Twenty 20 – a brand of cricket wherein controlled aggression and little prudence mostly improve your standing in a game, but in case of Pakistan, it was instead a regression which culminated the team’s journey in the World T20 on a dismal note.
The way West Indies hammered Pakistan in the ‘quarter-finals’ on Tuesday not only exposed the team’s temperament to cope with tense situations, but most importantly the leadership skills of Muhammad Hafeez who was, yet another time, nowhere near proving his credentials being called ‘Professor’.
In context of a T20 game, it’s not the first time that Mr. Professor collapsed in a crunched situation when the team badly needed him. The World T20 semi-final in 2012 against Sri Lanka, clash with India in the same tournament, or be it the opener against India of the World T20 this year Hafeez’s was rudderless with the capital R in all those crucial matches.
Before the tournament kicked off, Hafeez was full of hopes and optimism for his team’s superb showing in the mega event. When a time came to translate action into words against India in the first game on March 21, the Professor-11 crashed. A fighting spirit is something that is infused into the team with brave actions, not by mere rhetoric.
In the World T20 this time, Pakistan lost to India in the first game, but thumped Australia and Bangladesh in the next game before losing to West Indies in a decider for semi-finalist spot on Tuesday. Pakistan had been the only team to qualify for semi-finals in all four editions of the World T20 till 2012, since the tournament introduced in 2007. But Pakistan no more hold this honour.
West Indies set a target of 162 while batting first. They were 84/5 in 15 overs, but captain Darren Sammy and Dwayne Bravo added 82 runs with blistering hitting at the death in just last five overs. Spin great Saeed Ajmal and pacer Umar Gul were all shattered when they were battered. In reply, the whole Pakistan team could score 82 in their innings.
In a match against West Indies, Hafeez consumed 32 balls to score 19 runs sans any boundary at a strike rate of 59.37. While in an opening match against India in the tournament, he scored 15 off 22 balls at a strike rate of 68.18. If your captain approaches T20 game in a Test match style and fail to recover the damage on all occasions; is this encouraging for a team? Spare a minute to think. All teams have a player who is proven leader. MS Dhoni for India, Brendum McCullum for New Zealand, A.B. De Villers for South Africa and so on. They are the players known for finishing games in crucial situations. Rare failure of a player might be no worry, but continuous failure on important occasions is a big reason to worry.
A jack of all trades
The shocking revelation made by Muhammad Hafeez at a post-match talk after thrashing defeat by the WI was his disappointment to lose the toss. Mr. Professor said his side wanted to bat first, but in vain. This shows the ‘sorry mindset’ of our captain who had conventional plans to beat the defending world champions in a vital match. In short, there was no plan-B when chasing a target. He even blamed batsmen for the defeat, without realising the fact he virtually played opener when Ahmed Shahzad departed on the very first ball off WI pacer Santoki.
The captain should be the one to lead from the front. Like we had Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Inzamamul Haq and even the seasoned Shahid Afridi. They all had traits to infuse fighting spirits in the team. Unfortunately, Hafeez lack this quality. Yes, he has win matches for us. But in all pressure games, he failed with the bat.
World T20 standing
To another surprise, no Pakistani player is on a top-10 list of batsmen and bowlers. Ahmed Shehzad is ranked 15 with 138 runs in 4 matches. If his unbeaten 114 against Bangladesh are left out, one can well assess his standing in rest of the matches. Hafeez scored just 55 runs and took only one wicket throughout the 4-matches in the tournament. This shows how disastrous was the performance of Pakistan skipper aka Professor.
Blaming Pakistan bowlers – Saeed Ajmal and Umar Gul in particular –for being brutally smashed in last three overs is unfair. They have delivered some remarkable performances in the recent past. What prompted the collapse of Pakistan top order is questionable as the target of 167 was not something impossible to accomplish, especially in view of the strong Pakistan batting line-up. The third batting position in any line-up holds immense importance, which is occupied by Hafeez in Pakistan for the long time. In addition, utilization of seasoned all-rounder Shoaib Malik in the deep order in T20 is yet to be answered by the captain and other decision makers.
Some argue it’s not Pakistan alone to have been humiliated with sad ending in the tournament. There are England, New Zealand and the title-favourites Australia. But still you can’t justify your poor performance with the failures of others, especially when you are playing in Asian conditions.
Apologies are not suffice to overcome your constant failures. If dismal display of the Pakistan team continues in mega events, then necessary changes becomes inevitable, with the top among them: Installation of a new captain.