Pak players must be wearing ‘cornered tiger’ t-shirts inside: Smith

Shukriya Pakistan

Former South Africa Captain Graeme Smith feels Pakistan played like World Cup 1992 ‘Cornered Tigers’ against match favorite South Africa in the ongoing World Cup on Saturday in Auckland.

Graeme Smith 

At the ICC Cricket World Cup 1992, Imran Khan stood at the pitch of the WACA at the toss of a must-win fixture against Australia. The Pakistan team record at that point in the tournament read as follows: Won: 1. Lost: 3. No Result: 1.

Imran arrived at the toss with Allan Border wearing a white t-shirt with a tiger printed on it. Ian Chappell, who was presiding over the toss, asked him what the significance of the t-shirt was. Imran’s response was: “I want my team today to play like a cornered tiger…when it is at its most dangerous”.

This answer has gone down in folklore as the Pakistan team just did that by winning four games on the trot and with that the trophy.

Standing at the toss today, Misbah-ul-Haq, would probably have been feeling similar to what Imran Khan did 23 years ago at Perth. He would have known the importance of this fixture and the significance that a victory over the Proteas would have on his team before taking on the Irish and a potential quarter-final thereafter.

I can only speculate on what was said and done in the changing room at the dinner break but the way that the Pakistani came out afterwards, I would not be surprised if the entire team was wearing tiger printed t-shirts underneath their playing jerseys.

Led by their talisman, Irfan, they came out displaying an aggression and hunger in the field not evident in their previous fixtures against India and West Indies. Perhaps, the most important element in their success was their bowling strategy and the execution thereof.

This may be overlooked as the Proteas scored at more than six runs to the over, however, Pakistan would have known that the only way they were going to win this game was to bowl the Proteas out. If South Africa had batted through their allotted 47 overs they would have won the game and Pakistan would have been aware of this.

They were prepared to give runs away in the search for wickets and their plan worked to a tee. Their unique bowling attack inclusive of three left-arm bowlers exploited the conditions perfectly and made good use of the slight lateral movement in the wicket brought on by the earlier rain. They bowled full and wide forcing the Proteas batsmen to chase at the ball.

This is illustrated in the fact that seven wickets fell either caught by the wicket-keeper or in the slip cordon. Their troika of left-arm bowlers may seem problematic to some captains, but Misbah has finally figured out how to harness their respective talents and have them working together in accord. Irfan, Rahat and Riaz complemented each other wonderfully and acted as an effective foil each other.

One of the most glaring issues to come out of today’s loss was the continued struggle that the Proteas have with regard to chasing.

South Africa’s win-loss record, when chasing a target of 240 or more since the last ICC Cricket World Cup, is 3-10 whilst they only have a 39 per cent win percentage when chasing in One-Day Internationals since January 2013. On the contrary, when batting first, South Africa has a 24-8 win-loss record, which is the best among all Test playing nations during the same period.

If one were to examine this issue more closely it would also become apparent that in every game in which the Proteas have been knocked out of a World Cup since 1992, they batted second with the exception of the semi-final loss to Australia in 2007. The Proteas brains trust would have been familiar with these records prior to the tournament and at the change of innings today would have felt that they had a very good chance of partially remedying these statistics.

South Africa would have backed themselves to chase down 232 in 47 overs on the smaller Eden Park ground. They would have seen it as a dry run before possibly chasing again in the more pressurised environment of a knock-out game. Ultimately, I don’t think the loss has made any difference to where South Africa finish on the log as it seems as though they will hold on to second place.

However, the only lesson that came from this batting rehearsal today was that they have a lot more work to do in very little time. Even with one pool game to go their attention would have shifted to the likely quarter-final opponents of either Sri Lanka or Australia who would definitely have noted that their chasing travails continued. Courtesy ICC