Post-mortem world T-20 cricket and after | By Zaheer Bhatti


Post-mortem world T-20 cricket and after

T-20 format in cricket has destroyed the finer excellence of the game but drawn huge crowds to the shorter format as the spectator and the viewer gets its pleasure, excitement and satisfaction in a capsuled period of time at the venue and away; as it does in Football, Hockey, Rugby, World Boxing and Tennis etc.

This time though total freedom to the spectator on the ground was denied due to the Corona Pandemic SOPs, millions of viewers watched the power-hitting spectacle at home which was relayed and displayed on wide screens at public places.

Reputed to be a gentleman’s game; barring efforts in the past by some, to tarnish its Internationally acclaimed image by match-fixing and dubiously running down adversaries and competitors besides commercializing the sport making players prefer monetary gains over National pride, Cricket has prospered as a universally expanding game with neutral umpires, technology to aid unbiased judgments and addition of limited overs formats attracting crowds who had begun to abandon the time-consuming long format, ensuring that the Game is the ultimate winner with camaraderie displayed by the players on and off the field.

The T-20 format World Cup 2021 has concluded, and the best team on that day; Australia whom the trophy had eluded so far, ultimately wresting it along with a handsome cash reward.

But in keeping with its reputation of being a game of glorious uncertainties, despite being favourites in the power hitting format India, and dangerous Afghanistan equipped as a batting and bowling power-house made an early exit, while both Pakistan and England topping their pools got eliminated in the semi-finals; Pakistan being the only unbeaten team until that stage and the only one registering a ten-wicket win over none other than the highly billed India.

And while one witnessed a few upsets and near-upsets registering some emerging talent during the Tournament particularly among Associate Members, one noticed some unequal treatment in the final outcome; not in results but in some customary nominal declarations of honours by the ICC.

Since Ian Bishop; presumably the Chair of the Panel of Judges adjudicating over ‘Team of the Tournament’ foreseeably conceded in saying that any such judgment was likely to generate varying opinions, this scribe takes the liberty to express mine over the nominations including that of the ‘Player of the Tournament’, with no reflection upon credibility of the judges.

But in doing so, I would request my readers for the moment to ignore the fact that I am from Pakistan, and to analyze my submissions in a detached manner.

In declaring the ‘Player of the Tournament,’ notwithstanding any other considerations, it somehow does not sink in to nominate David Warner of Australia aggregating 289 Runs in 7 innings averaging 41.28 in preference to Baber Azam of Pakistan with 303 Runs in 6 innings averaging 50.50 and being the top run-getter of the Tournament.

With due deference to Wasim Akram’s opinion that Warner got preferred in view of the impact he made (perhaps in being instrumental in winning the finals), if impact was of such consequence, then Shaheen Afridi who mesmerized India with his opening spell shattering their confidence and eventually causing their exit from the Tournament as they failed to even make the semi-finals, ought to have been chosen as a pacer in the declared team ahead of Anrich Nortje of South Africa.

Shaheen’s spell prompted the ICC to declare it as the ‘Play of the Tournament.’ If that is not impact, what else is! The opening pair of Baber and Rizwan carried the bat in the unprecedented 10-wicket drubbing of India. Is that not impact?

Similarly, the little talked about Pakistani Wicket-keeper Opener Mohammad Rizwan aggregated 281 Runs in the Tournament at an average of 46.83 in 6 innings better than Warner; holding stunning catches behind the stumps besides immaculate keeping ahead of Jos Butler of England with 269 Runs in as many innings averaging 44.83 who has been chosen instead.

Is this fair to relatively fresh blood in Cricket; the gritty, fearless and promising Rizwan making such an astounding mark?

Coming to the Green Shirts performance; its unbeaten streak through to the semis and then exit from the Tournament beaten by the Cup Winners Australia, requires an in depth post-mortem for further improvement.

Since the Pakistani middle order largely remained untested and delivered little when called upon, the squad showed lack of self-confidence when not fielding promising middle order sitting on the sidelines batters Haider Ali, Khushdil and Iftikhar, and bowlers Wasim, Shahnawaz Dhani and Usman Qadir against weaker sides once the squad’s semi-final berth had been assured.

A great chance to give up and coming talent the necessary big match exposure where they could have shown their temperament was squandered, although they were fielded against Bangladesh subsequently in the twin series that followed.

As for Pakistan’s exit from the Tournament, it would not be correct to suggest that it got carried away by the pre-semis winning streak, became complacent and paid the price.

The fact is that the semi-final game was almost won despite loss of toss forcing Pakistan to defend, but for a dropped Wade-catch by Hassan Ali off Shaheen Afridi in the penultimate over which unrated Wade capitalized with his sixes to seal the fate of the match; one reckons because that was the Kangaroo Day.

It was a high pressure game, and to be fair to Hassan Ali who normally has a safe pair of hands, spilled the catch which was not so easy as reported by the Media but a tricky one with Low lights coming in his way, and the fact that being a right handed player he had to run to his left trying to make it.

This must have affected Shaheen Afridi’s critical faculties to cramp the batter with his variations, who instead allowed him space to make the hits

But the best of pacers going for runs at critical junctures is not uncommon, as evidenced by Australia’s leading pacer Mitchel Stark going for 60 Runs in his four overs against the Kiwis in the Finals and giving away 22 runs in the 16th Aussie over, who got away from embarrassment; being on the winning side.

But a caution nevertheless to the Pakistani squad now in Bangladesh after the big event; You have clinched the T-20 series against BD without their star players, and had to make heavy weather of the clean sweep winning on the last ball in the third game instead of registering easy wins against a weakened side.

And having reduced the hosts to 49 for 4 before lunch in the first test, you got hammered and remained wicket-less the rest of the first day, as your bowlers delivered short and provided width, while the skipper placed no third man nor a deep extra cover and square where 80% of the runs were leaked mostly in boundaries.

And why the proven Pakistani Test weapon Abbas was dropped in preference to Hassan and Fahim, is simply outrageous. A serious overall post-mortem is called for.

—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.

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