Mistakes will not go unpunished now
After the crucial game against Australia, Pakistan enter the knock-out stages. They enter a territory where mistakes will not go unpunished.
It will be naïve on part of the Pakistan players and team management to hope for their opponents to make mistakes so Pakistan can taste victory – a theme predominant in our World Cup campaign this time. Pakistan had Zimbabwe, Canada and Kenya in their Group A to experiment with. However, it will not be unfair to suggest that the team management did little to make use of these opportunities.
I say this because before a team heads into the quarter-finals of any mega event, they should have tried and tested all their possible combinations to make an informed decision about their future strategy.
Pakistan have fared poorly in this regard. A young talented bowler has been sidelined time and again. The management, captain and coach refused to give Junaid Khan a chance in any of their matches. My concern remains, if you have not given a chance to a player, how are you in a position to judge his performance? And now it might be too late to try to experiment against gigantic oppositions like Australia.
Junaid is an asset and a resource the team management failed to tap. Pakistan will miss not giving him a chance to gauge what he could have brought to the table in the later stages of this tournament. Besides being unable to tap your own resources successfully, the management has also disappointed on other levels. Their promises before heading into the World Cup do not sound so promising anymore.
By this time the team should have had a clear cut idea as to who will open the batting and who will go one down. They should have been crystal clear on their opening bowling attack, yet they continue to look clueless as every match comes forth.
The opening pair is performing abysmally. Yet Ahmed Shehzad continues to see the light every other day. Kamran Akmal should be tried with Mohammad Hafeez to open the innings with Asad Shafiq coming one-down. Younus Khan, Misbahul Haq and Umar Akmal prove to be a reliable middle order to back them up.
On the bowling sphere Pakistan will have to be very tactful. While Umar Gul is reputed to be a nemesis in the death overs, he also impressed spearheading the attack in the last match. But if he is to open the bowling with Shoaib Akhtar, Abdur Razzaq’s role in the team comes under question. Razzaq does not have the same ability with the old ball. The coach needs to keep these factors in mind before facing a formidable opponent on Saturday.
The real game begins now. This is the time when the team shows whether they will survive or bite the dust.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 17th, 2011.