Umar Gul has struggled for form in recent times © Getty Images
By Mohammad Zahid
The pace bowlers performed well below expectations in ICC World T20 2014. At times, it was painful to watch experienced pace bowlers from Pakistan unable to get the basics right. Yes, Twenty20s (T20s) are heavily loaded in favour of the batting side, but if you do the basics right, ensure your length is right and you are bowling to a plan and using your brain then there is absolutely no reason why you should get hit around like the Pakistani bowlers did against India, Australia and the West Indies.
At the moment, never mind the batting, the weakest link in Pakistani cricket is the pace bowling. Pace bowling has always been Pakistan’s strength over the years, but these days, it’s our weakness which is frankly embarrassing.
Pakistan’s fast bowlers seem to be suffering from memory loss when it comes to bowling yorkers. It makes me wonder just what the standard of fast bowling is like in Pakistan at the moment, because if those boys in Bangladesh were the best we have, then that is extremely worrying.
No bowler in the world can bowl six yorkers every over, but given the amount of time being spent in training and in practice, then these experienced Pakistani bowlers should know what to bowl and how to bowl yorkers. I mean the yorker outside the forth stump on the off-side is a basic and not very difficult skill to perfect. Instead we saw long hops, full tosses, length balls from the Pakistani pace bowlers, it was a shambles.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching Nuwan Kulasekara and Lasith Malinga bowling at the death against India in the ICC World T20 2014 final. Malinga is a bowler who the Pakistanis can learn a lot from. Look at the length he bowled as well as the immaculate the line — all bowed at good pace. He gave the batsmen nothing. The same goes for Kulasekara, who looks the sort of bowler who the batting side thinks they can get after particularly at his pace, but look at the impeccable length he bowled against India. Videos of Malinga’s and Kulasekara’s bowling at the death should be made available to watch at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Lahore.
As a coach you have to take criticism and praise. You cannot just expect the media and fans to praise you when the team are doing well and not say a word when the facets of the game that you are coaching have become a weakness. Akram has not improved the pace bowlers as much as I would have liked to him have done. Yes, there have been marginal improvements and the number of no-balls havae reduced. But what’s the point of not bowling no-balls, if you can’t bowl the ball in the same spot for consecutive deliveries.
I know Akram’s job is a tough one and I know he’s working hard, but ultimately his performance is based on the improvement of the quick bowlers, how they are performing and how many quick bowlers he is able to develop. At the moment, I’m afraid it’s not looking too good for him.
I’m not sure what the strategy is from our pace bowlers. I’m not sure what the plans are. I’m not sure how much preparation is being done and I’m not sure about the amount of research being done on the opposition batsmen by our bowlers and the bowling coach.
At the end of the day, once the bowlers take the field, the coach cannot do much at all. It’s in the bowlers hands to ensure they perform, but my concern is that what sort of preparation is being done and are the plans and ideas actually getting through to the bowlers? Because from what I can see, I don’t think they are!
I want to know who is responsible for making this boy play all three formats in domestic cricket and also international cricket. It doesn’t take an expert to realise that Mohammad Irfan’s body cannot take all three formats yet, he is being pushed and pushed to play all three formats.
What they should do with Irfan is to prepare a schedule ahead of the domestic season of which domestic matches he will play in and in international cricket he should only play in the fifty over and T20 over formats.
Irfan is a treasure, he should be looked after and he should be handled carefully. Instead as usual we are breaking him with too much cricket and this will shorten his cricket career even more if the people running Pakistan cricket aren’t careful.
I’ve played alongside and against Umar Gul and he’s a fantastic lad and a wholehearted cricketer. However, the Gul we are seeing these days is an unfit version, a bowler who is still surviving on former glories.
Gul is risking his career by playing when not being 100% fit at all. If you are not fully fit, then sooner or later you will get found out. What is just as worrying is that why is he being selected when he is not match fit. It’s clear that he is limping at times and is not fit enough for international cricket. He’s been rushed back and should not be anywhere near a cricket field, instead he should be ensuring that he is fully fit. I know what it’s like in Pakistan, sometimes our cricketers are forced to rush back when they aren’t ready. I’m not sure about who made the judgment regarding Gul’s fitness, but it’s flawed.
Upcoming pace bowlers in Pakistan
Neither Anwar Ali or Bilawal Bhatti have impressed me greatly. They’re decent cricketers, Anwar can bat a bit and is a good fielder. Bhatti has good pace, but there isn’t anything there that makes me sit up and think that, here’s the latest in our long list of fast bowlers who will frighten the opposition. There isn’t that fear factor with either of Anwar or Bhatti.
I’ve spoken about Wahab Riaz in the past on many occasions. I have a lot of time for Riaz and he always impresses me. The Pakistan cricket Board (PCB) should look at Riaz and look at the comeback Mitchell Johnson has made. Many said that Johnson was finished as a cricketer after some humiliating spells, but he’s fought back, he’s regained his confidence and he’s frightening some of the best batsmen in the world since his comeback.
Riaz can do the same for Pakistan, he can terrorise batsmen. But his role needs to be defined. He’s not been used correctly by captains in the past and if he’s given backing and regains his confidence, he can be Pakistan’s equivalent of Johnson. Wahab’s head has been messed up with over-coaching and too much tactical chat. Just give him the ball and tell him to run in for short three or four over bursts and try knock the batsman’s head off, then see the results.
Next Pakistan Coach
I’d like to see a new name given the chance to coach the Pakistan team instead of the same names being mentioned again and again. Waqar Younis’s name is being mentioned as are a few other usual suspects. How about the PCB appointing someone with fresh ideas, a new approach and someone who will not be coming into the role with any baggage or ideas about the players before he takes on the role?
We keep hearing the same names being linked to the role, come on PCB, for once think out of the box and make an appointment for the betterment of Pakistan cricket and not one that is predictable and not well thought-out.
(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)