The warm up matches for the T20 WC start next week. Pakistan will be playing its preliminary matches against England and the Netherlands. The last few years have been disappointing for Pakistan for various reasons. Pakistan’s openers remain as clueless and brittle as ever since the departure of Saeed Anwar and Aamir Sohail. The middle order has not managed to remain consistent with critcism being levied on Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik and Misbah. Pakistan’s best batsman Yousuf has been largely unavailable and so have been three of Pakistan’s key T20 players, Abdul Razzaq, Imran Nazir and Rana Naved. Further, although Pakistan’s fielding standards have improved slightly, they are improving slowly compared to other international sides.
Pakistan’s pace battery is almost totally ineffective, with Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif ruining their careers themselves and Umar Gul being the only fit and world class pacer. If all this isn’t enough, the Pakistan team management seems obsessed with not providing any meaningful chances to promising youngsters such as Fawad Alam.
T20 is not real cricket, because it seems to go against everything cricket is meant to be. Cricket is meant to provide equal footing to both batsmen and bowlers. Test cricket, which is considered as real cricket, is all about patience, intelligence, stamina and mental toughness. T20 is more about luck and excitement, although the qualities needed to play Test cricket can be useful in playing T20, too. Yet, if one attempts to envisage what the founders of cricket must have had in mind, T20 must be a polar opposite.
Pakistan has a golden chance to provide some hope to fans, as the Pakistan team is balanced and consists of experienced T20 players. It is crucial to stress that half of these players have played cricket in English conditions, so they know what to expect and also, Pakistani cricketers probably play more domestic T20
than anyone else. So, there should be no excuse for poor performance and claiming lack of familiarisation with English conditions will be unacceptable.
Younis Khan is leading the side although his T20 credentials are doubted. Younis performed commendably in the ongoing RBS T20 Cup where he played 2 aggressive knocks for Peshawar. There were reports after the ODI series against Australia that Younis has decided to relinquish captaincy in favour of Afridi. These reports were obviously untrue, but it does prove that there is a considerable body of opinion that doubts Younis Khan as a T20 player.
Younis has to show more aggression than what we have seen from him. If Pakistani batsmen play defensively in this Cup, Pakistan will lose. Pakistan should also be mindful that other teams like New Zealand and South Africa have improved their T20 standards and they are capable of beating Pakistan this time round.
In particular the two openers Shahzad and Butt need to play lofted shots if they can’t drive the ball between the gaps. This is particularly important for Shahzad, who has struggled to place the ball in the gaps so far in international cricket. Neither Butt nor Shahzad have been in great form recently and it must be questioned why they have been picked for T20 when they do not appear to be T20 batsmen.
The new kid on the block, Shahzaib Hasan is inexperienced and it is rumoured Younis Khan opted for him over Khalid Latif. It would perhaps be wiser to give Hasan a chance in place of Shahzad, although it seems unlikely. Hasan was impressive in the recent mini series between Chairman’s XI and Patrons’ XI, where he was amongst the top scorers. Nasir Jamshed is returning to form in domestic cricket but his form was mediocre before this RBS Cup, so his exclusion is justified.
Ideally Younis should go with no more than 3 pacers. Spinners are usually more effective in T20 because the focus is
also to restrict the runs from the bat. My guess is that whoever is responsible for selection will once again not give a meaningful chance to Fawad Alam, but playing Fawad is undoubtedly an advantage because of his batting and fielding. He can also bowl a couple of overs if need be, although bowling is not his forte. The team management is likely to go with, 1.Butt 2.Shahzad 3.Younis 4. Malik 5. Misbah 6. Afridi 7.Akmal 8. Tanvir 9. Gul 10. Rao 11. Ajmal.
My preferred line-up would be: 1. Hasan 2. Afridi 3. Akmal 4. Younis 5. Malik 6. Misbah 7. Fawad 8. Tanvir 9. Gul 10. Rao 11. Ajmal
Aggression, good team spirit and fair selection can make Pakistan win this World Cup. Bowling wise Pakistan is adequately equipped with Gul, Afridi and Ajmal being world class bowlers. If Younis, Malik and Misbah once again do not show commitment and consistency, it will be a new low for Pakistan cricket and a slap on the PCB’s face.