Back to back victories must have given captain Misbah-ul-Haq a huge sigh of relief as Pakistan’s fragile looking batting is gradually gaining some confidence ahead of all-important Pool B match against South Africa.
After two successive losses against India and West Indies, Zimbabwe also tested Pakistan batsmen to the limits and Misbah’s batsmen desperately needed an opponent like the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to get into their grooves in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.
But against a well-oiled bowling unit of South Africa, Pakistan batsmen need to stay focused and the top order requires to see off the new ball threat of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel to challenge a strong batting lineup led by AB de Villiers. Barring the horrendous batting form of opener Nasir Jamshed, Pakistan batsmen have got runs under their belts in the last two games which must raise their confidence.
I wasn’t surprised to read the logic of coach Waqar Younis behind resting regular wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed in the first four matches. The team management is considering Sarfraz as “only” specialist wicketkeeper and not as an opening batsman because of his poor technique on bouncy wickets of Australia and New Zealand.
Nasir has only given more headaches to Misbah and Waqar after his three successive failures and if Younis Khan can open against India what’s the harm in trying out other options. I really feel sorry for Nasir, but even against a weaker bowling of the UAE, he yet again fell to a short ball like he did against the West Indies and Zimbabwe.
Three chances are enough for a batsmen and Pakistan team management needs to think out of the box. I dare to disagree with Waqar’s justification about Sarfraz’s batting abilities in testing conditions, but if Sarfraz could be slotted even down the order and an inform batsman partners Ahmed Shehzad it might works out for Pakistan. I guess, at least, Waqar should have no doubts on Sarfraz’s wicketkeeping. He’s for sure better choice than Umar Akmal behind the stumps, isn’t it?
There’s lot of talk about Misbah’s defensive mindset. I’m afraid the resources he has at his disposal any captain could have gone into his shells. He plays too many dot balls, but it’s the fear of losing wickets from the other end which forces him to farm the strike. He needs to have confidence on batsman at the other end by rotating the strike. There’s no better torture to an opposition than to keep moving the scoreboard with singles and twos.
Pakistan should also shrug off the fear of defeat from their minds. Perhaps that was the reason that we might have over bowled our trump pace bowler Mohammad Irfan. Playing three matches in seven days is not easy for a bowler of Irfan’s height. We could have easily rested Irfan against UAE as we had two other bowlers – Yasir Shah and Ehsan Adil – on the bench. It could have given Irfan enough time to recharge his batteries and come out blazing against South Africa. He’s the only bowler in the tournament who could extract extra bounce and can keep batsmen in check.
It was no surprise to me when the 7-footer Irfan limped off the field after bowling just three overs against UAE. It will be nothing less than a shocker if he doesn’t get fit in time for the match against South Africa. Pakistan desperately needs Irfan to challenge South Africa’s top order batsmen and without him I’m afraid Pakistan doesn’t have enough bowling power.
If Irfan gets unfit, Pakistan could contemplate including Yasir Shah in the playing XI because attacking South Africa with spinners is much better choice than the fast bowlers. We have already seen South Africans being curtailed by Indian spinners.
South Africa have come back in whirlwind fashion after their loss against India. They have bulldozed their opponents in the last two matches by racking over 400 runs. Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers and David Miller all are in form of their lives. The huge gulf between them and the other teams is their attacking approach. They even take boundaries off deliveries which other batsmen might only play out for a dot ball. The only way to counter them is to keep bowling them consistently at a good line and length and force them to err.
The brutal power hitting of South African batsmen have raised the bar so much that it’s for sure tough for any opposition. Pakistan simply needs to be more innovative and try out something new to surprise AB de Villiers. Pakistan are underdogs and they have nothing to lose. There’s no harm in tinkling with the playing XI with some positive thinking. At least I wouldn’t mind if we go out with some “Super” approach on Super Saturday against South Africa. Courtesy ICC