After the World Cup 2015 match against India, one thing is certain. You can’t ever accuse the Pakistan cricket team of lacking imagination. Of the eleven players that took the field, only Misbah-Ul-Haq and Sohail Khan were playing the same game as India. The rest were imagining better uses of their time.
In his mind, Mohammed Irfan was bowling toe-crushers to eight-foot batsmen. The mere mortals facing him though gleefully received these as low full tosses, and dispatched his drivel to the fences. Then he got worked up over the follow-through warnings, and sulked his way through the remaining overs.
Umar Akmal again kept wickets with two left feet. His hard hands and rigid posture have more in common with a matador-in-training than an international gloveman. When Kohli’s edge came, he naturally grassed it. Then Umar came out to bat and displayed a textbook forward-defensive technique. For shuffleboard that is, not cricket. A small animal could have likely sneaked through the gap between his bat and pad.
The evergreen Shahid Afridi has now played the same 50-overs a record 392 times. I guess his singular quest to launch every cricket ball to Mars is perversely admirable. He doesn’t let minutiae like team and tournament conditions get to him. Nor the fact that he bungled up tailor-made conditions for his skidding leg-spin in Adelaide. Every. Ball. Must. Go.
Younis Khan looked a shadow of himself opening the innings. Sadly the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and this one backfired for Pakistan. He boxed rather than batted his way through a brief outing. Age and diminished reflexes have clearly diluted his technique, at least abroad. Younis’ exaggerated trigger movements seemed expectant of an incoming left-hook, and he played Mohammed Shami like Jeff Thompson.
Keeping with the odds, Ahmed Shahzad and Sohaib Maqsood found ways to get out. Despite umpteen batting coaches and God as their witness, the younger lot insists on playing away from the body and in the air. Its like an itch they must scratch, damn the consequences.
The solitary silver lining was Sohail Khan, who got his mojo back in the slog overs. He used the slower, fuller ball to great effect, and ground the Indian run machine. With Junaid Khan injured, and the many lukewarm days of Messrs.Riaz & Irfan, Sohail is our de facto spearhead. If he has an off-day in this World Cup, there will be trouble.
For Misbah-Ul-Haq, it was just another day at the office. Another lone hand in a losing cause, as his cavalier teammates fell like ninepins around him. There is much talk of his retirement, yet the batting cupboard is bare. It bodes ill for Pakistan cricket when the only man willing to scrap is a 40 year old.
Misbah takes much flak for being a defensive captain and batsman, but we don’t walk in his shoes. Would anyone with an iota of common sense trust a batting lineup that is prone to spontaneous combustion? Go for the kill from the outset with a third-string bowling attack that blows hot and cold without warning? I don’t think so. His notion of ‘safety-first’ is borne out of necessity, not whim.
I remember the good old days people keep harping on about. Those glory days of the nineties and early noughties, when the Green-Shirts would sooner play Russian Roulette than sane cricket. I’m sure there was a certain charm to crashing and burning, but getting shot out for less than two hundred runs every few games got real old, real fast.
Barring miracles, this Pakistan side is technically, and by extension mentally, ill-equipped to take on the big boys in Antipodean conditions. How fortuitous then that we’re really good with miracles. Throw in a few lucky rabbit feet with our natural proclivity to astound, and Pakistan could be a shoo-in for the finals.