Pakistan can stand tall against Australia without Muhammad Irfan
The tall and towering Muhammad Irfan is out of the World Cup, due to a stress fracture in the pelvis. But there is no time for remorse.
The Pakistan team is in the quarter-finals of the World Cup, after they changed their fortunes and came back from a very dismal start to end the group matches on a high note with an easy win against Ireland.
But now there, is no room for error and no time to cry over spilt milk.
Muhammad Irfan was supposed to be the spearhead of our bowling attack against Australia but so were Saeed Ajmal, Muhammad Hafeez and Umar Gul when Pakistan came into the World Cup. Despite losing their frontline spinners, Pakistan made a statement against South Africa by restricting them from chasing the target. The message sent to the world was: we are back to our strength – fast bowling.
For the past few years, Pakistan had been relying too much on Ajmal, Hafeez and Shahid Afridi to rescue the cause for them and fast bowlers like Junaid Khan, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Tanvir and Irfan were there as supplements.
Pakistan, in this World Cup, when pushed back due to the unavailability of Ajmal and Hafeez, was able to revive an attack comprising of fast bowlers which the men in green were always known for.
Rahat Ali, who was called in for the injured Junaid Khan, has been a perfect addition to the pace attack that Pakistan is famous to garner. The quality of his bowling was being measured over his appearances in the ODIs for Pakistan but the left-arm pacer has proven his worth with exceptional bowling performance in the four matches he has played, bagging seven wickets in total.
Wahab Riaz, another left-arm pacer, has hit his prime form at the right moment for Pakistan and the trigger was the fifty he scored against Zimbabwe when Pakistan seemed to fall for less than 200 runs. He has 14 wickets to his name in the tournament so far, just two behind the highest wicket-taker Aussie Mitchell Starc. Both bowlers will be looking to add a few more scalps in their quota in the March 20 quarter-final.
Meanwhile, Sohail Khan has not disappointed with his right-arm yorkers simultaneously swinging the ball both ways. A five-for in his very first World Cup match against India made his presence felt on the field. He has found the block hole quite a lot and will be ready to grab a few important wickets against Australia too.
However, the problem caused by Irfan’s injury is the selection of the fourth bowler. Ehsan Adil was given a chance against Ireland and he was able to give Pakistan the first breakthrough but as far as the Adelaide pitch is concerned, it is supposed to be batsmen’s heaven. Ehsan would be a good choice for the opening overs but if the Australians see-off the new ball, he will be their main target due to the lack of pace in his deliveries.
Conversely, Yasir Shah is being tipped for the clash against the Kangaroos. If he manages to make his way into the side, he can cause problems for the Aussie batsmen as he did in the Test series in UAE when Pakistan whitewashed Australia 2-0.
He was given an opportunity against Indians, who play spin better than many, to prove his mettle but he was not able to account for any batsman. Said to be a surprise package in the World Cup, Yasir’s services would be required against Australia if Pakistan is to bamboozle Aussie plans on the Adelaide pitch, which is nearly as good for spinners as the ones in UAE.
On a concluding note, Pakistani batsmen have put up a very mediocre show in the 2015 World Cup and only a few have been able to inspire the team. Sarfraz Ahmed is one such example. His heroics against South Africa and Ireland are not alien to anyone. But if there is any possibility that Pakistan will beat Australia, it will be because of their bowling strength.
Muhammad Irfan is out but we have Rahat, Wahab and Sohail hitting the deck with pace and bounce. Misbahul Haq has a full-strength bowling attack despite Irfan’s injury. Remember, we came in the event to play with only three bowlers. Pakistan captain needs to up the ante this time with Irfan out.
Ehsan or Yasir?
Misbah has to lay down a plan and then choose wisely who will be more effective against the mighty Aussies.