Pakistan vs Zimbabwe: Understanding the power of the single
Promoting Kamran Akmal to open the innings with Hafeez might be an experiment worth testing against Zimbabwe.
Before coming on to more pressing matters, I must clarify that the Pakistan team happened to stumble across early success in the World Cup and let’s not misplace this accidental fortune as a pre-planned rhythm that the team has built on carefully in the tournament.
Ergo, for commentators and critics alike, making crucial changes in the middle of the tournament will not break this so called rhythm - it might just lay the foundation for a successful strategy which we are still lacking.
After the dismal performance against New Zealand, changes in the side are not just crucial, they are inevitable. Firstly let’s focus on our openers.
They continue to disappoint with virtually no reprieve. It is time for the team management to tell players that they are disposable if they don’t perform.
Mohammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shehzad have refused to take on the responsibility that the team has endowed them with. Nonetheless, Hafeez shows relatively more promise. It seems that promoting Kamran Akmal to open the innings with Hafeez might be an experiment worth testing against Zimbabwe.
Kamran might open well but he certainly hasn’t had any magic with the wicket-keeping gloves.
He has never been an outstanding wicket-keeper and his inclusion as the World Cup squad’s expert wicket-keeper was a dubious choice to begin with. If the team is now trying out their luck with Umar, the younger Akmal, in the training sessions, then I do not blame or judge them - desperate times call for desperate measures.
Structurally speaking, there seems to be something inherently lacking in the Pakistan batting line-up. And one must not fool ourselves by saying the batting did not click because Misbahul Haq and Younus Khan failed. Our batting does not work because our batsmen do not understand the power of singles in a One-Day International (ODI). A batsman who cannot rotate the strike in an ODI will have to find an alternate career.
Take the example of India’s openers: they succeed in piling large totals because they understand the importance of the placement of the ball for singles.
Optimally, the first 20 overs should reap at least 90 runs without the loss of any wicket. That is not asking for much: steal quick singles throughout most of the over and the bowler - either out of frustration or simply as a mistake - will throw you a loose delivery which can be punished. Openers and middle-order batsmen alike should not try to force grandeur boundaries because it will end up costing them their wicket.
A slow and stable early innings will diminish pressure significantly for the middle and lower-order batsmen who can come in the last 10 overs and smash away.
Catches and singles will win you matches. They will ultimately be the difference between losing out in the quarter-finals and clinching a place in the last-four. Pakistan need to understand that and work at it during intense training. Knowing where you lack is the first step to recovery.
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