By Mohammad Zahid
One of the recent additions to the Pakistan squad has been Bilawal Bhatti who the writer has been very impressed with. The biggest positive about him is that he has pace. When a player bowls quick, often the other aspects of his game can fall into place at a later stage. At the moment, he still has to work on improving his bowling with both the new and old ball, but given some time, he will learn. Perhaps, nowadays, with there being two new balls from each end in One-Day Internationals (ODIs), there is less opportunity to bowl with an older ball, but if he is selected for Test cricket then he will need to demonstrate that he can bowl with the old ball. Even in the shorter forms of the game, where the ball doesn’t get really old, there is still a requirement to be able to bowl yorkers in the death overs, so this is something which Bilawal will need to practice.
Another advantage Bhatti has over other pacers coming through the ranks is that he has some batting ability which he showed in his first two ODIs against South Africa. On his debut, he scored a crucial 39 off 25 balls which helped Pakistan to reach a defendable total, and he followed it up in the next game by hitting 21 off 14 balls which also proved vital, as Pakistan ended up winning by just one run. To the writer, he looks like a complete athlete and an excellent bowler, so one believes he can go far in his international career.
Moving onto Mohammad Irfan’s injury, there were some reports that Irfan was not fit before the last Twenty20 International (T20I) against South Africa and that doctors had advised the management not to include him in the game. The management however went ahead and played Irfan in place of an injured Junaid Khan. Irfan then aggravated an injury which ruled him out of the ongoing Sri Lanka series. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) have since released a statement stating Irfan was fully fit before the game and that the injury he suffered was before the particular match. Regardless of when the injury occurred and going as per writer’s first hand experience of being asked to play while injured — it should not happen as this is really not acceptable. The management often don’t understand and sometimes make unreasonable demands from a player. They look for their selfish benefit by asking the player to play even when he is clearly unfit. Whilst the management can be blamed for this, Irfan himself should have refused to play if he was injured — he himself has a responsibility to look after his own interests. The management may have the final say, but he should have made it clear to the team management that he was unfit.
It happened to the writer on two separate occasions. Both times the writer was asked to play, but all that does is further aggravate the injury and the chances of it becoming serious increases. The management do their best to motivate one to play and in writer’s case, it felt like he had no choice but to play. They tell one that these things happen, injuries occur all the time and that one has to put up with it and be mentally tough with it. They don’t leave the player with much choice. In Pakistan, it’s probably more difficult, other teams generally understand injuries better.
The columnist has some sympathy for Irfan because from a player’s point of view, it’s very difficult to tell the management about an injury — it’s almost impossible. The worry is that someone else takes your place and performs and one may not get a chance to return to the playing eleven.
Coming on to Pakistan’s twin series against South Africa, they were soundly defeated in the ODI series in the UAE yet, just a week or so later, they went to South Africa and won there. This surprised many, especially given the change in conditions between the two countries. Pakistan’s batsmen have historically struggled in South Africa and it’s certainly very difficult for batsmen to suddenly go from playing in UAE to South Africa. However, the batsmen did well to put enough runs on the board to give the bowlers something to defend and Pakistan were able to win the series.
On the subject of Ahmed Shehzad, after being given a number of opportunities, his batting has finally started to click. He scored a century in South Africa and has followed it up with another one in the recent ODI against Sri Lanka. It’s good for the Pakistan team to have some runs coming from an opener. The writer has to admit that he felt Shehzad hadn’t done enough with the opportunities he was given, but suppose, there weren’t that many backup options coming through from domestic cricket either. However, Shehzad has started to deliver now which is a good sign. Aggression is the name of his game and the columnist feels he should play aggressively at the top of the order. One feels that aggression is very important, be it when you are batting or bowling. Nasir Jamshed is an example of a player who has lost some of that aggression, although that may have been partly due to a lack of form.
At the end of the day, it’s a game of nerves when one is playing cricket at the International level. Just look at Mohammad Hafeez and his battle with Dale Steyn, it became more psychological than anything else. When someone loses the mental battle, it has an adverse effect on their performance although, his recent form in the series against Sri Lanka is very heartening.
(Mohammad Zahid, a former fast bowler, took four for 64 and seven for 66 on his Test debut against New Zealand in 1996. But he went on to play just four more Tests. He also played 11 ODIs. The above article by Mohammad Zahid is reproduced with permission from PakPassion.net)
Also on cricketcountry.com