Pakistan got team combination horribly wrong during Asia Cup: Aamer Sohail
Sarfraz Ahmed's batting and captaincy came under scrutiny during the Asia Cup. @Getty

Former Pakistan  batsman and chief selector Aamer Sohail believes that skipper Sarfraz Ahmed and coach Mickey Arthur erred in selecting the proper players during the recent Asia Cup, and that the management misjudged the team’s strengths and weaknesses.

Pakistan lost twice to India, beat Afghanistan in the last over thanks to a Shoaib Malik special and then exited the Asia Cup with defeat to Bangladesh in their must-win last Super Four match. Their stumbling campaign was highlighted by poor form to key batsmen, terrible fielding, a woeful performance from Mohammad Amir and some questionable captaincy by Sarfraz.

Writing for pakpassion.net, Sohail felt Pakistan did not make the right calls. “If one were to look for reasons, I would say that Pakistan got their team combination horribly wrong during the Asia Cup,” he wrote. “It seemed that Pakistan seemed to be betting on the wrong horses for this race and our planning wasn’t based on sound future planning. The proof of that failure to plan ahead was in the manner in which the team management had to make hurried changes during the tournament when confronted with pressure.

“Whilst it is true that victory and defeat are part and parcel of the game, what really shocked me was that the Pakistan team management seemed incapable of judging the strengths and weaknesses of their own players. They had no clarity on what their players could bring to the table which would benefit the team, and this is why we saw some confused team choices, and the results were there for all to see. If one wishes to be a good captain or head coach of a team, then knowing the capabilities of your players is very important,” wrote Sohail, who played 156 ODIs and 47 Tests.

Asif Ali was pushed down a spot during Pakistan's loss to Bangladesh.
Asif Ali was pushed down a spot during Pakistan’s loss to Bangladesh. @AFP

He singled out the loss to Bangladesh, in which middle-order specialist Asif Ali was pushed back and the spin bowler Shabad Khan promoted in a tough chase. Shadab made 4 as Pakistan slumped to 94/5 chasing 240 while Asif hit 31.

“In this match, for some strange reason, we moved Asif Ali down the order who had been included in the team purely for his batting skills. Instead, Shadab Khan was sent in ahead of him which to me demonstrates a distinct lack of knowledge about the strengths of your players,” wrote Sohail.  “To be frank, such decisions by the team management looked like shots in the dark in the hope that something good could magically come out of them.

“I don’t want to be too negative about the whole episode, but to me it would be a tragedy if the team management does not learn their lessons from what happened in this tournament. They have to understand how best to use their players and what roles to give to each player. Sarfaraz Ahmed, in particular, has to really work on this aspect of his captaincy and only then can we expect to see better results flow for Pakistan.”

In Sohail’s view, the PCB needed to dispense with “bits-and-pieces players”.

“Pakistan seem to have this idea of taking a chance and including players who are bits-and-pieces cricketers, with the hope that they will perform well and win games for us. We have tried so many such players and for so long without any positive results. I feel that this experiment has failed,” he wrote.

“It is now time to concentrate our energies on picking specialist players who are either, good batsmen or bowlers. We do not now need players who can do part of the job. What we need is a proper bowler or a proper batsman. If we do pick an all-rounder, then he should be able to justify his place in the team as a bowler or a specialist batsman who can bowl as well. Gone should be the days when we should be playing someone as an all-rounder who cannot be classed as a batsman or a specialist bowler.”