So, the much anticipated and eagerly awaited clash is over. I resisted myself from writing anything right away as the emotions were still running wild and there was a hint of anger and frustration that was bound to effect my immediate reaction.
This was indeed the MOTHER of all matches. And NO, it’s no where near Celtic vs Rangers or Manchester United vs. Liverpool. It’s beyond such comparison and the only way to understand the importance of this rivalry is to spend a lifetime in either of the two countries.
Anyways this match just proved what I have always believed in:
1- In a pressure match (and nothing comes near to a Pak-India clash in a knock-out stage) always bat first, put the runs on the board and let the other team cope with that pressure.
2- Pakistan is way behind in building a team of batsmen capable of chasing targets regularly.
Now I won’t be going into a match report as we all know what happened next and all of you must already be sick of reading those things. In-fact I will just highlight few points that I want to share and would love to get the opinion on it from the readers.
The player who impressed most was Wahab Riaz. He has all the elements of becoming the leading fast bowler. He is confident, he is aggressive, he is capable of reverse-swing and importantly he is a handy bat too and can become the next all-rounder in Michel Johnson mould. For me, Wahab was extremely unfortunate for missing out on the man-of-the-match award and the next few lines explain why.
The best part of the semi-final was the fascinating battle between Sachin and Ajmal. Now, first let me make it clear that for me Sachin has become THE batsman in the world and it will take one Herculean effort to even match his achievements let alone beating it. Even Bradman with those abnormal averages would have found it difficult to match the achievement this little master has got. I think the time has come that we should stop using Bradman as a benchmark and start using Sachin. Having said all that, this recent innings was one of the worst I have seen from him and all the credit goes to Ajmal. He completely bamboozled the master batsman who had no clue which way the ball is going to turn. And that’s where I also believe Afridi missed a trick by not having a continuous slip in for Ajmal. Regarding THAT lbw review I still think and will continue to stick with my view that something was seriously wrong with the hawk-eye as it looked absolutely spot-on to naked eye. Maybe even the technology fails against GOD, God of Cricket that is, before I am labelled infidel by the weak-hearted and feeble-minded.
It has been a long time since Pakistan found a talented and stable batting prospect but this tournament revealed one in the form of Asad Shafiq. I think he is the future of Pakistan team and for me he fills that one-down slot quite efficiently. That is at least one problem solved for Pakistan’s batting that has been the Achilles heel for quite a long time.
Last but not the least; we should not forget the handy contributions by Mohammad Hafeez with those faster sliders and quick-ish offspins. His spell in the last two matches was really brilliant and even if he has some weak points in his batting (what on earth he was thinking playing that paddle scoop from outside off-stump), he still is a useful all-rounder who can bring those vital breakthroughs and provide breathing space for struggling bowlers.
Although Pakistan progressed to the semi-finals against all odds and proved quite a fair number of cricket experts wrong (Ian ‘Biased’ Chapel for starters), there are still some valuable lessons learnt in this tournament that need to be addressed.
One of the biggest problems that Pakistan faces is the fielding that was horribly horrendous in the last match. 6 dropped catches, 4 of which of a single batsman who happened to be Sachin. You don’t deserve to win world-cup with that sort of fielding performance.
We also have a keeper who finds it extremely difficult to catch the flu, let alone some dollies he is offered. I believe we should play Kamran as a specialist opener and bring in a better keeper in the team. We also leaked some vital runs by not attacking the ball and giving out two’s where we should have restricted them to singles and that is more down to the age rather than something else. The other teams have worked out the weak links in our team and all of them incidentally are on the wrong side of 30’s.
The turning point during Pakistan’s chase in the semi-final started off with absolutely nonsense approach by two senior-most batsmen, Younis and Misbah. Both of them thought they were playing to save the follow-on. It was one, correction, two of the most ill-planned and mindless innings I have ever witnessed. And then they messed up the power-play to add the icing on a perfectly spoiled cake. I also believe that this was the perfect stage to surprise the opponents with a pinch-hitter. I bet India wouldn’t have planned for that and either Razzaq or Afridi would have been more than a handful early in the innings with a harder ball and field restrictions in place.
So, moving on from what have been a promising tournament with a bit of a disappointing ending, Pakistan now needs to build for the future. Not many of the current team members will be around for the next world-cup so it’s logical that we get rid of the dead-wood now and build a team for the next episode. This will involve kicking out likes of Younis Khan, Razzaq and Misbah-ul-Haq. It is time to blood in the youth and let them play together for couple of years to gel together and form a team full of energy and exuberance. It is time to invest in Mr. Crickets and not UNCLE Crickets. Also we need much more attacking approach with these youngsters and even in the semi-final the result could have been different if we had an aggressive approach by having a slip in place when Ajmal was bamboozling the batsmen.
Afridi needs praise for the single fact that he not only got the team to play as one unit but also had the whole nation unite as well. A feat that the most recent Raymond Davis saga could not achieve.
I would like to finish this mammoth blog by highlighting one basic point; Sports have NO link whatsoever with religion. Its only to do with the effort the players put on the pitch and how effectively they plan for it. They wont be helped by prayers to hold on to the catches unless they themselves want to hold on to them.