‘Pakistan’s batting in the World Cup suffers from lack of aggression’

Given the importance of this game to Pakistan’s survival in the tournament, I was impressed by the way they approached the match in all departments of the game. To be honest, the victory was expected. It is true that Ireland beat us in 2007, but there was no reason why this could be repeated in 2015; I would have been surprised if it was repeated. Pakistan prepared well for this game and made sure that mistakes of the past would not be repeated again. Pakistan simply played good cricket and that’s about it. (ICC Cricket World Cup 2015: Full Coverage)

 

Sarfraz Ahmed was asked to open in the last two matches against South Africa and Ireland and has performed very well. It was his performance that gave our innings a good start. Whilst in the game against South Africa he should have got a lot more than what he ended up with, he did play well today and stayed until the end to get his hundred which is great. Overall from the team’s point of view, good starts to the innings make a big difference and that’s the kind of beginning we are hoping for in the quarter-finals so that we can put up a good score.

 

To be honest, Pakistan hasn’t batted like the rest of the teams that are participating in this tournament. One can see that the other teams are batting with an aggressive intent and have been scoring 300+ runs quite frequently. It’s not just the score but the manner in which they are attacking the bowling is also worth some thought. We have examples of New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and India who look to be aggressive in the way they bat. This is one shortcoming that Pakistan batting is suffering from. Pakistan’s batting in the World Cup suffers from lack of aggression. Not in a single game so far have we seen the aggression that is required in the modern one-day game. Remember that aggression is not about wild slogging; it’s about the body language and intent. Both of these are missing in this Pakistan team.

 

Mohammad Irfan did not play in the game against Ireland as he was unfit. His presence is very important for the team, but let’s be clear that even if he is lacking fitness by 10%-20%, he should not be played in the next game as this can be a huge risk. He needs to be 100% fit for Pakistan to play him especially in the upcoming knock-out stages. Don’t risk Irfan against Australia if he’s not 100% fit. Not only Irfan, but if any player, especially a key member of the bowling attack, breaks down in the middle of the game then the repercussions on the outcome of the game will be very significant and it is a huge loss. I believe Irfan should only be played if the camp feels that he can bowl his full quota of ten overs and show full commitment in the field.

 

I am not convinced that there is a need to play him in the next game which will be against Australia. In Adelaide, the square areas are fairly short compared to the straight boundaries and the Australian team has some very powerful left-handed batsmen. Having two leg-spinners in this context is a luxury I don’t believe we can afford or attempt to have.

 

I feel Haris Sohail should be preferred for two reasons. One is obvious; the fact that he is a left-hander. The other important aspect is that Haris can be used as good bowling option as he demonstrated against Ireland by picking up a wicket. As for Younis Khan, I am afraid he has failed to command any respect due to a lack of good performances. He hasn’t shown any real reason for not being dropped from the team.

 

The bottom line is that Pakistan have qualified for the quarter-finals. Not every player who has been given a chance to play has performed well and that can happen. One expected Sohaib to perform in a better way than he actually did. But since we have identified him as a talent, he should definitely be persisted with in the future.

 

In the knockout stage, there is no such thing as a favourite team. You may speculate to your heart’s content, but there are no guarantees. In specific, Pakistan pretty much has as much chance of proceeding past the quarter-finals stage as Australia has. One could say that Australia have an advantage of home conditions, but then who can forget the fact that Pakistan won the World Cup in 1992 in these same conditions.

If I am forced to, I would give a 60% chance of Australia winning the game, but I still think every game in the knockout stage is dependent on how a team plays on that day. There are no favourites. Each team in the quarter-finals, Pakistan included, would like to think that they have momentum with them but fact is that all the teams at this stage are fired up and ready to go.

 

(Asif Iqbal is a former Pakistan captain who played 58 Tests. He spoke to Amir Husain of PakPassion.net, where the above piece was first published)