Pakistan’s triumph in the Asia Cup, which came after a lapse of 12 years, was followed by jubilation from fans and followers across the country with everyone giving their 10 cents as they showered praise on the team.
Former players hailed the performance and nerves of the Misbahul Haq-led team, which bounced back from the limited-overs defeats against England, to beat Bangladesh by two runs in the final.
However, many advised the officials not to ride on triumphant waves and instead focus on bringing about the required improvements in the team.
While Pakistan clinched the tournament – their second Asia title after Moin Khan led the team to success in the 2000 edition — a few weaknesses were also exposed during the course of the event.
Only three players –Mohammad Hafeez (245), Nasir Jamshed (193) and Umar Akmal (156) – managed an aggregate of over 100 runs in four matches on batsman-friendly pitches and conditions.
While Umar Gul was the highest wicket-taker of the tournament with nine scalps, the team’s fast-bowling department also struggled with India recording their highest successful run-chase of 330 to beat Pakistan – the team’s sole loss in the event.
Former chief selector Salahuddin Ahmed congratulated the team on the win but said a lot of hard work still needs to be done. “The win is laudable,” the former Test cricketer told The Express Tribune. “Restricting a high-flying Bangladesh outfit after managing a modest total was a good achievement.
“It was a team effort and Sarfraz Ahmed’s knock was crucial.”
However, Salahuddin felt that Pakistan still have a lot to improve. “The management will have to work hard.
“There’s a need to bring in young blood especially in the batting department. Players like Asad Shafiq, Awais Zia and Hammad Azam should be utilised more.
“Although foreign leagues are not a criterion, the selectors should also take a look at players like Ahmed Shehzad and Imran Nazir who did well in the Bangladesh Premier League.” He added that young pacers like Junaid Khan needed to play more to overcome the fast-bowling issues, while the coaching panel was also called upon to work on bringing discipline.
Batter’ strike rate slow: Mudassir
Meanwhile, another former Test cricketer Mudassir Nazar felt Pakistan batsmen were still playing at a slower pace, especially towards the end of the innings.
“The batsmen are playing at a slow pace,” said Nazar. “We could have scored around 350 against India but fell short. There’s improvement required in this aspect. Our fielding has also been a big issue and it can only be fixed if work’s done from the grass-root level.”
His talent of bowling full and straight at the death means that Pakistan have a potent weapon in the final overs. While he emerged as the tournament’s leading wicket-taker, Gul had a rather forgetful outing against India and also had an economy on the higher side in the event. His 25-ball 39, however, enabled Pakistan set a competitive target against Bangladesh as he continues to add crucial runs in the lower-order.
A variety of deliveries and an ability to outfox even the best of players gave the off-spinner a return of eight wickets at 20 runs and an economy most bowlers envied in the tournament. His delivery to dismiss a well-set Sachin Tendulkar raised Pakistan’s hopes in the game against India but lack of support led to the team’s defeat against their archrivals. Ajmal remains the bowler most sides are scared of.
In what was a relatively quiet tournament for him, the flamboyant all-rounder was named man of the final after hitting a crucial and brisk 32 and grabbing a wicket in an economical spell of bowling that increased the pressure on Bangladesh. An aggregate of just three wickets and just 41 runs in four matches, however, did not mean that Afridi had the best of times in Bangladesh.
The left-hander replaced Imran Farhat at the top of the order and could not have hoped to make a better statement as he scored 193 runs at an impressive strike-rate of 96.. Added to this were his superb opening stands with Hafeez in the first match against the hosts and against India that set the platform and also seemed to have ended opening-pair woes for Pakistan in One-Day Internationals.
The all-rounder opened the Asia Cup on a high, bagging the man-of-the-match award against Bangladesh. Involved in bright starts with Nasir Jamshed, Hafeez recovered from a poor England series to finish as Pakistan’s highest run-scorer and also grabbed three wickets with smart spin bowling.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 24th, 2012.