ICC must ban Hambantota wicket for limited over games
Tragic it would appear, but the fact remains that the Hambantota strip was new, under-prepared, had uneven bounce, occasional deliveries kicking up, but mostly keeping low. Naturally batting on a such a wicket was like a nightmare. Batsmen found the ball difficult to hit, and when they did try to force the pace, after long spells of dot balls, they mistimed their strokes, and were out cheaply. It happened in both the matches. A seemingly easy total of 131 from Sri Lanka, batting first in the first match last Friday, became an elusive target for the Pakistanis. True,Umar Akmal, and Shahid Afridi were reckless in their strokes, trying to hit blindly, their body, bat and eye having no coordination, but Shoaib Malik, Dilshan, and Sangakarra, and Yasser Arafat ,found it difficult to play lofted strokes, and were caught. The reason is simple to explain. The ball was just not coming to their bats, and in their anxiety to push the scoring rate, they had to make some sort of attempt. But when the wicket was totally unresponsive, nothing much could be expected from them.
The story in the second match, was just the replay of the first one. Pakistan batting first in the second match, kept struggling, playing 39 dot balls out of 54 deliveries in 9 overs. In the first fixture also, Pakistan at one stage had 40 dot balls out of 60. But they were not to be blamed. The wicket was of a poor quality. Limited over games are meant to provide excitement to fans. They are normally played on strips , which is well prepared, and firm at the surface to allow the ball an even bounce. That alone can make the batsmen play strokes. The bigger the total, the greater the excitement. Here these two matches, were nothing but sheer disappointments for the game lovers. ICC, I must re-emphasise here, must enquire into the stadium strip and fix some standards for the game to save it from dying a premature death.
A look is also required at the Pakistani strategy. Without being passionate, partial or biased in my judgement, I must ask the new captain Hafeez, a great cricketer, as to what was the need of changing a winning combination. Shakeel Ansar and Khalid Lateef, were just passengers. They looked clueless in their batting, but Shakeel’s inclusion in the side, could be justified as a wicket keeper because Umar Akmal as make shift arrangement, in that sensitive spot, left much to be desired. However it should also be remembered that Khalid Lateef had earlier been tested also. He failed and was discarded. But his domestic season was full of merit, and he had to be taken on the tour. Now that he has been given another chance, he should cash on the opportunity, and cement his place in the side. Umar Akmal is a talented player, has all the strokes in his bag,and yet he gets out madly. He scored a century in his first Test and also a century in his first limited over games. Since then he has not only been struggling, but is erratic. That is something unpardonable. Taking things lightly like a joker in the circus, can not be allowed. He should be warned and made to sit out for sometime as punishment. Pakistan team players must remember that all of them are professionals and are paid fabulously. Then need to prove their worth, and show by their skill that they can adjust to any kind of condition.
Experiments, made for the sake of building a side for the upcoming T-20 world cup in Sri Lanka in September, ought to be backed by all, without reservation. But picking up new players, needed lot of brain work. A classical case is of Imran Farhat. He hardly merits selection, but is sent on tours only because he is son in law of a cricket board official. Considerations of that kind, will ruin the image of the country, and once again, the team that played the World Cup semi final last year, and had a 3-0 whitewash against England to set a new record in 58 years history of Pak-England series, needed careful handling. Testing new players is a strategy universally accepted and acknowledged, but merit and background of a player, also needs to be kept in view.
The most heartening thing here is that despite defeat in the first match, the Pakistan team did not lose heart, and bounced back with much greater ferocity to win by 23 runs the second match, played on Sunday.
The spirit to fight was there. Sohail Tanveer , Mohammad Sami, and Yasser Arafat were recalled. They all justified the trust reposed in them. Sohail Tanveer took three wickets in three overs in his first match, and a wicket in the second. Sami, a little heavier now, bowled his heart out to ensure victory for Pakistan with his pace fury in the last three overs in the second match when he took three wickets in 8 balls. Yasser too was rewarded with a scalp. But in all fairness, the victory was brought by the all round performance of Shahid Afridi. The Boom Boom played a responsible and yet entertaining 52 not out and then rightly was adjudged man of the match because of his superb bowling and an equally superb diving catch in the end . Just to conclude I wish and sincerely hope that Pakistan may find a Gilchrist, Hussey or Chris Gayle. Secondly and more importantly, we needed a player in the middle order who could seal one end for 16 to 18 overs atleast. You have to have Misbah, Yunus Khan or Asad Shafeeq. Why was Shafeeq dropped, an explanation is due . Email: email@example.com