Saturday, January 22, 2011
Team Pakistan, World Cup 2011
GROUP A (Australia, Canada, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe)
ODI Rank - 6
ODI Rating - 98
Last World Cup - First Round/Round Robin
Finals Appearances - 2
Best in a World Cup- Winner 1992
Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, Kamran Akmal, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal, Abdul Razzaq, Abdur Rehman, Saeed Ajmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Tanveer, Ahmed Shahzad
Strength - Explosive middle order, bowling attack
Weakness - Imploding and unsure set up, fragile opening attack
If there is one team in the world against whom you can never be sure of, it will be Pakistan. On their day, they can bring down any giant in their own backyard. On other days, they will implode in a very sad manner. That has been the case for Pakistan over the past few years.
This time, the squad for the world cup has been a pick of the best talent "available" for selection to them. While most of them have made their place thanks to their form in the recent past, some have come in because of their reputation and the need of the hour. Afridi, Misbah, Umar, Ajmal, Rehman, Wahab, Razzak, Gul, Younis, Hafeez have been regulars in the ODI side. Akhtar has been available whenever he has been healthy. Asad Shafiq is relatively new, and has been good in the longer format. Ahmed Shahzad is Pakistan's best youth batting star from the u-19 level, and has made it to the bigger stage from that platform. The Pakistan team will hope that this young man will step up if and when required. In need of a bowler, Pakistan brought back Sohail Tanvir who has some experience on Indian tracks. He is also a handy batsman.
While the the team looks attractive, one must also notice that there has been no captain selected thus far. Afidi captains the LOI side, and Misbah leads the test side. Pakistan is now playing the Kiwis in an ODI series (first match won comprehensively by the Kiwis). And might be a bad decision if Misbah is handed over the captaincy after the series, what so ever the result of the series. He will have no time to work with his team, and may lead to some pointless decisions made on the field when it matters the most, in the world cup! Afridi has not been at his personal best, nor has he won any series in the recent past, but he has managed to knit together a unit that has been building the confidence and rising to new levels.
Like I said, they haven't won any ODI series recently, but they have not been blanked or stripped naked in any of them. Two high tempo series were lost in the last game of the series. Not having smelled their home soil for years and years, Pakistan have been playing their "home" games in alien locations. They have played in the middle east and in England. England had hosted a 5 game ODI series, in which they were almost on a roll to a 3-0 lead before Umar Gul destroyed the English batting line up...twice in two games, both played at London (Oval, Lords). The series was leveled 2-2, but Pakistan was rolled over by England in the decider, after what seemed to be a decent start to the chase by Kamran Akmal. The series against SA in the Middle East showed that Abdul Razzak has some more miles left in his tank, and is still one of the most dependable middle order all-rounder in the world. The series also saw the rise of another all-rounder, Wahab Riaz.
The batting for Pakistan looks quite tricky. Their opening is unsure. Pakistan, like NZ have been trying out new opening pairs. With Butt out, they have more problems. It's going to be instinctive, with time running out, and very few games left to decide. Past the opening, there is stability. Younis, Misbah will define stability. Both of them have the touch back, and have the dangerous ability to play long innings on Indian soil. The longer one can stay put, the more difficult he becomes to dislodge. And, both are capable of changing multiple gears. So, coining them "slow" is not correct. The middle order after that is explosive to say the least. It's very probable that Pakistan will go in with Afridi-Umar-Razzak trio. Each of them have their own style, but have pretty much the same treatment for the leather off the wood. Afridi last had an explosive run in the Asia Cup in the subcontinent (Bangladesh). Umar has been contributing here and there, has been in and out, but can be counted on to explode if need be. Razzak has smoted very many bowling attacks in the recent past, msot recently, SA.
Pakistani bowling has been more assuring than its batting. Rehman and Ajmal are both proven and capable spinners. Gul, Wahab, Akhtar and Sohail Tanveer will be incharge of the pace bowling department. Gul will be the spearhead, while Akhtar will like to sneak in with raw pace. Wahab Riaz can bowl at great nippy pace while maintaining a tight line during the middle overs. He has impeccable patience and can bowl at a handkerchief on the pitch for a whole spell if asked to. Either of Rehman or Ajmal will play, and both are equally effective with the ball. It might be a strategical pick on a given match-day, depending on how many left/right handed players feature in the top order. Ajmal to a left hander, Rehman to a right hander. The bowling continues with Afridi and Razzak, both capable of sending down 10 overs each, and the part timers, Hafeez and Younis.
Pakistan will be playing a minnow and a competitive side alternatively starting with Kenya and then vs Sri Lanka, Canada, NZ, Zimbabwe and Australia in that order. All games will be played in Sri Lanka. So, Pakistan will have enough time for a breather and recall their forces to play against the big team. Also, they will be able to assess their playing conditions better. They are one of the two teams who play all their games in the same country.
This squad is without the likes of Yousuf, Malik, Rana Naved, Butt, Aamer and Asif for reasons one too many. A squad, if it had involved these guys, would surely have been right up there, among the probables to win the Cup. But, right now, I would say, Pakistan will have to do a really great job if they have to reach the semis. Once there, like I said, you never know what they can do on their day!
Pakistan's woes have been many since their last world cup. The woes began even before the tournament had ended. And many more of them have crept in and out of the team's stability over the 4 years. Fear of terror has kept some teams away. Lack of interest from other boards has kept even more away. In spite of that, the team is springing up new talents to fill in and have been shocking the world inn many instances. They have had a decent run in test cricket. having lost just 1 in the last 7 of them, winning 3, drawing test series vs Aus, SA, winning in NZ. Some inspiring ODI performances have been pointing to the undying spirit that lies in each one of them. Battling floods, quakes, calamities, terrorism and more, the many lads from the lesser known towns gather for the best Pakistani mix of players their cricket has seen, this time for the big prize.
Expectations are less, hope is more. A hope that they would prove to the ever-ignorant world that the Pakistani team can roar, but the cricketing world has to have it's narrow ears open.