Recently there was some discussion on this blog regarding Tendulkar. Tendulkar’s performances of late have been below average and although he has been amongst the top 10 scorers in Test cricket in 2011, by his own standards he was a disappointment, especially in England. Throughout his career Tendulkar has been accused of selfish batting and inability to rescue the team of a situation of crisis. This can be debated by fans endlessly but there is little doubt that whereas one remembers players like Lara playing out of their skins to rescue West Indies, Tendulkar has perhaps never played knocks with such determination and pressure handling ability.
Speaking of determination and pressure handling ability Michael Clarke stunned the cricket world by producing a career best knock on a difficult pitch against Steyn and Morkel. Clarke refused to bow under pressure and adopted an attacking approach. It was a magical knock by Clarke because he treated South Africa with disdain and beneath his extravagant strokeplay you could see this Australian psyche of, “Never say die,” which we have mentioned many times on this blog. This psyche is a product of the Steve Waugh era where Australians decided that the only way to dominate was to attack and refuse to give up.
Speaking of attacking, Pakistan cricket refuses to creep out of his abyss of negativity that years of poor selection and management have left behind. At the moment PCB is talking about rebuilding and somehow they have discovered that, defensive batting and defensive field placements will lead to rebuilding. Misbah is nearing retirement and luck has favoured him because he might never play Tests on green tops or against good bowling teams. Misbah did well against New Zealand some time ago where the pitches are often green and conditions are conducive to seam and swing, but NZ bowling is mediocre and other batsmen considered lesser than Misbah also made an impact on that tour.
This thread is centred on Younis Khan’s ODI career. How ironic that Imran Khan, an individual who
bemoans poor decision making and “ad-hoc ism” in PCB suggested that Younis should bat at no 3. This worked to an extent in Tests but it just did not work in ODI’s for various reasons. Younis bats between batting position 4 and 6 in domestic cricket and this was his natural position before he was promoted to no 3. Younis can hit big shots, but his expertise is in building innings whilst occasionally preferring to take the aerial route with his strokes. Expecting Younis to adopt the role of makeshift opener, which he has now done for most of his career, was total folly on part of the PCB. The reason why Younis has stuck to this no 3 position is that barely anyone else will vouch to play in that precarious position.
Pakistan has always juggled with the likes of players who play riskily (Afridi, Hafeez, Imran Nazir), players who can defend but just don’t defend well enough (Taufeeq, Butt) and players who can’t do anything well enough and play because of nepotism (Farhat) as far as the openers’ slot is considered. Due to this pathetic situation they needed a scapegoat and patsy who would play the role of semi attacker, semi makeshift opener who sees off the new ball and semi innings builder. They got Younis Khan to perform this strange role and because Younis is expected to do so many things, he has never been able to excel in any one area as far as ODI’s are concerned.
Younis Khan is a proud Pathan and has few enemies because of his easy going personality. But, sometimes you have to put your foot down and put people in their place. Younis is a yes man and this is apparent from the way he is subservient to every cricket administration (except for when he is captain, as the incident with Shaharyar Khan proved). A person is the best judge of his own ability so my question is, why could Younis not put his foot down and demand to play below no 3? Doing so would mean that he becomes a politician and loses his selflessness, but ultimately Pakistan cricket would have been the winner because someone more suited to that position would have been utilised.
Pakistan never had a specialist ODI batsman at no 3- this is because of the complicated and overly demanding nature this role has in Pakistan cricket. PCB is looking for candidates who can fulfil dual or more than two roles in the opening position. They are not happy with attackers (Afridi, Nazir) and they are not happy with defenders which is why they will not use someone like Azhar Ali in that position. Unfortunately Pakistan cricket is not so developed that you can have the perfect dangerous combination like an attacking Sehwag and someone like Gambhir who can attack and defend according to the situation. Australia also use such an approach with Watson and Hughes. They also used this approach with Gilchrist and Hayden. South Africa have Smith and Amla. Every young batsman England is producing seems to know how to hit boundaries and they have Cook and Strauss to absorb pressure and defend from the other end.
So, why not use this approach?
These problems circulate in a vicious circle and the end result is that someone like Younis, who is talented, ends with an average of early 30s in ODI’s. Younis could easily have averaged 40 if he was allowed the same liberty that was afforded to Inzamam and Misbah, of having a much clearer objective when they come out to bat. Younis can play swing and spin better than Misbah and Inzamam and unlike them, he likes to take the fast bowlers on. Inzamam may have been very good against raw pace but he never looked convincing against swing.
The treatment of Younis has been a disaster for Pakistan cricket because firstly, had Younis been handled appropriately he would have made a lot more runs and secondly Pakistan would have had a very good run accumulator/match winner in their ODI middle order.
Umar Akmal may have attitude problems but PCB started admonishing him too early for his aggressive approach (the downside of which was that he could not bat responsibly) and the result was that U Akmal’s performance declined further. It would have been better to let him figure out his flaws because he could make 30-35 runs quickly and this sort of performance is crucial when someone is batting with the likes of Misbah and Asad Shafiq who find it hard to score quickly.
Due to lack of education and nepotism the decision makers have ruined Pakistan cricket. Somehow these ex cricketers who are uneducated and uncouth with a big question mark over their integrity and ability keep obtaining positions of responsibility and the result seems to be constant decline for Pakistan. There is no imagination and no aggressive mindset. What a pathetic situation we have seen recently with Misbah’s captaincy that matches that could have been won turned out to be draws!
To conclude, it is accepted that Pakistan don’t have a Tendulkar or Lara and their cricket is not developed enough to produce a Clarke, but with given resources they can perform much better. It just takes some good intent, unbiased decision making and some imagination. The example of Younis Khan should teach the PCB to opt for educated administrators and managers who can steer Pakistan cricket out of disaster by favouring aggression over defence and imagination over inactivity. This means getting rid of Misbah and Mohsin Khan, getting rid of Imran Farhat and Malik etc. If you look at the successful captains of the modern era- starting with Nasser Hussein, then Vaughan, Ganguly, Dhoni, Afridi etc, they always used the aggressive psyche and they were extremely imaginative and proactive with batting orders and field placements. What we are seeing with Pakistan cricket is just a temporary calm and some stability using a defensive approach to battle minnows, but this plan of action will not “rebuild” the team and it is not a step forward.