Pakistan woes continue in ODIs

Salahuddin Haider

HAFEEZ and couple of others must go home now, and Azhar as captain has to take some bold steps to rehabilitate Pakistan in the limited over games. Expecting results from the PCB management of Sheharyar Khan and Najam Sethi will be sheer waste of energy. They are just “baboos” , devoid of vision, and merely interested in their own self. They are mostly on joyrides at cricket board expense when there is hardly any need for them at the venues.
But Azhar, as captain of ODI team, bears enormous responsibilities on his shoulders. That he top-scored with a captain’s innings of 82 at South Hampton, was indeed a heartening development. But minus him, the top order failed. Openers’ problem continues to haunt us but a solution must now be found, else we will be persona non-grata, chasing to rebuild our image in international cricket.
If Pakistan fails to win the current series of five ODI series against England, it will have to qualify for the world-cup, which means that Pakistan team will be on a slippery ground.
Azhar’s return to form, has been a welcome development, but why has Hafeez been persisted with, despite poor performance, is a question which the team management has to answer. He has to appear for re-examination of his bowling action, but resistance seems to have overtaken him. He needs to change his attitude. The game of cricket is very unforgiving. No one can live on past reputation. Hafeez has failed in 12 successive innings.
Even Sharjeel, with just one performance in Pakistan Super League, and a scintillating knock of 152 against the only ODI of Ireland, can not stand ground. However as a youngster, his potential need to be tested and he should remain in the team for the rest of the four ODIs and the solitary T-20.
The win against Ireland should not be taken as more than a practice match against a club side. Sharjeel has a fundamental flaw. He has a tremensous eye sight, sees the ball early, and strikes it hard, but footwork is more important, in which he demonstrates serious deficiencies. After a glittering knock at Dublin, he was dismissed lightly for 11 in the rain-hit ODI against England. Sharjeel forgot that there existed a vast difference between Ireland, babes of international cricket, and England, a towering side in stature and experience.
But Pakistan team management has to give him more chances to prove his competence. He cannot be equated with old horse Hafeez, who, without bowling assets, has no place in the team. He also has basic deficiency of being unable to bring his front foot across to deal with swinging deliveries, and invariably falls to catches in the slips or lands himself in the wicket-keeper’s gloves. His time is over now, and he must, in all fairness, must bid good-bye to the game.
The lower order comprising Babar Azam, Rizwan, and Emad Waseem, did will at South Hampton. Emad, opening the attack when England came to chase the Pakistani total of 260, was accurate and economical. Pakistan should have persisted with spinning trio of Emad, Nawaz and Shoaib Malik. They all bowled with nagging line and length, and checked the run-rate, which home batsmen had maintained between 6 and 7 per over since the beginning.
Pakistani pace trio of Amir, Umar Gul, and Wahab Riaz, wasted the new ball, and remained wayward most of the time, True Umar Gul drew the first blood, but then neither of them seem to impress the English trio of Jason Roy, Roots, or captain Ioin Morgan, two of whom got 60 plus runs each.
Pakistani pacers must be told to concentrate on line and length, and not go for speed because then the results would often be disastrous, which was the case in ODI, which home team won on the basis of Duckworth Lewis formula.
Amir during the whole tour so far has been unlucky also, Crucial catches were dropped off his bowling. That included of England skipper Alastair Cook at Lords when Hafeez dropped him in the start, and then at South Hampton where wicket keeper Sarfaraz dropped another sitter. But he must also retrieve his old swing, which was not seen during the tour so far.
Pakistan now has to redraw its strategy, and Azhar, must find a new partner to open the innings. Perhaps Sharjeel should be persisted in the remaining four matches, but he should be asked to treat the ball on merit, and not just hit blind-folded. Pakistan does possess the capacity to bounce back. It showed that in Test matches to draw series 2-2, after losing two successive game at Manchester and Birmingham.
Its fielding on the ground and in the air in the first ODI, was pathetic. Singles were allowed when there was no run, and singles were conceded in the form of two or threes, even boundaries were conceded lavishly through misfielding. That weakness has to be overcome. Each and every player will have to realize the grave responsibilities resting on his shoulders, and deliver. Else we will merely be chasing shadows.

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