Aamir Sohail, former Pakistan captain-turned-media pundit, talks about the recently-concluded one-day series between Pakistan and South Africa and what the PCB can do to prepare its cricketers better for future tours to places like South Africa. Sohail also gives his views on the future of some of Pakistan’s senior cricketers in the ODI format as well as looking at the balance of the Pakistan one-day team.
Excerpts from an interview with PakPassion’s Saj Sadiq:
TV pundits and their agendas
Let’s start with Misbah-ul-Haq’s comments the other night about performing well and making a big score in the Super 8s T20 after the comments on television. I’m not having a go at the presenter that Misbah is referring to, but in my opinion there are too many television pundits all forcing their opinions down the throats of the Pakistani public. These pundits really have no clue about cricket and have only held a cricket bat in a sports shop yet think they are experts. They have their own agendas, they want to create negativity and there is nothing constructive in their criticism. If you want to criticise, at least try and make it constructive and say things with responsibility. We all want the Pakistan cricket team and other sports teams in Pakistan to excel, we want them to do well as we are all patriotic, but don’t just criticise for the sake of it and based on your own agendas.
Misbah-ul-Haq & captaincy
A lot of people have been gunning for Misbah for quite some time now, for one reason or another. Misbah has done a very good job as captain given the resources. Yes, he lacked in one or two areas in South Africa but so far I think he’s done a great job since he took over the Pakistan captaincy.
Some are saying that Misbah should be ousted as captain and dropped from the one-day side but that is not the solution. Pakistan cricket needs to utilise and get the best out of Misbah in the time that he has got left to serve his country. We need Misbah’s experience in the team at the moment and it would be the wrong move to drop him from the one-day team and dispose of him as captain.
Lessons from the tour of South Africa
You cannot blame individuals for the one-day and Test series defeats in South Africa. Some are sitting there and are blaming Dav Whatmore, others are pointing the finger at Misbah, some are blaming other individual players. But, the wider and actual problem is the system in Pakistani cricket and not the individuals that are representing the team.
Look at Pakistan’s record in recent years in Test cricket in countries such as England, South Africa and Australia; we have won no series in those countries. Rather than people criticising the players and individuals, the Board needs to be looking at how to improve the system in Pakistan.
The nature of the wickets is not going to change in Pakistan. Our wickets in Pakistan are different to many parts of the world so therefore a lot of the young cricketers are undercooked for tours to places such as South Africa. There are a number of countries in international cricket playing on green top wickets these days, which is a shock to the system for Pakistani cricketers as most of the wickets in Pakistan are flat. The trend has changed around the world and that has had an impact on Pakistan’s progress in Test cricket. In years gone by Pakistan had seaming tracks in domestic cricket but that trend has reversed and when our batsmen are exposed to bowler friendly tracks they are found wanting.
Misbah is absolutely right when he suggests that young Pakistani cricketers should be sent to places such as South Africa and Australia to play in their First-Class cricket, because the conditions in those countries cannot be replicated in Pakistan no matter how hard we try.
Lack of ‘A’ and Academy Tours
I recall when I was a selector we were hosting South Africa and as part of an agreement with CSA [Cricket South Africa] we sent an Academy team to South Africa. From that academy team six or seven of the boys went on to play international cricket and some actually played against South Africa in Pakistan in the series after the academy tour. This is what I mean, the Board needs to improve the system, look at investing time and finances towards the junior teams and at the players who are the future. The Board needs to think outside of the box in order to prepare it’s cricketers better for tours abroad.
If you know that you are going to tour a country through the future tours programme then why can’t you organise an academy or ‘A’ tour to that country several months prior to the senior tour to assist some of the players who may well be taking part in the Test series. It’s all about planning and management and that sadly is lacking at the moment. By sending young players on Academy and “A” tours you are giving them an opportunity to sample the conditions and to prepare themselves for future challenges in that country and on those surfaces.
It’s frightening to look at the number of Pakistani players that had actually played cricket with a red ball in South Africa and that were part of the recently-concluded tour. The same goes for England. When was the last time the PCB sent an ‘A’ team to England? The answer is simple: a very long time ago.
Younis Khan and his Future in One-Day cricket
One has to remember that the Champions Trophy is being held in England in June which will not be ideal for batting and Pakistan will need its experienced batsmen in England. Pakistan has a strong bowling line up and I feel that if it can restrict the opposition to 250 and under during the Champions Trophy, then the likes of Younis Khan could prove to be vital in the middle-order providing he can regain his form.
The problem with the Pakistan middle order is when it is pushed to score 6 or more runs per over, that’s when the Pakistani batting line up struggles.
I feel that Younis Khan should be given one last chance by the selectors in England at the Champions Trophy.
Time for Shahid Afridi to be dropped from the One-Day side
I think the time has come for Misbah-ul-Haq to decide on which options he wants in the one-day side. Pakistan has Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal as the spin bowling options. In England you don’t need an abundance of spinners for the Champions Trophy. At the moment the balance of the one day team doesn’t seem right to me with four spin bowling options.
Hafeez and Ajmal make the grade for me as first choice as more often than not they will give you 20 overs of control with the ball. Then it’s a straight choice between Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik in the one day side as I don’t feel both of them in the one day team is working. I would go with Shoaib Malik as he is the more reliable batting option over Shahid Afridi and I think Afridi should be dropped from the one-day team.
A change of gameplan in the One-Day format
I think the Pakistani game plan needs a rethink as of late they have overly relied on their spinners, which has backfired. Pakistan needs to play three seamers and have 2 genuine all-rounders in the team together with Saeed Ajmal with Shoaib Mallik as another option. The introduction of genuine all-rounders to the team is desperately needed and will provide added balance.
Umar Gul’s lack of form
Umar Gul has served Pakistan cricket well for a number of years. He’s always been a wholehearted competitor, but there’s something missing in his bowling these days. I think the time has come for Pakistan to groom another third seamer and perhaps just pick Gul for Twenty20 Internationals at the moment until he regains his confidence and form. The selectors need to be wise here and pick bowlers for the right format.
Pakistan has a crop of seamers coming through, Irfan, Junaid and Rahat Ali all showed what they are capable of and there are other young seam bowlers emerging. Mix and match the seam bowlers and utilise them in the formats best suited to them.
Young players deserving of a chance at the Champions Trophy
I think Umar Amin deserves a chance in the side. He has been consistent with the bat in all formats and can also bowl some medium pace in the Champions Trophy in England. In addition, Pakistan has an abundance of right-handers in the middle-order and could really do with a left- handed option in there.
Hammad Azam has also shown signs of improvement, but I still believe there are question marks over his bowling at the highest level. If he can improve his bowling and become a consistent third seamer then I feel he would be an ideal option as one of the all-rounders in the one-day format.