Friday, August 17, 2012

Pakistan under-19s will lock horns with India earlier than both teams would have expected and hoped for at the quarter final stage on Monday at the Tony Ireland stadium. It will be televised. India failed to win their group whereas Pakistan won all 3 matches with comfortable ease. The most awaited game of the tournament should be a cracking contest. Both of these two teams were strong contenders for the title and they would have wanted to avoid each other before the semis, but the sad reality is that one of them will be knocked out and fail to reach the semis on Monday. Between them they have featured in 5 finals at the U19 CWC since 2004, winning 3 of them. Both teams come with a strong history and reputation at this level and they will want to protect and strengthen that here.

The last 3 times they have met Pakistan haven’t lost a single encounter, but all encounters have gone down to the wire and been close fought games. The margins of victory are as follows:-

- 2 wicket win in a rain reduced game with 3 balls to spare at 2010 U19 CWC QF
- 1 run win in U-19 Asia Cup on 24th June
- Last ball tie in U-19 Asia Cup Final on 1st July

Just like in 2010 they will be meeting at the quarter final stage at the Under 19 World Cup. Will India be knocked out again or will they get their revenge?

India’s Strengths

Exposure of playing on television in front of the cameras
Exposure of playing at the wicket here at the Tony Ireland Stadium
The ’Unmukt Chand’ factor
Defensive play of their batsmen who all have sound techniques
Playing Spin

India’s Weaknesses

Attacking the short ball, a clear area of vulnerability
Lack of depth and explosiveness in the batting
Hesitancy in the running between the wickets
Heavy over reliance on Chand

Pakistan’s Strengths

Opening combination
Late order hitting

Pakistan’s Weaknesses

Seam attack
Lack of television exposure
Lack of a 6th bowling option
One dimensional spin attack

Potential MOMs

Chand – big match player, in form captain, most prized Indian wicket

Baba – made a significant score with the bat against Pakistan in the last match and bowls off spinners which will be useful against the many Pakistani left handed batsmen and all-rounders

Sharma – experienced customer with ball in hand

Babar Azam – already has 2 MOMs in the tournament, in form captain

Sami Aslam – player of the tournament in SA triangular series and U19 Asia Cup 2012

Ehsan Adil – bowled heroically in the tied encounter, taking 3 wickets and holding his nerve in the final over


As Pakistan topped their group and have the winning momentum behind them, they will be bitterly disappointed to lose, perhaps even more so than India. They have the edge over India at this level in recent times. I am backing them to win, but they’ll have to play well and it won’t come easily. Runs on the board will be important; the pressure of chasing in a knockout game can easily get to the chasing side and it will be no different here.

How well Pakistan adapts to the conditions at this particular stadium and the pressures of playing under the cameras which will be a new experience for several of these players will be a decisive factor.

Both teams have a consistent and established opening pair. Whoever puts on a higher opening stand and goes on to make a bigger score will probably determine the outcome of the game. It’s the As (Aslam, Azam) vs. the Cs (Chand, Chopra). Both have scored 3 50+ scores between them for both sides in the pool matches. Both have put on a stand of over 100 for the 1st wicket during the pool matches. Both bat well in partnership and a have a sound understanding of each other’s games.

Key Battles

Sharma vs. Azam – Sharma nips the ball about both ways with not a great amount of pace. He has been likened to Praveen Kumar. With 2 new balls, mirroring international cricket, he could cause the right hander a few problems. Azam has been dismissed by Sharma in the previous U19 CWC quarter final in New Zealand when he was bowled through the gate by an inswing delivery. Azam will need to be cautious and try to see him off.

Adil vs. Chopra – Another opening bowler vs. opening batsmen battle where games are decided so often, but particularly relevant here with two gifted opening combinations for both sides. Chopra looks extremely susceptible to the short pitched delivery from the 2 games we have seen India play live in this tournament. With Adil’s height one would think he’ll bowl back of a length and try to bounce him out.

Pakistan spinners vs. Indian batsmen – Pakistan play 3 front line spinners, 2 left arm spinners and one right arm leg spinner. They are a spin dominated attack, bowling around 30 overs in the innings combined more often than not. India will need to play them well to get a decent total. It’s a big part of the game.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Aim For 2015 says Warner and Amla

David Warner and Hashim Amla have urged the current crop of U19 cricketers currently in Australia for the World Cup to aim high and set their sights on targeting participating in the 2015 World Cup in less than 3 years’ time which will also take place in Australia/New Zealand as it returns to the Oceania continent after 23 years.

From the 2008 U19 CWC, Virat Kohli, the winning captain played his part in India’s triumphant 2011 campaign 3 years later. Similarly Ahmed Shehzad who played in the 2010 edition was part of the Pakistan squad for the 2011 50 over world sub continental world cup. Junaid Khan was also part of the 2008 edition and found a place in the Pakistan 15 man squad for the world cup in 2011.

Many of the current crops of players are bound to represent their countries in the next 50 over world cup and a strong showing over the next 3 weeks could play a vital part in making a successful transition from the youth to the senior side, even if it is not to be in the immediate future, but the youngsters can be rest assured that their performances will be followed and observed closely from some important figures in their respective cricketing institutions.

Qasim Has got it All Wrong

Iqbal Qasim recalled Abdul Razzaq, Kamran Akmal and Imran Nazir for the series against Australia and the World T20 which follows as so called specialist selections for the shortest version of the game. All of these players bring natural talent; entertainment and match winning ability to the party or in Kamran Akmal’s case even more match losing ability than winning with all due respect.

Twenty20 format should encourage specialists, but if they are young enough to develop, evolve and have a future in the more important formats of the game to provide long term benefit to Pakistan Cricket. Alternatively they could play the other two formats and still play Twenty20 cricket because more often than not test cricketers are ‘complete products’ who have a wider range of skills and attributes to transfer their abilities to the easier formats whereas it doesn’t work the other way round. Also, maintaining that sense of team togetherness by being around the same camp over more days and series in different formats should bring flourishing results across all versions of the 22 yard business. There will be more unity, understanding and bonding that way.

Abdul Razzaq, Imran Nazir and Kamran Akmal do not have a future in any other format other than Twenty20 cricket in the short term, but naturally when a player is performing well in this format, particularly on a well watched scale like a global T20 tournament, they tend to earn recalls and promotions to other formats as well. This could be detrimental to Pakistan’s future as all are past it or have little to offer where it really counts in the more serious proceedings.

Specialist selections of ageing players in Twenty20 cricket have little benefit for Pakistan’s long term development, planning and hopes.

Hammad Azam, Ahmed Shehzad and a specialist wicket keeper like Jamal or Safraz would have been wiser choices. We want to do well in Twenty20 cricket, but not to the extent that we take it so seriously that we are satisfied with short term glory for long term pain, or in other words making short term sacrifices as opposed to considering the wider picture. Qasim’s choices send out the wrong message. The odd specialist selection of an ageing player is okay, but not as many as this. It’s important to get the balance right.