The utter and complete rout that we suffered at the hands of the West Indies was not only disappointing; it was positively shocking. It was by no means a forgone conclusion that either side would win and reasonable previews before the match had it that it was 50-50. In the event the result reflected nothing even close to 50-50.
We bowled poorly, fielded miserably and batted deplorably, in the process getting the dubious honour of establishing a World Cup for the worst start ever by any side.
The top batsmen seemed unable to move their feet as if frozen by fear due to the huge score in front of them. A target of 311, after which Pakistan’s chances were all but negligible, was inevitable if you drop half a dozen catches. Most other sides – including sides like Ireland and Scotland, would have held these chances.
The bowlers consistently hit the wrong lengths, bowling short on a wicket that cried out for a fuller length. Misbah, as usual, seemed unconcerned and if he did go to his bowlers to advice them, it had no effect. But bad as the bowling was, the batting was abysmal. It was not worthy of cricket at this level. That said, due praise must be given to the West Indian bowlers who bowled the perfect length and got their due rewards.
Such a defeat can psychologically shatter a side and the support staff will have to do their utmost to ensure that does not happen. Batting is about confidence and that must be at rock bottom. Great a player as Younis has been, perhaps he should be calling time, at this in this format; as for Nasir Jamshed, he is just a walking wicket and is nowhere near ready for this tournament.
From the very limited batting resources that Pakistan has, perhaps the only way forward is to bring Sarfraz Ahmed back and ask him to open and keep wickets, for the experiment with Umar Akmal behind the stumps has failed.
We must also be more positive in our approach to the remaining matches, and the most obvious way of doing this would be to go in with the right balance, which is six batsmen, Afridi as the allrounder and four specialist bowlers. This may not necessarily mean getting Yasir Shah back in the playing squad; it could even be four seamers if conditions are seen as being favourable for seam and swing bowling.
It is still possible for us to qualify for the quarter finals but the magnitude of the defeat against the West Indies – who, incidentally, are not one of the more fancied sides in the tournament – has made it more difficult because it has pushed Pakistan’s run rate down through the floor. Therefore it will not be enough for us to win against the likes of Zimbabwe, Ireland and the UAE, but to win with handsome margins. Given the way we are playing at the moment, that is a tall ask.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this defeat has been the reaction it seems to have evoked in Pakistan, especially from our politicians whose knowledge of cricket is about at par with my knowledge of the working of the jet engine.
Everyone seems to be going for the PCB when the PCB should have nothing to do with the performance of the team on the ground. Their job is to administer the game and provide for its infrastructure, not to decide who should open the batting or keep wickets, or in any way to determine performance on the ground in an immediate sense.
For this, the PCB itself is also responsible to an extent, and the one most culpable in this regard is Mr Najam Sethi whose concept about his role seems to be way off the mark. He has claimed personal contributions to past successes by the side which anybody who has played at this level will know is nonsensical.
This time around, the statement by Mr Najam Sethi prior to the India-Pakistan encounter, claiming that we would thrash India, was childish to say the least. His subsequent defence of that statement was even more juvenile. He said that if he had come out and said that Pakistan would lose there would be a huge outcry against him, but that is not what anyone or anything would require him to say.
Why was a common sense reply along the lines that ‘it would be a tough game but the boys are up for it and will give their best’ not possible? Mr Sethi’s reasoning that a reply loaded with ifs and buts would have been no different from what the others said is equally nonsensical.
He cannot be expected to come up with something that people who have 60 to 100 Test matches to their name cannot come up with. His job is not to ‘wow’ the public and it is acutely disappointing that he sees it as that. And while it is right that the PCB and its officials must support the team, creating wild expectations is certainly not the way to do it.
If anything, it only puts more pressure on the team and that must be the last thing they need before such a high pressure game.
Most of those who are now attacking the PCB are doing so for their own selfish political motives, using the team’s performance as a ladder to advance their own ambitions, usually for high office in the PCB which, with all its perks and foreign travel, has become a very desirable political prize.
TV anchors have also played a negative role in this by discussing cricket with a bevy of politicians, which is not something that one sees even in India or Bangladesh. The question of such an approach in England or Australia would be seen as a joke as, I am sure, sensible people in Pakistan see it was well. But it is an expensive joke for it does no favours to our cricket and even less for our image. Sadly, it does not seem as if these are considerations that count.