Monday, May 2, 2011

ICC Cricket World Cup 2011: Pakistan's chances

Earlier publihsed on my blog
Cricket is one of the few things which unite Pakistani as a nation. The ICC mega event is just to start in a few days, cricket lovers are getting crazy about the possible winners. I read some articles claiming Pakistan as the favorites for the world cup. As a Pakistani, I too support Pakistani cricket team and pray for its success but with some logic.
Pakistan won 1992 world due to some luck and some excellent bowling performance coupled with amazing captaincy skills. This time the cricket board has exposed it incompetence by announcing a team without captain, it means the captain would have no say in the team selection. The indecision of cricket board is affecting the chances of Pakistani cricket team badly, and if Pakistan lost the main reason behind it would be the board itself. Shahid Khan Afridi should immediately be announced the captain to stop further confusion in teams and to enable players focus on their preparation for the mega event. Misbah ul Haq is in excellent touch but one should remember that the innings he played against South Africa were on dead pitches where the world class bowler like Morkel and Steyn looked miserable. And other useful innings he played were against the weakest teams in the cricket circle New Zealand. So to me Misbah has to play more ODI cricket to cement his place and become a captain of the team.
Pakistan has been included in group A with Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Canada and Kenya, the pool is easier as compared to the pool B which includes giants like India, England, South Africa and West Indies. Pakistan has to beat at least three minnows to progress to the quarter finals. The main battle will start from quarter final stage.
The squad announced for cup includes the most talented players from the country, who have already shown their credential at the international level (with a few exceptions). Let’s have a look at the batting and bowling separately.
Pakistani batting line is the best among the ODIs with Younus Khan, Misbah, Umer Akmal, Hafeez, Afridi, Razzaq and Kamran Akmal. Mohammad Hafeez has proved his abilities with both bat and ball in the limited overs in the recent ODI's although he looked miserable in the past, as his stats show bat av. 22.91 and bow av. 34.82. He is an automatic selection for the first opener unless he gets injured. Second opener Kamran Akmal is a good wicketkeeper batsman in the world. He has scored 5 centuries in wins for Pakistan; his batting in the power plays can be handful for Pakistan. But if he fails the opener Ahmed Shahzad should be given a chance and Umer Akmal should be given the responsibility of wicketkeeper. Younus Khan is the strongest contender of third place; he has an ability to play long innings giving the late order batsmen an opportunity to cut loose at the end. He has scored at an average of 32 which is not very good as compared to other one down batsmen in the world but Pakistan needs his experience. He has shown some good form in the recent test series; let’s hope he can make it count in the mega event. If Misbah plays, he should be tried at 4th place, as he can play for long and gets other players play around him. He is a powerful striker of the ball and a reliable batsman. He should bat like he did today winning the match for Pakistan.
Then comes the most talented and aggressive player in the world cricket, Umer Akmal. He is a natural stroke player and a powerful striker of the cricket ball. He has scored his maiden ODI ton in Sri Lanka so he can be a hero. He has wasted his talent so far, if he showed some responsibility then he can be a star of the world cup. Then it is boom boom Afridi, he is the most dangerous player in the world of cricket. He can destroy any bowling attack on his day, he has scored the fastest ODI hundred and second fastest fifty in ODI twice, has hit more sixes than anyone. An article at espncricinfo analyzed him as the best attacker in the final overs along with Abdul Razzaq in last two years. If Pakistan has a real chance of winning the world cup it rests in the hands of Shahid Khan Afridi. Although he has achieved a lot, but i feel he is still the biggest underachiever of all time with bat. He can do better than what he has done, he has a real opportunity to make a name for him and his country. Abdul Razzaq is a victim of the conspiracies in the past when he was young. We should not forget that he was the most consistent performer with ball and bat in the 1999 world cup when Pakistan lost in Finals to Australia in a controversial manner. He can be a destroyer with bat at any surface, but his bowling looks toothless in the recent past. If he could improve his bowling then it would an added advantage for Pakistan. Pakistan should opt for an extra bowler to strengthen the weak bowling against best batting sides in second half If he did not bowl well in the first half of tournament .
The other important indicator to measure the chances of Pakistan is the perfromance of its batsmen and bowlers in the recent past. Let's have a look at the numbers now.
Regardless of the abilities Pakistani batsmen posses their performance during the last two years is below par. Bangleshi’s have performed far better than Pakistani with one of their bowler in top Three and their captain in the best all rounder’s list. Tamim made a place in the best batsmen of the world. But given the state of cricket affairs in Pakistan they should not be blamed for underperformance.

 Performance of Pakistani batsmen since January 2009.
Player                       Matches            Runs                Bat Av            H.Score           100

Umer Akmal                28                   838                  34.91                  102*                  1
Shahid Afridi               42                   998                  26.97                  124                   2
Misbah Ul Haq             19                   509                  39.15                    93*                 0
Hafeez                         14                   501                  38.53                  115                   1
Abdul Razzaq               21                   490                  35.00                  109*                 1
Kamran Akmal            36                   900                  28.12                  116                   1
Younus Khan               33                   713                  22.28                    89                   0

 The performance in last two years tell the story of pathetic situation of Paksitani cricket since Lahore attack. The reason behind the poor statistics of batsmen is largely the cricket outside Pakistan in alien conditions. But the batsmen have the ability to win matches for our team but they would need to perform better than they have done during last two years.
The possible ouster of Pakistani duo of Mohamamd Asif and Mohammad Aamir has put Pakistani bowling to knees as they were the best seem bowling pair in the world. ICC is going to announce the verdict on Feb 5th, I hope Mohammad Aamir would be released to play cricket as the reports suggest. If he is released Pakistan board can ask ICC for his inclusion which would be a great sign for Pakistan, let’s hope. In his absence the impotent bowling would be the main area of concern for Pakistan in the world cup. On the dry and batting pitches of Sri the bowler will need extra skills to win matches. Although there is a lot of raining in Sri Lanka, so swing bowler would find some assistance in wet conditions. Shoaib AKhtar is a match winning bowler but the fragile body is a hurdle in his success, we can not expect a miracle from him given the state of affairs. He is not playing all matches of the much needed practice series of New Zealand; I guess administrators want him to remain fit for world cup. But how would he manage the loads of responsibility in world cup in this condition? I suggest the management to use him only for the major encounters (but who can decide the major encounters given IRE-Pak match in 2007).Umer Gul is the main bowler in the line-up with an ability to win matches on his own. But he has a weakness in using the new ball which will haunt him. He needs to polish his skills and learn to use new ball. Pakistan should use him after 15 overs to make best use of him. Wahab Riaz is a new addition to the hopes of Pakistani cricket; he has already shown some good skills .He can be good option in the death overs for the captain along with Umer Gull. Sohail Tanvir was a surprise package when he announced his arrival at international level but soon the batsmen picked his action and he was made to look like a club cricketer. He can bowl very well at time but his bowling abilities are limited and captain would be confused a lot before including him in final Eleven against big teams like India and England. Selectors should have picked Rana Naveed instead of Sohail Tanvir for the world cup. Spinner will play the decisive role in the world cup as wickets may suit them in some areas. Pakistan has two frontline spinners in their squad, Abdul rehman and Saeed Ajmal. Both are identical in their capabilities but Saeed has some edge on Rehman for his vast experience and his ability to bowl doosra, if he had got out of Hussy's after shocks. Captain should not experiment a lot, both spinners should be given chances against weaker teams in the first round but in second round they should carry on with the better performer.

Bowling performance since January 2009.

Bowler                      Matches        Wickets        Bow.Av         Best Bowling    5 wickets in match

Shoaib Akhtar              20                  23               38.95                3/39                       0
Abdul Razzaq               21                  14               45.85                2/33                       0
Wahab Riaz                   7                  10                30.80                3/51                      0
Umer Gul                      27                  44               27.45                6/42                       1
Saeed Ajmal                 31                  40               30.10                4/33                       0
Shahid Afridi                 42                  48               36.60                6/38                      1
Sohail Tanvir                8                    4                79.00                2/56                       0
Abdul Rehman              4                  00                    ----                 ---                    ---

The above statistics clearly show the credentials and performance of our bowlers in last two years, which is evident that our bowling department is toothless without Aamir and Asif. But it is a fact that our team never depended on a single player to win matches instead whenever they won they won as a team. The recent victories against England and New Zealand show the fact clearly. We should keep hope that our team will get through at least to the Finals of the world cup. May God help our team to win and more importantly win over India in India.

Note: All data is correct till 01-02-2011                                                   Data Source:

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