Most Pakistani fans are hailing this series as a positive occurrence in the scheme of things. However I don’t believe there is any cause for celebration. This result was expected and nothing new or extra ordinary happened in this series which was not expected from before, from Pakistan’s perspective.
The biggest worry for Pakistan was the fact that all of the matches were closely contested. In the first match Akmal helped Pakistan pull off an almost impossible victory from the jaws of defeat. In the second and third matches Pakistan bowled much better, yet if the Windies batsmen had batted the full 50 overs, they would have come very close to the target Pakistan set for them. What no commentator has highlighted so far is the fact that Pakistani bowlers could not prevent West Indies’ main batsmen, Gayle, Chanderpaul and Sarwan from making sizable scores in almost every match. Three out of the four best batsmen in terms of run-scoring in this series, were West Indian; namely, Gayle, Chanderpaul and Sarwan. Their batting averages were 78, 73 and 54 respectively. If I was Shoaib Malik, Ijaz Butt or Intikhab Alam I would have sleepless nights contemplating why Pakistan bolwers could not dominate these batsmen. I understand they are very good players, but that should not be an excuse because Pakistan also has bowlers like Gul, Tanvir and Afridi who are world class in limited overs cricket.
One might feel that I am being too unsupportive of Pakistan or too critical, because at the end of the day Pakistan won the series. My response to that is, West Indies is like a minnow team and apart from the trio of Gayle, Chanderpaul and Sarwan the only two other decent players they have are Powell and Taylor, who are good bowlers. This is actually the worst West Indies team I can recall from recent memory. If Pakistan could not dismiss players like Gayle and Chanderpaul then it means there is something seriously amiss from the Pakistani bowling attack.
Waqar Younis may be appointed the bowling coach soon, and I hope he seriously does some good work with young Pakistani pacers because if West Indies had 2 or 3 more renowned international players like Bravo, the result may well have been opposite.
In terms of ratings, Pakistan has now been elevated to no 5 in the world in ODI’s. This is a farce because this year Pakistan has played minnow teams mostly. I can’t believe the PCB declares it is looking to the future when it is sticking with a direction-lacking and spineless captain Shoaib Malik and it is happy with Pakistan’s “ascension” in world ratings when all Pakistan is doing is beating below average teams with the assistance of their below average captain Malik, who is simply not captaincy material.
Under Shoaib Malik the Pakistan team has gone from bad to worse. Malik was not pathetic in this Fortune Cup, but he was not outstanding either. Although Malik’s 66 off only 50 balls in the 1st match was encouraging, he was not at his best in the remaining matches. However, more than this batting or bowling, it was his captaincy that again came under the scanner. He made ridiclous Powerplay selections and he was very rigid with the batting line up. Also, he ought to be criticised for not using more young players in the 3rd match, as Pakistan had already won the series and could afford giving more exposure to its talented youngsters. Malik’s basic problem is one of self-preservation and selfishness. That is the reason why senior players Yousuf, Afridi and Shoaib Akhtar have been critical of him. He is desperate to see Pakistan’s rise in the world rankings so his status in the team can remain protected. That is not the attitude you want from your captain. What kind of precedent does this set for the future captains of Pakistan?
Akmal has been an enigma, yet at the same time we are used to seeing inconsistent displays from the whole team as well as individual players which makes Akmal’s peformance appear tolerable. Akmal dropped plenty of catches in this Cup and the person who lost out the most as a result of Akmal’s lack of focus was Shahid Afridi, who did not bowl badly in the first two matches but was seriously let down by Akmal. Pakistan however, was also let down by Afridi’s batting performance yet again. The new selection committee has not been announced yet, but chances are we may not see Afridi playing for Pakistan for some time, which will be a big blow to those supporing him as the rightful captain of Pakistan.
Lastly, the form of openers Butt and Manzoor would be worrying, although Butt’s miserable form is likely to be only a temporary problem. Khurram Manzoor played very sensibly in the 1st match, but appeared clueless in the 2nd and 3rd matches. It is debatable whether Manzoor would be selected in the future, but perhaps he deserves another chance because of his 2 50s in his first 2 matches.
To conclude, this series established nothing new for Pakistan and the concerns carried on from before remain. Unless the captain is changed with immediate effect, Pakistan can not tread on the path of success. There are many short term and long term solutions, but the first thing that is needed is the change of captain. Don’t be fooled by the ostensible glory of a 3-0 victory and the elevation in international team ratings.