Pakistan vs Australia: Bring on the big guns

Pakistan must amplify their bowling strength against Australia and in the upcoming quarter and semi-finals.

Danish Kaneria March 19, 2011

Pakistan will face a formidable opponent today – an opponent who have not lost a World Cup match since the 1999 edition. That statistic says a lot about Australia, and exogenously implies a mammoth task ahead of Pakistan.

If Pakistan are to make their mark in this World Cup they must understand that the performances are not generated by waiting for the players to hit form. Performances are generated by utilising your current resources optimally – knowing when to pick who and letting go of players when the time arises. Unfortunately for Pakistan supporters and the team itself, and fortunately for Ahmed Shehzad, the team management has been surprisingly – and painfully so – lenient towards the opening batsman.

In his first match at the World Cup against Kenya, Shehzad scored one run. This was followed by more disappointments – a 13 against Sri Lanka, 12 against Canada, 10 against New Zealand and eight against Zimbabwe. He has not crossed the 15-mark run yet, not to forget that he was playing most of his matches against associate nations. These statistics are a testament to the fact that the management has not been on its toes while making selection decisions.

Shehzad should have been dropped from the team way earlier. Mohammad Hafeez – not in prime form himself – should open the innings with Kamran Akmal. They should be followed by young Asad Shafiq who has done more than enough to deserve a place at one-down against Australia. Players should be judged on their performances in the matches before been given a green light for the next matches. I am as confused as the rest of the nation with Shehzad’s continuous selection despite abysmal performances. He might be promising and filled to the brim with talent but that does little to help win tournaments if it’s not backed up by clinical performances.

Now focussing on the bowling, Pakistan must amplify their strength against Australia and in the upcoming quarter and semi-finals. Shahid Afridi is undoubtedly right when he says that opening with a spinner might not be the most effective option in all matches and this decision heavily depends upon the ground and pitch conditions.

So Pakistan must spearhead their attack with Shoaib Akhtar and Abdur Razzaq. Questions of opening the bowling with Umar Gul immediately pop up and rightly so because he is an exceptional asset. But his heroics with the old ball trump those of Razzaq’s so he should be saved for the death overs to bemuse the opponents with the conundrums of reverse swing.

Abdur Rehman must be asked to sit this one out in place of Saeed Ajmal. Rehman is a stock bowler whose main job is to contain runs while Ajmal’s variety poses the perfect threat of falling wickets for the other side.

At this point in the tournament we are not looking for a conservative and containing approach. We should be using our bowling strengths to be as attacking and aggressive as possible.

Published in The Express Tribune.

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Danish Kaneria The writer is Pakistan’s highest wicket-taking spinner in Test cricket.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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