Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pakistan can win the world cup?

Pakistani cricket team is considered to be an unpredictable side possessing ability to beat any team on their day and submitting to weakest opposition the very next day. The fall of favorite and potential winners have made the tournament a wide open opportunity for teams like Pakistan. But they would need to change their approach and poor strategy off and on field to pull a miracle. Talking realistically Pakistan is a team with a tame top order, woeful fielding and toothless bowling but these weaknesses can be overcome with positive approach and better startegy.

The weakest link is the top order with a rocky batsman Ahmed Shahzad with 12 ODIs under his belt and no experience of playing in subcontinent. The other opener Mohammad Hafeez is playing cricket since 2003 but still he has not justified his talent or fulfilled expectations. Both openers form is worrying for Pakistan. Adding to opening woes we have Kamran AKmal at number 3 who is a wicket keeper batsman. In each of three matches played so far our top three failed miserably, if we did not have Misbah and Younis we would have lost to Kenya and Canada as in both matches the score was 12/2 (7 overs) and 55/3 (13 overs), it was Misbah who handled the situation and Pakistan posted a respectable total to win.

If we want to win we need to stabilize our top order, the best option is dropping Mohammad Hafeez or Ahmed Shahzad and adding an extra bowler to the squad. Kamran Akmal should be given bigger responsibility with bat if we have to bear his glove work. I personally feel that Umer Akmal should bat at number three; he can lift Pakistan?s hopes with his talent and style. Misbah and Younis are okay at 4 and 5 but any of them can be promoted to 3 if Pakistan found them where Canada was yesterday. Given his bowling woes the only quality justifies Adbul Razzaq be in team is his breathtaking batting but he bats at number 8. Is it not pathetic that we are wasting two of the best hard hitters in world cricket at 7 and 8? Taking an opener out would automatically help Razzaq getting up the order but he can be promoted to 3 or 4 if match situation demanded specially in big scoring games.

Team selection is also debatable and full of questions. Except Afridi and Shoaib our bowling performance in tournament so far is pathetic. We have only one complete fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar but he has some fitness issues, either Umer Gul or Wahab Riaz can not use new ball effectively thus we use Abdul Razzaq wasting new ball in this way. Uncapped fast bowler Junaid Khan has been included in the squad, but he has not been given an opportunity against weaker teams. I fear what would happen if the situation appears like 1996 Quarter Final against India when Waseem Akram pulled out at the last moment due to an injury and Pakistan lost the match. If Shoaib or Umer gets inured who would replace them? this is a million dollar question. Team management should give Junaid Khan an opportunity in upcoming matches against NZ and ZIM, he has the talent to perform at the highest level but needs some exposure. Team should include two spinners against NZ and Australia but this luxury can not be
afforded against India, South Africa or Sri Lanka. Team management should not stick to one strategy it needs to be reviewed against different teams at different stages keeping in view their weaknesses and strengths. 

The fielding and wicket keeping in the tournament so far is miserable I would say. We have a wicket keeper batsman Asad Shafiq he should have been given an opportunity as he can be a replacement for woeful Akmal. Fielding can not be improved overnight but coaches need to do more work on the fitness and technique of the player.

Another fact that can be more significant then above is the final position of Pakistan team in their pool as if they end at number 2 they would play in India against number 3 of pool B most probably England or West Indies. They should win at least two games with big margins and see Australia lose to Sri Lanka for getting number one position in pool A, which will lessen the pressure as top team of Pool A would play fouth of pool B (weaker opponent) at Mirpur, our old city.

Pakistani batting line for the next match should be
Ahmed Shahzad, Kamran Akmal, Umer Akmal, Misbah ul Haq, Younis Khan, Abdul Razzaq, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Akhtar (if fit), Umer Gul, Abdur Rehman, Saeed Ajmal or Mohammad Junaid (considering the wicket)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A World Cup or a Qualifying Tournament?

ICC is getting some unwanted feedback from fans all over the world for such a miserable start of the mega event amid mismanagement in tickets sale, poor planning and match fixing allegations. Almost two weeks have passed but the much hyped cricket mega event has yet to make an impact on the sports loving fans. It look more a qualifying tournament than a cricket world cup, with records tumbling, thrashing of minnows and one sided and boring contests. Current week’s matches are an example as how poorly the mega event has been planned by the cricket’s global body. To lessen the harsh feedback ICC has leaked the rumors that associate nations would not get a chance to play in the next world cup, as 2015 mega event would be restricted to only the test playing nations.

Only 4 out of 14 matches played so far have justified the definition of a match all others have been miserable mis-matches. Irony is that this would not end soon as we have 4 more mis-matches in fixtures for the week with England taking on Ireland, South Africa playing Netherlands, Pakistan clash with Canada and New Zealand vs Zimbabwe to follow. I do not understand the logic behind the inclusion of associate teams in the biggest event of the game. ICC argues that their inclusion is an effort to make cricket more popular by involving more and more teams but do they really care about the future of cricket? If they have to give minnows a chance to play at the top level then why did they not include their matches against gibber opponents in ICC calendar? ICC is aiming for just making money and more money; they are concerned with wealth and more wealth nothing more than this. The example is the bookie’s sponsored IPL which was exposed by Lalit Modi case.

Apart from mis-matches the rumors of match fixing are also of great concerns for the mega event. There are reports suggesting ICC ACU is investigating into Australian team slow start during AUS-ZIM match. Mahela Jayawerdene has been suspected for spot fixing by Sril Lankan press. England India match is under spotlight as Shane Warne tweeted before the match that it would end in a tie. I was quite confused at the way English team played from a position of 280/2 needing 59 to win from 7 overs. Given the misery of Indian bowling attack they should have easily got the target but they were content to play a tie.
Although a tie ends the match fixing chances but ICC should investigate the match to keep the tournament as transparent as possible. It should also be taken into consideration that Shane Warne pre match prediction was prediction of man who faced bans for alleged match fixing, currently involved in IPL thus he would surely have links with bookies till now.

The big questions looming over world cup are why the mis-matches have been planned in the very beginning of the tournament? Would ICC investigate the allegation of match fixing as the same ICC has done it successfully against Pakistan trio? Would the world cup be successful if Sri and India got an early exit? What would happen if Pakistan got to play in Semis at Chandigarh against India?