Sunday, December 6, 2009

All's not well that ends well

Pakistan have made an astounding comeback to level the series, after a series of inspiring performances coupled with the string of disappointing ones. But before anyone starts celebrating that everything's perfect since Pakistan won, they better think again.

Firstly, the captain Mohammed Yousuf proved his inability to assert himself as captain yet again with the undue changes. No less than three changes were made, only one of which paid off to an extent. Yousuf took the easy route - dropping the fresh blood. When the case was perfectly ready for Imran Farhat or Shoaib Malik to face the axe, luck ran out for the poor Khurram Manzoor and Fawad Alam. Imran Farhat's technique has been so badly exposed over all these years, no less in the first test either. Yet he continues to stick around, just because his father-in-law is a selector. Khurram Manzooor, although not technically perfect, is still better. Then there's Shoaib Malik. A tendency to take things casually is deep-rooted in his blood. That was extremely evident from the mode of his dismissals in the first test. Yet he managed to stick around as Yousuf decided to take the safe path and avoid criticism by dropping the so-called 'experienced' players. This is what happened before the match started. The quality that was so synonymous of Younis Khan's days - promoting young talent - disappeared in no time. Should the trend continue, we might not see another Mohammed Aamer-like talent in the near future.

Pakistan's fielding did not improve a great deal from the first testLet's now look at what happened during the match. If the fielding was the cause of Pakistan's narrow 32-run defeat in the first test as Yousuf puts it, you would think it was an altogether different side that managed to clinch a 141-run victory. Not really. No less than eight catches were dropped, most of which were easier than what came Pakistan's way in the first test. So that really proves the point I made in the previous post - that Pakistan's fielding has always been inconsistent, it is the exploits in batting and bowling that enable these victories. And Wellington proved that again. It will be interesting to see which department Mohammed Yousuf attributes this win to.

Talking more about the match, the batting failed yet again. Apart from the individual brilliance of Yousuf and Umar Akmal, the batting performance was still shoddy. Shoaib Malik's incessant throwing-away-wickets continued. Even Umar Akmal threw away his wicket, but you can excuse him and not Shoaib Malik on two counts. Umar is young and inexperienced - playing his second test at 19 - and will learn with time. Malik is 27 and playing his 28th test so the 'learning phase' for him is well over. Second, Umar still made 46 and 52 despite looking uncomfortable in the conditions, specially in the first innings when he was sent in at three. He threw away his wicket twice, but still scored his runs before doing so. Malik on the other hand didn't even reach double figures in either innings. Therefore, it is beyond comprehension why Shoaib Malik is being persisted with ahead of young talent like Fawad Alam. Fawad might also struggle and throw away his wicket, but atleast his young age should help him learn quickly and become a better play than Malik is at 27! By the way, Malik, for the record, dropped two dolly catches in two balls simply because his mind was somewhere else!

Moving on to the dramatic comeback into the team by Misbah ul Haq. After a string of repeated failures for more than a year, Misbah was shown the door, only to return as Younis Khan stayed away. Misbah's inclusion in the playing XI was very much expected, and his below-par performance even more unsurprising. Laziness seems to be the only suitable word to describe him. His laziness in the first innings saw Pakistan lose their way in the first innings as he started running out of partners. And in the second innings, that very feature led to his dismissal. Late, extremely late rather, in trying to glide the ball down towards third man, Misbah clipped one to the keeper. What is shocking is Misbah's faith in successfully nudging the ball in that area in the presence of three slips! Again, makes a strong case for letting youngsters in and make such mistakes rather than letting the repeated failures to do so.

Mohammed Asif was on song, picking up 9 wicketsIf so much went wrong, how did Pakistan eventually win? Bowling. And what an amazing bowling display it was. Mohammed Asif seems to have reincarnated himself from the drugs controversies that have plagued his career. Mohammed Aamer is another relentless performer. The duo have made a mockery out of New Zealand openers, so much so that even Pakistan's openers would win on comparison! Umar Gul proved once again why he is not a spent force in test cricket. Despite his brilliance in T20s and ODIs, Umar Gul had to prove at the highest level of test cricket that he hasn't lost the hunger. And the delivery that Ross Taylor shouldered only to see his stumps uprooted was a pure example of a bowler's dream delivery. And finally Danish Kaneria. It has been a long time that Kaneria bowled a reasonably impressive spell. It was freshening to see him do so instead of spraying the ball around. Brought ahead of Ajmal who bowled flatter in the first test, Kaneria showed Kiwis' vulnerability to quality wrist spin.

So with the series level at one apiece, it should be all to play for in the final test. Given Pakistan's unpredictability, you could be treated to one hell of a match or might witness an abject surrender. Although the skipper believes in all's well that end's well, which would mean a largely unchanged side for the final test, it should be noted that Shoaib Malik, Imran Farhat and Misbah ul Haq do not credit a place in the starting XI at the moment. A call to include Fawad Alam or Khurram Manzoor remains a far shot though - at least this much is predictable about Pakistan cricket (when they have won a match)!

1 comment:

  1. I agree. Shoaib Malik is a douchebag of the highest order. He needs to be dropped. Bring in Alam in his place, and replace Imran Farhat with Khurram Manzoor.