Talking exclusively with arysports.tv, former Pakistan skipper Asif Iqbal, who led the team in the first two World Cups in 1975 and 1979, gave his answers to our queries regarding Pakistan’s performance and prospects in matches to come in the ongoing World Cup…
Q – Pakistan team management has immensely been criticized for making experimentations in a high-voltage match against India. Do you think management has rightly been criticized?
A – Questions were bound to be raised regarding the competence of the Pakistan team management after the defeat at the hands of India and is valid to an extent. It is always easy to be wise after the event, but perhaps in retrospect it would have been better to go with Nasir Jamshed as an opener because he was sent for the role and he has a good record against India. However, there is no guarantee that this would have made a major difference.
Q – Do you think Pakistan lacks the ability to adapt to new playing conditions quickly when other teams seemed to have already done that?
A – It is difficult for all teams to acclamatise to conditions in Australia, particularly teams from the subcontinent because of the much greater bounce that you get on Australian wickets, especially compared to subcontinental wickets. India, who have been in Australia for three months, have only this victory to show against Pakistan in three months. Pakistan did have practice games in both Australia and New Zealand so they should have been ready.
Q – Does our team lacks proactive planning and go with the same plans even when situation changes?
A – The manner in which Pakistan play does give an impression of things being allowed to drift. The Indians were constantly stealing singles by pushing balls to fielders inside the ring and there was no effort to stop this by bringing the field closer. This allowed them at least five an over with no risk at all. Also, when Raina came in to bat, it might have been a good ploy to bring on Irfan with a short leg in place as Raina is known to be vulnerable to fast short pitched bowling. These are small things and may or may not have made a difference but it would certainly appear to be the right way to go.
Q – Former World Champions are ranked seventh in ODIs and with Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez not in the squad, there are no Pakistani players either in bowling or batting World Top 10. Should it be taken as the reason behind Pakistan below par showing against India?
A – Yes, we have no batsmen in the top ten ICC ODI rankings and now, with the exit of Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez, no bowler either. That shows that the Pakistan team is not as strong as public and media hype would have us believe. It might be useful to keep this in mind while evaluating Pakistan’s future prospect.
Q – How do you think Pakistan will play against West Indies on Saturday after both have lost their matches against India and minnows Ireland respectively?
A – There is no magic formula for winning against any side other than trying one’s best, and that is what we must do against all teams, the West Indies included.
Q – Which players do you suggest Pakistan should pick for the match against West Indies?
A – As for who should be selected, I would still recommend that the team that played India should be given another chance, although I know that the knives will be out for Younis Khan and there will be a strong argument for playing Nasir Jamshed in his place as opener.
Q – Should specialist wicket-keeper batsman Sarfraz Ahmed be played against West Indies or the team should go with underperforming Umar Akmal?
A – As for Sarfraz Ahmed, his performance behind the stumps has not been much better than that of Umar Akmal. Sarfraz can only be brought into the side at the cost of either a bowler or a batsman and I can’t think of anyone who should be dropped to accommodate Sarfraz, unless we decide to use him as a stop gap opener in place of Younis, which would still keep Nasir Jamshed out. I would not opt for that.
Q – Do reports of infighting and rifts in the team would hamper team’s performance Down Under?
A – As for reports about infighting in the team, they have always surfaced after a defeat and exist more in the media than in fact.
Q – Do you think the changing rules are facilitating batsman more and subsequently the game’s test of competitiveness has overall been hurt? Please tell us with your own experience when there was no field and bouncers’ restrictions.
A – The game has come a long way since the World Cups of 1975 and 1979. Power plays, circles, the advent of T20 cricket etc have had a huge impact on the evolution of limited overs cricket. But professional cricketers have to learn to evolve with the game.
Q – Finally please tell us where you see Pakistan in the tournament. Would the team be able to emulate World Cup 1992 performance or would they be eliminated out of the title race in group stage, as their predecessors did in 2007?
A – As for Pakistan’s chances in this World Cup, we have our work cut out to get to the quarter finals, especially now with even the so-called “minnows” having raised their standards considerably. Yet, we should be able to make it to the quarters. Thereafter, it is a question of which team performs on the day and who is favoured by that enigmatic factor known as the rub of the green.