Pakistan swept aside Zimbabwe and this somehow led captain Malik to declare that this team can beat Australia. Pakistani cricket fans are amongst the most fickle in the world and in many quarters people celebrated thinking that Malik’s statement has some sort of realistic appeal.
However I was not impressed. On more than one occasion Pakistani bowlers failed to bowl Zimbabwe out. Apart from Nasir Jamshed no youngster was given adequate chances to prove his worth. Also, what was perplexing was that Salman Butt, already a proven failure in international cricket, was given no less than 3 chances by Malik. Why is Malik obsessed with the likes of Butt and Akmal? Why are Butt and Akmal preferred even when reserve openers and a wicketkeeper are present the squad? Both of these failed players were played in 3 of the 5 matches. This was the most disappointing feature of Malik’s captaincy for me. If Pakistan is to prosper in the long run Malik has to end his love affair with Butt and Akmal and give more chances to deserving players like Khurram Manzoor and Sarfraz Ahmed. Malik has also been extremely unfair to Fawad Alam who has so far proved to be a multi dimensional cricketer despite the few chances he has received, although he has been placed in the squad by the selectors frequently. This series was a chance to harness the talent of youngsters and Malik spoiled it, possibly because he was more concerned about strengthening his already solid ties with Misbah, Butt and Akmal and also because he did not want to take a risk by playing inexperienced options. That was defensive on part of Malik and in my view he should be penalised by the PCB for not utilising the youth ahead of his friends in the team.
A notable difference between Pakistan and India, which has already been pointed out by some posters, is that of the different phases the teams are in at present. Both teams need to try out youngsters, but for different reasons. India are looking for the future and discovering talent that will rescue them when the likes of Tendulkar and Dravid depart, whereas Pakistan are desperately seeking consistent and reliable players that can consider the national interest ahead of personal egos and selfish interests. In effect, Pakistan needs some consistent, fit and committed cricketers to rescue its pathetic state NOW whereas India has 1 or 2 years to enjoy its newly glorified status. But Pakistan is being led currently by a conceited, biased and weak captain who is a talented batsman but has a weak mind that lacks long term planning skills. Sooner or later it seems that Malik will be replaced by Misbah ul Haq.
Another huge worry for Pakistan is the bowling department. Are Pakistanis coming to terms with the fact that in the absence of Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Asif and Umar Gul Pakistan lacks match winning bowlers? Why is it that the most talented bowlers in the country are also the most unfit? Fast bowling has been Pakistan’s traditional strength and this current crisis is saddening news for Pakistan cricket fans. There were a few impressive stints of fast bowling from Kamran Hussain and Wahab Riaz, however no bowler seemed to carry that “zing factor” that Shoaib Akhtar has, or Wasim and Waqar had for that matter. Currently Pakistan has more to worry about Asif and Gul as opposed to Shoaib Akhtar. Gul now may possibly miss the Australian tour (should it go ahead although the chances look bleak) and I am of the view that these fast bowlers need to be demoted now as they clearly lack commitment.
Pakistan cricket is going downhill. There are many short and long term measures that can save this team but the biggest worry of all perhaps is that no effective changes look to be implemented.
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