Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Akhtar at their best
Pakistan tour to England.
The conditions, pitches are all challenging especially if the players are from the subcontinent. But if you are an international side you have to be the best to beat the best. Pakistan will play with Aussies and then with the English side. We have failed to register a victory against the Aussies this year and it will be no fun game either. We will play two test matches and two t20 with them. Then with the English side 4 tests, 5 ODIs and 3 T20s. After that we will face the English side. Our ranking in the ODIs and Test matches have fallen to great big 7th position.
The only reason is that we were short of wicket taking bowlers in test matches. Umar Gul, Aamer, Saeed Ajmal are the main failures as their inclusion in the side is an extra burden that we carry. Aamer can’t bowl after the initial 10 overs of the test match that is he can’t take wickets, Gul goes for plenty of runs with no seam and swing and Ajmal takes wickets after 15 to 20 overs. This time the side is a balanced one as we have Abdur Rehman, Afridi himself, Shoaib Akhtar, Irfan and Wahab Riyaz too. Then Asif is excellent for test matches as he can bowl long spells with his immaculate line and length and small in swings and out swings. We have criticized our batting more but its our bowling and particularly our poorest quality of fielding that has led us down. Dropping 2 to 3 catches of Ponting, Hussey and Watson has given these players the kind of form they needed to stay in the playing eleven particularly Hussey. Like we did in the T20 world cup to bring Kevin Peterson in form after which he was unstoppable. Kaneria is a specialist in test matches and his combination with Shoaib Akhtar is hard to tackle specially in crunch situations as they have proven in all these years. His exquisite pace, torturing bouncers, deceiving slow deliveries , brilliant control over swing and knows how to bowl in swing, out swing and reverse swing sets him as a distinguish bowler. If we look at the test match results in the past 2 years his brilliance is proven by the result. Since his last appearance in the match against South Africa in 2007 where he took 5 wickets in the first innings after that he wasn’t allowed by Bob Woolmer to bowl in the 2nd innings was the last test that Pakistan won. If we analyse Pakistan’s performance after that, its pathetic. For the 1st time ever Sri Lanka beat us in their homeland in a test series after a period of 23 years. We barely managed to win a single test against New Zealanders and were about to lose the series as well but thanks to rain that kept the series tied If we add Asif and with them either Irfan or Wahab Riyaz, it will be a deadly combination and especially in England these guys will be unstoppable.
In batting openers are set with the likes of Salman Butt and Imran Farhat. As a keeper kamran Akmal has caused us many losses not only now but since the time he started playing in the period of Inzamam if you guys remember all that matches and he doesn’t perform well particularly in test matches. So Sarfaraz Ahmed is a good choice at least he won’t drop catches if he can’t make hundreds. He won’t concede 200 too. Kamran has not fired up with his batting too, hitting 4 fours and getting out the next bowl. It’s a bit strange that inspite of being the Best Keeper in the recent tournament organized by PCB his name is not in the 35 players but Mohsin Hasan is considering him for the England tour in accordance with the latest news. Younis Khan is selected so he will play at 3 whose is still a question mark on the selectors but Afridi’s recent statement suggest he will be part of the team as Afridi sees him as a vice captain in the England tour. Umar Akmal at 4. Fawad Alam or Faisal Iqbal are sound at 5. At 5 it’s a difficult choice because both of them are good batmen with good technique and temperament. Afridi’s position at 6th will be very vital. Often we have seen in the recent past that as soon as first 4 top order batsmen of Pakistani team are back in the pavilion the whole team crumbles to even 36 sometimes. So he has to play a captain’s knock whenever he is needed. Sarfaraz has to brush up his batting to become a regularize keeper for the national side. He has to play with the tail and with provide assistance to Afridi in difficult situations. In the past few years after Moin particularly we don’t have a specialist keeper in the test matches who can play with the tail enders and make them play also and Kamran has shown insincerity and childish attitude in the recent past which has really paid for Pakistani side.
It’s more likely as it appears that Afridi will favour kamran Akmal as they both respect and believe in each other’s abilities. More than that Afridi’s recent insistence of Kamran Akmal opening in the T20 matches and his declaration even before the start of the world cup is a solid example of it. it might be seen that kamran’s performance will certainly change dramatically to excellence with the support of Afridi.
This is the best combination that we can make as we have specialist 3 fast bowlers who can bowl with pace, and swing at least. I’m mentioning again and again swing as it’s the only weapon that Pakistan used to master in and now in the recent past it’s redundant in our team. Aamer and Gul hits the deck hard but they don’t have that swing to trouble the batsmen. Every bowler can at least bowl one way swingers but unfortunately they both can’t or haven’t done it. We have one all-rounder and that’s all what is needed in a test match. A recognized all-rounder Shahid Afridi, the captain of Pakistani team who hasn’t played a single test since 2006 but he is the only player of the whole Pakistani team who is in the top 20 positions in the world in ODIs. And he has infact, increased his ranking to 7th. So we expect a lot from him to deliver and I have seen the later half of his career of test matches and he showed a lot of mental presence and temperament. He was matured a lot in Inzamam’s captaincy and played a few good innings too. From good I mean sensible innings.
No opposition is perfect. We need to work on their weaknesses and play with our strengths. We say how Australians faltered on the 1st day of the 2nd test at the MCG when it rained and Asif taking his career best figures and Australians were restricted to less than 200. So we can beat any side provided that we play with sensibility. Captaincy will be a big issue especially in test matches and one days. Ponting is known for his captaincy and he proves it in every match. Every player plays whenever the team needs it so can’t call a single player important. Though Hauritz entices the batsmen to go for big shots which particularly Pakistani batsmen give their wickets easily especially the lower order batsmen.
The English side is also at its peak as they have recently won the T20 world cup. They are used to playing many test matches on a trought while Pakistan play only 10 to 12 tests in an year perhaps less than that and their fitness will be tested in this long tour. The English side plays 36 tests each year so you can see the difference. Stuart Broad and Swann are two bowlers who should we look up to as they are England’s greatest wicket takers. Not to forget Finn, the young lad is pacy and can keep on bowling these deliveries for many overs. Overall we can see some poor decisions if pressure comes to England side as Strauss doesn’t handle the pressure that well. That was evident in the ICC Champions trophy final. Andersson is the most successful bowler and particularly against Pakistan as he pitches the deliveries about 2m from the stumps and then gets that out swing. Pakistanis have lost their wickets many times trying to play a cover drive on this delivery.
I still think that Pakistan have an edge over both the teams as far as T20 is concerned because of individual brilliance and hard hitting nature. In ODIs Afridi’s bowling will excel as the pitches in England gives that extra bit of drift that is all which Afridi needs. Razzaq will also become handy as we saw it in the last T20 world cup provided that he is given the initial overs in T20s if he is asked to bowl. In ODIs Afridi’s form will be crucial as he has to prove that he is a worthy captain. He shouldn’t go for more than 40 to 45 runs in his 10 overs along with a couple of wickets.
Pakistan can still become a competitive side if they work along as a team and select the best gel and then uses them accordingly to their deserved positions.