A victory for Pakistan in its upcoming match against Zimbabwe is crucial if Pakistan is to have any hope of proceeding to the quarter finals of this World Cup. In fact, as the points table stands, even a win against Zimbabwe, Ireland and the UAE, which would give Pakistan six points, would not ensure that Pakistan makes it to the next round because Ireland, who already have four points, would also be at six if they beat Zimbabwe which is by no means beyond the realm of possibility. In that case, Pakistan’s run rate is so abysmally poor that if both Pakistan and Ireland are on six points, Ireland might well get through on a better run rate. There are, of course, any number of other permutations and combinations but the bottom line with all is that we have to win against these three sides and the first of these wins must come against Zimbabwe on Sunday.
Given Pakistan’s present form, that may be easier said than done. We have the worst run rate out of all the 14 teams playing in this World Cup and we have the highest rate of dropped catches. Neither of these two statistics are particularly edifying and therefore, unless there is a huge improvement in the standard of cricket that Pakistan plays, things could go horribly wrong.
Just how that huge improvement is to come about is the million dollar question. Perhaps it is now time for Younis to be dropped and to play Sarfraz Ahmed as the wicket-keeper opener. I also think that we have to adopt a bold approach and go in with six batsmen with Afridi at number seven, followed by Wahab Riaz at eight and then three more bowlers. This does not necessarily mean that Yasir Shah must be played. If the pitch is seen as a seaming wicket and conditions are felt to be good for swing bowling, the slots at numbers nine, ten and eleven may all go to seamers and we may be playing with four seamers. But if this is not the case, Yasir Shah’s inclusion would appear to be beneficial.
There is not much that any fielding coach can do to turn things around in a week. I am sure that the boys would have had intense fielding practice after the West Indies match and one can only hope it pays dividends. The emphasis has to be on the word ‘hope’.