ICL: Indian Cricket League


One-day series in South Africa: What planning?

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The limited overs series that Pakistan is currently engaged in in South Africa will be the last international exposure Pakistan get before the World Cup. The first two matches, the Twenty20 game last Friday and the first one dayer at Centurion Park on Sunday, have both been such complete disasters for Pakistan that unless fortunes change pretty quick, it is a moot point whether the South Africa experience will enhance Pakistan’s preparation for the World Cup or wipe out whatever confidence the side may have accrued in the build up to the mega event thus far.

The worst aspect of Pakistan’s almost humiliating defeats has been that barely a month away from the World Cup, the team does not have what anyone would described as a settled look to it. It seems that all the questions that were raised four years ago during the last World Cup and to which the management has been struggling to find answers, today remain as unanswered as they ever were.

For one, the crucial opening slots do not have settled incumbents even now. Perhaps in this the management is not to be blamed for the players are just not there. Imran Farhat has been shown to have so obvious a deficiency in one area of his technique that he stands thoroughly exposed and that weakness outside his off stump will be exploited with merciless persistence.

There is now also a question mark over the wicket-keeping slot and it does seem as if Kamran Akmal to justify his place in the side will have to take on the role of one of the two openers. That is not because he has shown any particular ability for the job or because he has had any noteworthy success in the role, but more due to the resigned assessment that he is perhaps as likely to score a few as anyone.

Imran Nazir who has been out of international cricket for some time is yet to be given a run and if he is given a chance, and makes a few, we could well have someone going into the World Cup again on the back of a handful of performances. If that possibility is out, it is difficult to see what he is doing in South Africa.

The future of the seam attack is as much under a cloud of mystery as anything else. Will Shoaib be fit? Will Umar Gul be fit? Will Shabbir be fit? Even if they are all fit, none of them has had much international cricket in the months leading up to the World Cup which raises questions not just about their form but also about their ability to last out a tournament that runs for the better part of six weeks.

We saw Shoaib declare himself fit and then become unfit after bowling less than a dozen overs; we heard that Shabbir had also declared himself fit and all that it took to get him unfit was a barely a couple of overs. If that sort of thing were to happen again in the Caribbean it would be disastrous.

Both Rana Naved and Mohammad Sami have, on the basis of the two limited overs outings so far in South Africa, had experiences they would rather forget and Mohammad Asif cannot bowl 50 overs on his own. Both Razzaq and Afridi are on the comeback trail and neither has given enough evidence to convince me that they are likely to make meaningful contributions; and time, for both, as well as for Pakistan, is running out. As things stand, the only ones who qualify as automatic selections are Younis, Yousuf, Inzamam and Asif. There could be any number of “probables” who could take up the other seven slots.

In fact, latest news suggests that the list of “probables” is ever expanding. We have now heard that Azhar Mahmood is proceeding to South Africa and so is Rao Iftikhar Anjum. Azhar is a fine cricketer but the point is that he was not even in the list of 30 from which the final World Cup squad is to be selected and now finds himself in a series just before the World Cup which should be a trial run for the final squad. It is debatable if he will now even be allowed to make the World Cup squad since his name is not among the original 30 submitted for the World Cup but even if he is, where is the planning if someone who has been out of the reckoning for years is suddenly called back four matches before the World Cup?

Such haphazard measures suggest that we really do not know whether we are coming or going. It makes about as much sense as having a leg spinner for a bowling coach when the one day squad does not have a single leg spinner (with Kaneria having been sent back home). Our seamers bowled a plethora of wides and no balls at Centurion and I cannot see how a former leg spinner can be expected to sort that out.

Inzamam’s captaincy in the first ODI also left much to be desired. He persevered with Rana Naved for far too long and his decision to come back with him for a second spell was difficult to understand. His decision to take the second period of power play was still more puzzling with South Africa going at almost seven an over.The flexibility in the power play has been allowed for just such a situation in which a fielding side can fall back on defence to come back after picking up a few wickets. It seems to me as if he makes his plans before he takes the field and then sticks to them no matter what. That surely is not the way to go.

With just four one day internationals to play before the all important World Cup, the time for experimentation is long over. By now, we should have a settled side with one or two minor adjustments to make here and there and the settled side should have been readily identifiable. That, regrettably, does not seem even remotely to be the case.
Source:The News

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 6th, 2007 and is filed under General.

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