right direction.

A part from these hick ups, there has a lot of green for Pakistan and things to be happy for. Pakistan's bowling looks certainly most talented and most penetrating attacks of the lot, though Proteases have a very fine bowling line up now Imran Tahir in side providing variation, but I have doubts on their depth bowling specially and in general fast bowling. Styen and Morkel are very best when they get the conditions; they are not bowlers who will do breathe taking job everywhere. They need the ball swinging and bouncing to trouble the batsman, Morkel cuts to half a bowler what he is when there is not much extravagant bounce and pace in wicket, which is case there in Sub-Continent, decks are made for batsman and spinners. This is going to be proved some point in the tournament. Their depth bowling will be also under serious stress at some point because they have the tendency to bowl not enough deliveries in black hole.

Pakistan tried Ajmal after quite some time, which is good aggressive move. He looked all fine as reliable as ever, showed no signs of rustiness. He is very good bowler to have in the attack as he is very different from normal off spinners, a lot of variety and provides Pakistan another wicket taking match winner, there are already Afridi, Shoiab and Gull. On flat wickets, wicket taker are keys. Though Rehman is also an excellent bowler, great control and can tide down any batsman but he lacks sometimes the all important knockout punch, he gets most of wicket when batsmen are attacking but it’s a different game for him, if he has to get one by himself without mistake of player more to by his skill.

It is just matter of time when Umer Gull strikes his best; he is one who can be banked upon with condition very favorable for reverse, he will be lethal. Any doubts which were on Gull ability on bowling new ball are also faded, after his opening burst of the last game. But greatest thing for Pakistan be happy for is that two the rock stars Shoaib and Afridi are in staggering form with ball. Afridi by far is the most dangerous spinner in the tournament; he is certainly in form of his life with ball in the hand, certainly matching the performances of great Warne in 99 World Cup. He once again can make Aussies go mad, as he did in UAE two years, in top position decider of group A. On the other hand, Shoaib is also looking deadly even being in 35th year. He is still making batsmen feeling fear and dance at pitch.

Batting as I said above did stumbled but middle order in Younis, Misbah and Umer Akmal are men in runs. Top order is looking in good shape but they are failed to capitalize on the starts which they will be vary of. Both Afridi and Razzaq need bit of time or some good lusty blow to feel good because they are source strength that can tear apart any attack in mere blink of eye. One thing that missed in Pakistan was quick change of the batting order according to the requirement of the position which Waqar and co should be looking to change on in coming games.

Most important to me was ability of bowling attack in defending totals that may not be necessarily wining totals. They have done their repute no harm at all with these two shows, in last six months we have seen after and again how this bowling attack stepped up its game in defense of the totals, it happened just three time that bowlers have failed to defend the total in last 8 times trying to do so, two times were 1st games of the South Africa and New Zealand series where batsmen put impossible totals to defend. Only other occasion that left is 2nd ODI in England where bowlers failed to defend 294 and that too happened with at least three to four decisions going against Pakistan in that innings. This bowling attack does not need massive totals on board; mere good fighting total should be good enough for them to defend which is huge plus.

Starting without anyone giving them even a chance, men in greens are moving well in pursuit of the crown, still these are early days but signs are there, we can expect very big things in near future. The stutter against Canada may well prove a shake up for the team and make them keep on pressing hard. It is imperative that Pakistan finish top of the group because it will make quarter final tie in Dhaka which will not be much different from playing at home with crowd right behind them, for that they should capitalize on the mistakes made by them in earlier games.

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