‘Some players undermined Misbah at the World Cup’

Reaching the quarter-finals was probably what most of us expected, particularly with most of Pakistan’s frontline bowlers missing for one reason or another. It’s another tournament where the batsmen’s failures and weaknesses have been exposed just as they were at the Champions Trophy in England.

Let’s not mince our words, our batting line-up at the World Cup was incredibly poor. We have players like Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad who have been playing international cricket for six years yet seem to be going backwards as far as their careers are concerned. World class batsmen and the best batsmen don’t make one big score every six or seven innings then fail in their next few innings. The best batsmen at the World Cup and the most successful ones are not the ones who have to resort to slogging which the likes of Shehzad and Akmal resort to when they are trying to play big shots. I have question marks over the future of both Shehzad and Umar Akmal in international cricket and I would urge the selectors to drop both of them so that they get that kick up the backside that both need, go back to the basics and realise that there are alternatives to them both out there. At the moment it seems that both of these batsmen are in a comfort zone and think they cannot be dropped.

Sohaib Maqsood and Haris Sohail have both shown glimpses of potential and deserve further chances in one day cricket as they are still raw and new to international cricket. However both need to toughen up mentally as there is a lot of talk in the Pakistan domestic circuit that both of these players are mentally weak. Both have a reputation of playing the fast bowlers well but are not as comfortable against spin bowling. They need to address these issues as international cricket is not a place for the faint-hearted. If they don’t work on their strike rotation, shot selection and mental toughness they won’t last long as bowling units will work them out very quickly.

I believe that Sohail can become a natural all-rounder in limited overs cricket if he addresses the issues I’ve mentioned earlier. His strength is obviously his batting and he needs to work on his bowling, particularly some technical aspects that the bowling coaches need to work on with him. If he does that then he could eventually be a better option than Afridi was, as let’s be honest Shahid Afridi did not offer the Pakistan one-day team much in recent times and was playing on reputation alone it seemed.

I’ve known Wahab Riaz since he first started playing domestic cricket and have always backed his talent. He’s a cricketer who has fire in his belly and has the sort of attitude that other Pakistani cricketers should have. The spell against Australia brought back some great memories of Pakistani fast bowling greats of yesteryear and was a joy to watch. I don’t think I’ve been so excited watching a game of cricket involving Pakistan for so many years than when I was watching Wahab bowling to Shane Watson.

The amazing thing is that if Pakistan’s first choice bowlers had been available Wahab would probably not even have been in the World Cup squad. What I want to see from Wahab now is for him to build on this performance at the World Cup and to bring consistency to his bowling and become Pakistan’s leader when it comes to Pakistan’s fast bowling unit. He has the skills and temperament and just needs to add consistency to his bowling.

Without wanting to panic too much after the World Cup exit, I feel that the Board needs to take some harsh steps particularly when it comes to selection and player power. We’ve seen too many examples lately of players being selected due to connections and players discipline lacking the standards that they should be aiming for. If the Board isn’t strict with players then it can become a free-for-all as we saw at the start of the World Cup campaign. Strict measures have to be put into place in future and these measures and rules need to apply to all players not just the junior ones. If it hurts the feelings of some hangers-on and officials so be it, but selection has to be merit-based, not based on who you know.

Sadly, it was clear that there were groupings in the Pakistan World Cup squad and that some players seemed to be performing below the standards they should have been performing at. It was clear as day that some players did not want the team to succeed as it was being led by Misbah-ul-Haq. That is very disappointing and when the Board reviews the World Cup campaign they shouldn’t just ignore this issue and pretend that everything was fine. Some players undermined Misbah at the World Cup, those players should hang their heads in shame for letting their country down.

The think-tank mishandled Mohammad Irfan at the World Cup. Without being disrespectful to some of the teams that were Pakistan’s opponents, I felt that Irfan could have been rested from one or two matches which could have meant that he was fit for the match against Australia. It’s impossible to say for sure but I worry about Irfan’s future and at best I feel he has a couple of years left in him of limited overs cricket which is such a shame as he has brought something different to the world of cricket and has been fantastic to watch at times.

Pakistan’s fielding standards were incredibly poor at the World Cup but I wasn’t surprised at all. Pakistan’s fielding cannot improve and will not improve until the players help themselves. We can have the best coaches, the best facilities but until the Pakistani cricketer’s mindset isn’t changed about the importance of fielding then we will always lag behind other teams. India’s fielding standards were about the same as Pakistan’s for many years but now they are way ahead of Pakistan because they are taking their fielding a lot more seriously at domestic level and when their cricketers arrive in international cricket most of them are very decent fielders.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) faces a tough choice in picking the next one day captain. The situation is a tough one as several of the candidates weren’t even at the World Cup. You’ve just played the biggest one day tournament and how can you make someone captain who wasn’t even in the World Cup squad. It’s really poor planning and if it was my call I would make Sarfraz Ahmed one day captain as he has shown the right temperament, has a positive attitude and has captained at various levels of cricket and I feel he can handle the pressure.

I’m pleased to see Mohammad Aamer back playing domestic cricket. He made a mistake, a big mistake and he’s paid for that error. I believe he deserves another chance. It really hurts me that his career was cut short but I hope he has learnt some harsh lessons and comes back wiser and more mature. What pains me though is that there are more corrupt people who have been involved in and are still involved in cricket than Mohammad Aamer who have not had any sanctions place on them.

I feel that the physical side of Aamer’s game will be fine. It’s actually a blessing in disguise that he has missed some cricket, but what that has meant is that he will be physically stronger now as when he was playing for Pakistan early in his career he was carrying several injuries. What will be harder for him will be the mental pressure he will be under and it’s important that he can cope with that. He will be reminded of his ban and what happened at every opportunity by opponents and crowds and by some media, how he responds to that will be the key to his performances. If he can clear his head and just focus on the future he will be fine.

(Mohammad Zahida 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 is reproduced with permission from PakPassion.net)