Pakistan’s death bowling in West Indies is missing the trademark yorkers

Wahab Riaz (second from left) needs to work on his death bowling © AFP

Mohammad Zahid discusses a range of issues including Pakistan’s death bowling, the cricket infrastructure in the country, captaincy, and Mohammad Aamer’s potential return.

 
One of the main talking points after the first four One-Day Internationals (ODIs) in the West Indies has been Pakistan’s death bowling. If you look at Wahab Riaz’s bowling at the end of the third ODI, there wasn’t much variation in what he was delivering despite the fact that the batsman do their homework nowadays and know what to expect. He didn’t bowl a single yorker, though a yorker is almost always a wicket-taking ball, especially in the last few overs.

The other thing I fail to understand is that there are so many coaches around the Pakistan team, so why are they not getting the bowlers to practice bowling yorkers? There are a lot of specialists in Pakistan who know how to bowl yorkers and toe-crushers; it used to be the West Indians who were the specialists but now it’s Pakistan, whose quick bowlers should learn to bowl these more often.

Many batsmen such as MS Dhoni have adapted their styles to be able to hit the full-pitched deliveries, but the chances are certainly less if the bowler gets it right. Wahab bowled a few too many short deliveries and those are filled with risk. The batsman can go for a pull shot and even if he gets an edge, it can fly anywhere, so it’s far better to get the yorker in at the death. I was shocked to see how few were bowled.

Overall though, Pakistan’s bowling is satisfactory; it has always been the strength in the past and it has quality in both the pace and the spin department at the moment, so I don’t think the bowling is generally an issue. Everyone can have bad days as Wahab did but overall the bowling is fine. These things happen in sport.

On the subject of bowling, I like the fact that Saeed Ajmal is still being used as a death bowler. The use of a spinner at the death probably began when Wasim Akram used Saqlain Mushtaq there. Ajmal has had one or two bad days but that’s cricket — again, these things do happen but he’s been fantastic at the death and it certainly doesn’t make him a bad bowler.

Looking at Pakistan’s dismal showing at the Champions Trophy, it’s clear there are currently a number of problems in Pakistan cricket. First of all, there’s no infrastructure, I don’t think we’re selecting the right players, particularly when it comes to the batsmen. Our openers have been struggling; they haven’t been going out and expressing themselves; they just need to go out and play their shots. Mohammad Hafeez certainly warrants a place in the side as a bowler. He can get runs in the subcontinent but I’m not convinced about his ability elsewhere.

Moving on to the role of the coaches in the Pakistan team, Dav Whatmore really needs to prove his worth as a coach. He has been with the team for a while but what has been the outcome? Twelve to 18 months are enough in Pakistan cricket, but has Whatmore even gone to see domestic cricket to identify the enormous talent that must be there? Why not bring in some young teenage talent and groom them rather than giving chances to the same faces? Umar Akmal was dropped from the side, did nothing in domestic cricket to earn a recall, but then comes straight back. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, there doesn’t seem to be a system in place.

It’s necessary for the selection committee to identify a backup for each and every player in the team, or else they’ll keep picking the same players. Nasir Jamshed, for example, scored a couple of centuries over six months ago but then has constantly failed in South Africa and at the Champions Trophy. I have no doubt about his talent, but you can’t keep relying on talent; performance matters more. When you have a backup ready to take his place, he will realise that he needs to perform, otherwise he will be replaced. If he doesn’t perform, replace him so he values his performance. A lot of the current players have understood that there’s no one there to take their place.

As for captaincy, I feel that Misbah-ul-Haq does not have the charisma that a captain should have. I think he plays too safe; he has been captain for three years but I haven’t seen any significant team performances. However, regardless of that, there doesn’t seem to be anyone ready to replace him as captain, despite the fact that he surely can’t play for more than a year or two. There’s no player that really has a permanent place in the team apart from Ajmal, but I don’t know if he has any real leadership qualities.

Pakistan should learn from Sri Lanka, who currently have two or three former captains in the playing XI. They realised that they might have a problem in the next couple of years and have addressed that now. Having said that, when the PCB itself is in such a mess, how can you expect it to make these critical decisions? There’s no basic infrastructure in domestic cricket. The people in charge, some of whom have very little interest in cricket, have really made a mess of the game in the country.

Finally, the announcement that the ICC may review the terms of Mohammad Aamer’s ban and allow him to train using PCB facilities was an interesting one. I personally feel that practicing solely in the nets isn’t enough to allow you to maintain that international standard. You need to play in matches of a decent quality, although training in nets will at least make a difference. Over the last two years he should have strengthened his upper body which may turn out to be very good for him. His return will be good for Pakistan cricket; he has learnt some important life lessons, particularly when it comes to choosing friends.
 
(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)