Millions of Pakistan cricket fans were left astounded by the events that occurred on 14 May 2010. Australia snatched the World Cup T20 semi final from Pakistan’s grasp and did the impossible.
One must wonder whether Australia’s miraculous victory was a product of good luck or a certain mental resilience that has defined global cricket domination for more than a decade. To say whether sheer skill, or sheer luck plays a part in T20 is a moot point that can lead to heated arguments between fans of the format, or purists who view it plainly as entertainment. One devles into arguments of philosophy regarding how “skill” is defined, or whether the ability to slog, constantly vary line and length, and create new shots can be considered as “skill”, too.
Apparently the Pakistan Cricket Board has attempted to employ the same techniques used by the Australian board as regards psychological coaching of players in order to inculcate some form of mental strength. However the PCB has missed a trick. Why is that Pakistan is always so vulnerable against the Australians? Ever since the 1999 World Cup final, Pakistan loses to Australia consistently even from winning positons.
Most Pakistanis are satisfied with the team’s performance and are commenting that, Pakistan reached the semi finals and put up a competitive show against a good team, Australia. But, I am not as optimistic. We seem to have forgotten that Pakistan is the best T20 team in the world with great T20 players like the Akmal brothers, Razzaq, Afridi, Ajmal etc. It must not be forgotten that Pakistan lost to teams like England and New Zealand but they were able to beat South Africa. T20 is more about luck than anything else, although we can argue the skills of players like Ajmal, Razzaq and Afridi are more suited to T20. I still feel that if Pakistan was mentally strong they could have reached the final.
Pakistan was playing with so many T20 specialists. It is worrisome now to consider that teams like England and Australia have demonstrated so much improvement in this format. Pakistan is unable to compete with these teams at Test level, and will we now see a situation that Pakistan will be relegated even in T20’s? People might accuse me of being sceptical but one must not forget that Pakistan just scraped through in the semis because of good luck. In the next World Cup if we see Pakistan performing the same way then it is fair to say that Pakistan will be completely marginalised from international cricket and will be accorded the same status as Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, teams the ICC does not take seriously.
England and Australia have picked up upon how T20 is played. Going back into history, T20 originated in Karachi, at the Nazimabad ground in the 1970s. It spread like wildfire across the whole of Pakistan and then other countries took notice and played the format informally. T20 suited Pakistanis because the way cricket is played on the streets in Pakistan, slogging the ball is encouraged and no one wants to see batsmen who take singles and doubles or who plan think too much about their statistics. Also, Test cricket required discipline and good facilities which you cannot find very commonly in Pakistan. So, it was natural that Pakistanis excelled at this short format.
Shahid Afridi’s captaincy has evoked mixed reactions. Some people comment that he was too defensive, some people did not understand his constant shuffling of the batting order and bowling options. Yet, what Afridi has proved is that he is able to experiment and constantly try something new. This is a good quality and it must not be undermined. With time Afridi will improve but for now the PCB must continue with him as captain. The reason why Pakistan did not perform ideally in the first few matches was because of poor fielding and batting performance of Misbah, Umer Akmal, Hafeez and Afridi himself. Whether Pakistan’s performance in this Cup was good or bad, they must continue to work on their fielding as most of their fielders are still not world class.
Misbah ul Haq went into this Cup one of Pakistan’s 2 batting order backbones. Yet, his performance was pathetic. Even before this tournament the Legslip management criticised his selection (and have been doing so for 2 years) but Misbah somehow keeps being selected repeatedly. On the other hand, Fawad Alam is still not being provided with opportunities. Hopefully this Cup is a message for the PCB never to select Misbah, Hafeez and K Latif again. How many more matches will Misbah lose for Pakistan?
In conclusion, this Cup represents Australia’s resurgence in world cricket glory. The difference between the winner and loser in that memorable semi final was one team’s complacency and mental weakness and the other’s “Never Say Die” attitide. Australia took a dip for a few years in international cricket and many people commented that without McGrath, Warne, Hayden etc the team’s status would wither, yet the Aussies have shown that there is no alternative to mental strength. There is a certain level of self-belief, a certain mettle that can cause humans to create miracles.
And we witnessed a miracle at St Lucia on 14 May 2010.