Syed Ali Zia Jaffery |
After a tepid performance against India, Pakistan will be dagger drown against South Africa in a must-win game tomorrow at Birmingham. A lot has to change for the men in green if they have restore their lost pride and remain alive in the tournament.
Pakistan may go on to win the match if things go their way. It may even gain momentum and clinch the trophy on the 18th of this month, but will this make Pakistan a potent and top-class team? The answer is a resounding no. If anything, a Pakistani victory achieved through a typical and old-fashioned style will be a bane for Pakistan cricket.
A Timid Approach
Much of the overall degeneration of cricket in the country is an administrative issue and requires a wholesale overall in the setup. Merit-based appointments are indeed the needful but it is imperative to understand that an inept board does not directly impact on-field results and a lot can just change in spite of a debauched system.
As of now Pakistan is playing an old and ineffective brand of cricket, which relies on a defensive mindset. The idea is to choke the opposition with some tight bowling or score “just enough” so that the highly-touted Pakistani bowling arsenal can defend them. The philosophy permeated in the tactics that the Pakistani skipper, Sarfraz Ahmed employed in the field with India on Sunday.
The very concept is wrong and based on fallacies. One that Pakistani pace battery is not as potent as it is made out to be. Neither Muhammad Amir is the second-coming of Wasim Akram nor Shadab Khan is Shane Warne in the making. Two that oppositions can only be stifled if they are attacked. Attack is the best form of defense is a missing mantra in the team.
Statistics are misleading when they are not contextualized. This is something that the team management is not understanding.
From the team’s point of view, scoring runs is important but only if the runs positively contribute towards victory. At times a seemingly decent half century is exactly detrimental to the cause of the team.
Such innings were played by Azhar Ali and Muhammad Hafeez against India on Sunday. Chasing a target of 324 in 48 overs, Azhar Ali took 31 balls to score his last 14 runs , something which was unacceptable, to say the least. At a time when the required run rate was mounting, Hafeez played out dot balls galore which made Pakistan’s task all the more difficult. Faced with a daunting run rate, Shoaib Malik started to accelerate the tempo before he was run out. On the scoreboard Malik may have scored less but he tried to do something that was needed. Statisticians will dish out stats and conclude that Azhar and Hafeez did a much better job than Malik. In the process they would ignore that both played in the manner which was not in the interests of the team.
Indeed, Pakistani bowlers were poor in the execution of their scant skills and allowed India many cheap runs. However, in this day and age teams are expecting to chase targets in excess of 300. Pakistan must not be mollified with chasing and defending paltry scores.
Some Quick fixes
The team management can do wonders in the short term. The coach and the skipper can turn the tables if they change their laid-back approach. Firstly, the players must be relieved of the fear of being dropped. It is this fear that compels them to accumulate runs safely to cement their places in the next fixture.
A changed mindset in batting is the needful. Strike rotation mixed with power hitting is the way to go. This can happen in tomorrow’s match too. The skipper has to instill confidence in the openers that charging a fast bowler in the first over is possible, effective and a method which can upset the bowler right away. Sensible yet audacious batting must supplant a gingerly approach. Results cannot be guaranteed but efforts in the right direction can increase likelihood of better ones.
Cricket aficionados will vouch that Pakistan was famous for this fearless approach decades ago when their openers took the attack to the bowlers. Batsmen have to adopt a different approach if they have to perch themselves in the league of top-notch batsmen in the world.
The captain has to lead the way because it is his responsibility at the end of the day. This tactical change may not produce dividends tomorrow or in the tournament for that matter but will give a new guide to success in this batsmen-dominated era.
Syed Ali Zia Jaffery is a Research Analyst and Sub Editor at Global Village Space. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.