Posts Tagged regionalism
Even though players like Razzaq, Butt, Ajmal, Malik etc have shown some improvement compared to how they used to field years ago, the problem Pakistan is facing is that the standard of fielding is not improving in line with how fielding has improved in countries like Sri Lanka, India and West Indies. This is sadly again due to the fact that, other teams are selecting players on the basis of their fielding ability and
then giving them exposure to cricket so that they can get better in other departments. At one time Pakistan could dismiss this strategy with minimal fuss because they had match winners like Anwar, Inzamam, Wasim, Waqar etc. But now for whatever reason the same calibre of players is not emerging, and therefore Pakistan needs to rethink its strategy. For example, Sri Lanka played Dilshan whose bowling was like Shoaib Malik’s when he started, and batting was like a tailender’s. But, he was in the team mainly due to his fielding and now he is one of the best batsmen in limited overs cricket. India used Suresh Raina who was also an expert fielder but then he improved his batting and has now become one of India’s most reliable players. Pakistan introduced Fawad Alam three years too late and he responded by playing some match winning knocks in T20, and an unprecedented century on a seaming track in Tests, but he has been sidelined due to politics. As a batsman and fielder both, Fawad was miles better than Dilshan and Raina (keeping in mind how they were when they started) but now his international cricket future is uncertain, simply because his countrymen would prefer to see someone like Shoaib Malik in the team rather than him.
The Pakistan think tank cannot impose a system where merit is the main factor in selection, and Pakistan cricket is suffering because of this. An important tour lies ahead for this underperforming team, and if predictions are anything to go by Pakistan is likely to lose the Test series against England and Australia.
The summer weather in England so far this year has been drier than normal, and how much that would impact the pitches remains to be seen. It goes without saying that Pakistani bowlers would prefer bowling on England’s pitches compared to how they would have
felt bowling on Sri Lankan pitches, but their batting on England’s pitches has never been satisfactory. The batting card for Pakistan on the tour of England should have read- S Butt, Yousuf, Younis, U Akmal, F Alam, S Afridi, but now three players from that card are not playing, which means that the batting has halved in strength. Naturally with drier weather, spin bowling becomes a useful option but Pakistan does not need to worry as much regarding their spin attack because Kaneria has experience in England, and Ajmal and Afridi are reliable.
Australia has shown improvement in T20 and this was clearly visible in the last T20 Cup. Pakistan showed some signs of concern in that Cup as they seemed to excel in neither bowling, batting or fielding. The signs are clearly ominous for Pakistan because they are not a force to be reckoned with in T20 anymore, they are worsening in ODI’s and they are weakest in Test cricket.
Pakistan plays some country matches before their first T20 against Australia on 5th July. They will probably win the county matches and they may win against Australia in T20, but they need to put up a good fight in Tests. In fact they will probably be treating the Tests against Australia as a testing ground for the Tests against England.
What Pakistan should have learned for the T20 Cup and the Asia Cup, is that it needs an improvement in all areas- batting, bowling and fielding. Improvement does not come overnight, but ratings do not change overnight too and Pakistan has constantly plummeted in international ratings. After watching Pakistan lose to India in the Asia Cup, one should realise that Pakistan- India matches are not “50-50 chance” contests anymore- one team is clearly stronger than the other. Shahid Afridi will have to work some miracles to make his team put up a decent show against Australia in Tests- and to his misfortune he is pitted against the deplorable standard of fielding, political selections of undeserving players and pathetic management of the PCB of over a decade.
The title of this thread must be the story of Fawad Alam’s career.
In the T20 match against Australia, Fawad Alam took 2 catches quite safely which was a complete contrast to how Salman Butt and Misbah fielded. Then, he came into bat when 71 runs were needed off 30 balls and managed 16 runs from 11 balls including one sixer. He came into bat at no 8, just before the tailenders, Sami, Aamer and Ajmal.
Generally some regional-minded/biased people accuse Fawad Alam of being a usless batsman because of his so-called inability to hit boundaries and inability to “win matches”. Yet, all logic, reason, fairness is swept under the carpet in his criticism. Whereas I ignore the biased representations of these people who want to see more of Malik, Misbah and Butt and less of Alam, Afridi and Younis etc, it is quite concerning that some fairer and more educated people have started losing patience with Fawad Alam. This thread is aimed at them.
In ODI’s, Alam has played 459 deliveries in 15 innings. That is an average of under 31 balls per match. It must be noted that Alam does not play as a pinch hitter, but as a run accumulator and facilitator. If we compare the balls Alam has faced to the balls other batsmen have faced per match, this is what we get:
Butt- 46 balls/match, Umer Akmal- 40 balls/match, Misbah- 38 balls/match, Malik-38 balls/match, Younis-39 balls/match, Yousuf- 48 balls/match…
In T20’s, the comparison is thus:
Butt- 23 balls, U Akmal- 24 balls, Misbah- 22, Younis- 17, Malik- 18, F Alam- 10
So, we have now established that Alam plays less balls per match than all of Pakistan’s main batsmen.
In 15 ODI innings, Alam has played at the batting position no 6 or below, 12 times. In T20’s he has played 13 innings and has batted at no 6 or below, 11 times. So it is established that Alam is usually sent to bat lower down the order and does not get the opportunity to face many balls, yet why is so much expected of him? Why is he expected to create miracles when no one is bothered to respect his abilities first? This applies not only to the team management, but also to commentators and bloggers.
In terms of what Fawad Alam has done in his very short career:
1) He hit 3 sixes in 5 balls and played a match winning knock against Sri Lanka in Canada
2) He hit 168 in a debut knock on a seaming track, the next highest score in the match from Pakistan was 82 by Younis and then barely anyone else could reach 25 on that pitch. He hit a six when he was on 92, he played that knock with a strike rate of 66.
3) He played valuable T20 and ODI knocks against Sri Lanka and India, assisting players like Malik, Misbah and Akmal on at least 1 occasion each in finishing matches
4) He played a determined knock against England, complementing Razzaq very well. Those who saw the match knew Pakistan could not have won without his contribution.
5) He took an excellent catch off Umer Gul, and then effected a brilliant run out in a recent match which changed momentum for Pakistan in that game (I forget who the opposition was). After his spirited effort Pakistani bowlers and fielders looked rejuvenated and performed well.
The above is not a comprehensive list by any means. The point is that in his relatively short career he has already shone on a few occasions, but why don’t people recognise this? I can’t remember 5 occasions when Butt, Malik or Misbah did something amazing in their long careers. Not only have these 3 failed miserably as batsmen most of the times, they have also let the team down by virtue of their fielding. Somehow critics expect Alam to achieve feats even Tendulkar and Lara and incapable of achieving, but at the same time find Butt, Misbah and Malik’s constant selection (Malik’s, until very recently) understandable?
It was clear that Pakistan lost this match against Australia because of Misbah’s and Butt’s fielding, yet why did people have to question Fawad’s handling of this period when 70+ runs were needed of 30 balls and no other recognised batsman was there to support him?
Fawad Alam is an asset for the team because of a number of reasons:
1) He can play under pressure
2) He keeps the strike rotating
3) He is an excellent fielder
4) He plays with determination, he appears modest and does not have a big mouth or ego
Every player in international limited overs cricket must be assessed on a “net utility” basis. The player’s all round capabilities must be observed simply because international cricket has become a high stakes and competitive game. If a player makes 35 runs regularly, but then gives away 10 runs because of his poor fielding, then that player’s worth to the team is really only 25 runs. In my mind given the chance Alam is capable of batting better than players like Misbah and Malik. That coupled with his fielding, makes his net utility very high, and as such a very valuable player for the team.
Amidst the pinch hitters (Afridi, Hafeez, Imran Nazir, Akmal, Razzaq) , slow players (Butt) and selfish players (Misbah, Malik) you need to have someone who can rotate the strike and occasionally put the bad ball away for a boundary, someone who can take pressure off by taking quick singles and doubles etc. If Alam is properly utilised he can become a great player- the problem is that due to policies of bias and favouritism he is not getting chances to perform.
The travesty is that, we expect Alam to do something which is his weakest point- hit 4s and 6s regularly and convert losing causes into winning results. It is this travesty that is destroying the career of a potentially great cricketer for Pakistan.
Pakistan suffered one of its worst tour defeats at the hands of Australia. Pakistanis were completely outplayed in Tests and ODI’s and the tragedy was that they could not even win the lone T20. Chaos ensued during and after this forgettable, yet unforgettable series and grievous flaws were identified right from the top of PCB’s management to the Pakistan team’s on-field behaviour.
There are reports of turmoil within the PCB as Ijaz Butt has failed to change the culture of the PCB and in fact internal strife, mismanagement and incompetence levels have increased. Butt is under immense pressure to resign as it is alleged he is too old, incompetent and more concerned about running his private business than managing the cricket situation in the country. Since Butt has appeared on the cricket scene, the team has gone from bad to worse. There is no vision, no planning, and like his appointor, Asif Zardari, Butt is spending more time facing flak and responding (unconvincingly) to criticism than actually doing something positive to remedy the affliction the Pakistan team is experiencing.
On one hand Butt said that Yousuf was the wrong choice as captain of
the team for the Australia tour, but on the other hand he said there was no alternative. What kind of decision-making is this? Why was a younger player not appointed as a temporary captain? Yousuf proved to be a worse captain than anyone thought. Not only was he completely negative in everything that he did- batting, field placement, bowling changes, managing team morale etc, he also failed to win the respect of his team-mates, unlike Inzamam who was at least senior enough to obtain some respect from the juniors. It was also disheartening to see Yousuf openly condemning Butt’s running between the wickets and Manzoor’s technique. Interestingly, Butt proved to be Pakistan’s best batsmen in Tests and Manzoor probably played the best knock by a Pakistani in the Test series.
At the same time as Butt’s inept management and Yousuf’s maladroit captaincy, there were reports of team disunity. Some reports went as far as suggesting that two camps were created in the team- the Karachi camp (thought to be led by Younis Khan and Shahid Afridi) and the Sialkot/Punjab camp led by Shoaib Malik. In fact some news suggested that the team manager had created a report on Shoaib Malik using politics to advance his camp’s interests. Whether any action is taken against Malik for this remains to be seen. Indeed, Malik captained Pakistan’s T20 match and although it was known Pakistan would provide a tough challenge to Australia in any circumstance, Malik’s captaincy has been hailed as “inspirational” and “attacking” by his misled supporters. The truth is that a club T20 team from Pakistan can provide a tough challenge to Australia in T20, yet somehow Malik’s supporters have forgotten this.
In such dire times, Pakistan needs a completely new and revolutionary strategy. As far as team
performance is concerned, in Umar Akmal and Fawad Alam Pakistan found their best 2 ODI batsmen. This firstly proves that the much maligned Pakistani domestic structure can still produce good players. Secondly, this proves that for some reason or the other, the team’s main batsmen- Younis, Yousuf and Malik, are not up to the mark and must make way for juniors. When your best ODI batsmen are not your 4 or 5 most experienced batsmen, you know something is wrong with your team.
The horror seen in Butt’s time shows that a former cricketer is not necessarily a good administrator. Pakistan should appoint a management expert with good cricket acumen to lead the Board. In fact, the best way forward is probably to fire all former cricketers who are involved in running the show as all of these cricketers seem to have shady motives and personal grudges against each other, and an organisation cannot run successfully in this way.
A younger, fitter coach should be appointed. Pakistan should look beyond people like Intikhab Alam and should opt for a relatively low profile coach, perhaps from some regional academy. Pakistan has suffered too much and too long under Intikhab- his failure reflects in the fact that no improvements have been seen in the players. All the technical weaknesses remain, the standard of fielding is still poor, the bowlers are still getting injured relatively easily. The worst aspect is that mentally the Pakistan team has worsened under Intikhab, whereas when Inti was appointed he said mental strength would be one of his main areas of focus. Pakistan is losing Test matches from winning positions and it is looking increasingly vulnerable when chasing even modest targets.
Mediocrity is prevalent across the squad. Being mediocre is in some
ways worse than being pathetic, because a mediocre player makes 30 runs with some consistency to cement his position in the team, but is always focusing to remain in the team because he finds it so hard to make sizable scores, especially when the situation demands some character from a batsman. Similarly, bowlers like Rana and Rao survive on picking up 1 or 2 wickets here and there, or keeping the economy rate to under 4.5. Whereas, a pathetic or substandard player gets booted straightaway from the team. Shoaib Malik must not be tolerated anymore in the lineup. Similarly, Rana and Rao must be permanently banned from playing international cricket.
Afridi’s ball tampering incident was regrettable. However, whereas it has caused anger for many, many also see Afridi as someone who would be willing to think outside the box and who would be desperate to win matches for Pakistan. Although Afridi is not the brightest cricketer in the squad, he is very unlikely to tamper with the ball again. Afridi has received his penalty from the ICC and he must now be forgiven by the PCB and Pakistani public. Pakistan needs Afridi’s passionate captaincy and fighting spirit, and the fans should persuade the PCB to experiment with Afridi in all formats. Otherwise, Malik or Akmal will be appointed captain and Pakistan should not reward their consistently poor performances any longer.
Now the PCB must use their initiative and build a Test team with Younis, Yousuf, Afridi, U Akmal and Fawad Alam in the middle order. In ODI’s, Afridi, U Akmal and Alam must be the main batsmen and perhaps Butt will also improve his ODI form and become a significant cog in the wheel. In Umer Akmal and Fawad Alam Pakistan has found two exciting and talented players and now the PCB must look for more players like them.