It is important that in sports, or in daytoday life, if you make mistakes then you learn from them to avoid similar setbacks. I expect, therefore, that having lost a crunch match against India at the Adelaide Oval, Pakistan have learnt from theirs.
It indeed is an acceptable fact that those at the helm there and there are many besides the playing members including those responsible for picking the team on a playing day have their game plans thoroughly worked out so that little scope is left to falter yet again.
It was no less than a shock for me to see outofform Younis Khan open the innings for Pakistan and Sarfraz Ahmed, a regular wicketkeeper batsman, sitting on the bench watching haplessly a game in which Pakistan with a bit of effort and sensible batting could have made it possible to reach the target of 301 which these days is not beyond most of the teams playing limitedovers cricket.
I loathe to express disgust over poor performance of any team, let alone Pakistan, because in a game of fluctuating fortunes even the best of teams sometime fall apart. But in earnest I must express my feeling of disappointment on the makeup of our team and its selection right from the day it was picked.
I would have preferred those players for selection, initially, who had been part of the squad for the last three months facing the might of Australia and New Zealand in the UAE. Both Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq had the right credentials, as fit and inform players, to be part of this World Cup campaign.
Unfortunately, both are sulking at home whereas Sohaib Maqsood who had not played for his country for the last three months because of a wrist injury and an outofform Umar Akmal who averaged just over 13 in six games at Pakistan’s prime oneday competition were given the green signal.
But now, let us put all this behind and concentrate on what is at hand, a vital and important match today at The Hagley Oval against the West Indies. Jason holder’s men, like Pakistan, also lost their first match and that too against Ireland a team which can pose further threats to others as well in their group.
Pakistan cannot afford to go in this crucial match without making sensible and practical changes. Horses for courses should be their policy for picking individuals to face a jittery West Indies. A specialist opening batsman has got to be picked. No point leaving out Nasir Jamshed who has been sent as replacement for injured Mohammad Hafeez.
I fear Younis Khan, whose form betrays him at the moment, may get the axe but could still get another opportunity to resurrect himself. We should keep in view the example of India’s Shikhar Dhawan. For some time he had been failing with the bat, and yet his captain kept faith in him for the Pakistan clash, and he delivered.
Experience always helps, especially in a batting lineup like Pakistan which mainly relies on captain MisbahulHaq. However, in case Younis loses the vote to be in the eleven, one of the two Akmal or Sohaib should be provided with another opportunity.
There is no point keeping Sarfraz, a specialist wicketkeeper, away from the action. In the warmups he did not deliver because he was used as an opener, but his real place is late in the order and that is where he should bat.
The West Indians have an eternal weakness when playing spinners. Their attacking brand of cricket usually has the reputation of crashing against spinners and Yasir Shah, though having failed to impress against India, could do the damage along with Shahid Afridi.
Pakistan did not do badly when bowling against India and I feel their attack need to be retained for today’s match as well to give it confidence.
The West Indians with a new captain Jason Holder have their own problems without Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard. On batting first, they will have to bat well to give their opponents a respectable target or when in chase if Pakistan manage to post a challenging total.
Chris Gayle and Lendl Simmons, who made a hundred against Ireland in the first game, and Ramdin can pose problems if not restrained.
Matches between Pakistan and the West Indies have a history of close and exciting encounters. In the 1975 World Cup, chasing 266 in a 60 over game at Edgbaston, our bowlers had reduced them to 166 for 8 and then 203 for 9 with Sarfraz Nawaz taking four wickets. But in the end our bowlers failed to break the partnership between Andy Roberts (24) and Dereck Murray (61) and we lost the match by one wicket. It was heartbreaking indeed.
Similarly, in the 1979 competition at The Oval, going for 294 to win, Majid Khan and I put up a stand of 166 in 36 overs before I fell for 93 to Colin Croft with Pakistan needing 107 in 20 overs. With Majid departing later for 81, the West Indians ran through our batting and won the game by 43 runs. As for the 1987 World Cup, I have not forgotten the match at Lahore against them.
I hope today’s match comes out good for Pakistan to improve their chances in the competition. But for that to happen, it is utterly important that they gel together quickly to endorse the axiom, ‘united we stand, divided we fall.”