KARACHI: A sense of déjà vu prevails as Pakistan finds itself in exactly the same situation at the World Twenty20, as June 2009.
Needing to win four matches on the trot to lift the 2009 World Twenty20 following a miserable tournament courtesy dropped catches and poor fielding, Pakistan face New Zealand today in a must-win situation for both sides. England’s first win of the tournament, and Pakistan’s second consecutive defeat, has the defending champions fighting for survival, knowing fully well that a repeat of the dismal show against England will be curtains for their title-defence.
Stats favour Pakistan
While the head-to-head certainly favours Pakistan, having won all four Twenty20 internationals played between the two sides, the defending champions are missing their star performer from the rout of New Zealand at The Oval last year. On that day, the Kiwis were bundled out for 99 with Umar Gul taking a world-record five for six in his three overs.
Worrying sight for Pakistan
Today, Pakistan has no Gul and no worthy replacements. Mohammad Sami, who started the tournament well, was hammered by the Australians. Mohammad Asif, who was surprisingly overlooked for the first two matches, looked out of sorts and was duly thrashed as well. With Abdul Razzaq, who made his international comeback in the corresponding fixture last year, faring no better against England, lack of support for Mohammad Aamer poses a huge worry.
New Zealand’s new hero
While the Kiwis have had troubles at the top of the order with Brendon McCullum, the recalled Jessie Ryder has proved his worth as his partner with knocks of 42 and 33. However, the younger McCullum, Nathan, has stolen his older brother’s limelight with consecutive man-of-the-match awards in New Zealand’s opening two matches. A timely maximum off the penultimate ball in the tournament- opener sealed the result in favour of New Zealand against last year’s finalists and regular breakthroughs while opening the bowling ensured the Kiwis’ progress.
The missing captain
While much hype and promise followed Shahid Afridi’s appointment as Pakistan Twenty20 captain, the man himself has been quiet ever since the team’s arrival in the West Indies. Bar a quickfire 33 in a losing cause against Australia, Afridi only has a slight tan to show for his efforts in the West Indies. A single wicket in three matches is not what Afridi would have hoped for in his first tournament as captain. Nor was his suicidal dismissal against England. Needless to say, Afridi, like the team itself, needs to play video tapes from their triumphant journey through England.
Styris substitutes for Bond
Shane Bond missed last year’s tournament due to his involvement with the now-defunct Indian Cricket League. His inclusion in this year’s tournament, at the back of fiery spells against all oppositions carried the Kiwis’ hopes. However, two wickets from four matches, the fast-bowler is already behind medium pacer Scott Styris whose handy cameos with the bat have proved useful.
With five wickets opening the bowling for New Zealand and knocks of 16* and 26*, Nathan McCullum has moulded into a handy allrounder in the tournament. Daniel Vettori, the side’s premier spinner, has only picked up two wickets thus making Nathan’s feat all the more remarkable.
The captaincy, it seems, has gotten to Shahid Afridi. Eager to lead his side from the front, Afridi has not just adapted bizarre tactics on the field but has been unable to cope with the demands of performing as a captain. A hurricane 33 is the highlight of his tournament which has brought him a solitary wicket so far.