Monday, Sep 26, 2022

'Choose Your Moment'

'It is not to suggest Inzy (Inzamam) should not have a strategy in place. But it is dangerous if you go into a game with pre-conceived ideas.'


I have often wondered if Pakistan has enough batsmen who can bat whole day long and a regular score of 500 is possible? Or bowlers who would not spoil two good balls with two full-tosses and long-hops. Is there enough quality at the top? Is there an all-rounder who is willing to make number seven all his own? What about the balance in bowling? There are questions, far too many questions.

Sadly, in search for these answers, we are barking up the wrong tree. Too often we quote that team is young and inexperienced. It drives me mad. Test cricket is not a classroom where you get admission to learn. Learning must end at the domestic level. Once you are representing your country, you are believed to be ready. You are deemed good enough to pull your weight. By the way, who are the youngsters we are talking about? Yasir Hameed has been around for two years. So is Taufeeq Umar. Abdul Razzaq and Shahid Afridi are not greenhorns. And Mohammad Sami? Or Arshad Khan? What about Shoaib Malik and Salman Butt? But for Mohammad Khalil everyone has been around for at least two good years.

Under the new regime of Inzamam-ul Haq and Bob Woolmer, five or six series have been played. I am not sure if there has emerged a single pattern which could indicate the team has pursued a line of action passionately. Either individuals have not been assigned their roles, or they have not fulfilled it. Most of the time you do not see individuals buckling themselves down towards the team goal.

Whenever a team fails, a captain is hauled over the coals. But a captain is as good as his team. He is run by his players. During my time, West Indies had players who had the talent and understanding of their roles. Clive Lloyd earned a reputation because of them. Inzamam-ul Haq is not the reason if the team has only won two and lost six Tests from the eight matches it has contested since 2004. Everyone has to carry his own burden.

It is not to suggest Inzy should not have a strategy in place. But it is dangerous if you go into a game with pre-conceived ideas. I-will-only-attack or I-will-only-defend is not the way it works in Test cricket. Sure, if the first ball of a Test needs to be dispatched among the spectators, go and do it. But then do not lull yourself into believing that you could deal similarly with the next ball. Choosing your moment is important.

In recent times, we have heard the murmurs in media that Shoaib Akhtar was not used well by Inzamam. Of course, every individual has his own limitations. But when you are playing for your country, you have to do everything. You have to see the team's point of view.

That's what the present team would do well to remember in India. We all know they can make attractive 50s and 60s. But what the team needs from them is big hundreds and long hours at the crease.

I sincerely believe this Pakistan team is very talented. But the players must understand their roles.

Yousuf Youhana at number five bats too low. He is a bit reluctant to bat at number three but that is his spot. Flexibility is the key at this number. A batsman should be able to attack or defend as per the situation. Youhana has the class to set the tenor of the innings.

Danish Kaneria, on the eve of the first Test, has a pre-tour hype of a Shane Warne. He is being hailed on promise and not on reputation. That is dangerous. Media needs prima donnas and if need be, invent them. But when your own team starts feeding the belief, it is time to think. At best, it is a ploy. At worst, it is an admission the team is short on match-winners.

I am interested to see how Kaneria and Arshad Khan shape up on this tour. Kaneria has height, commands a good line and length, can spin a long way and is accurate. Arshad has the advantage of height and experience and I rate him highly. As for the pacers, I will keenly follow how they work in combinations, whether they are able to string together good, "pressure" deliveries or if they can produce one devastating spell which our pacers have always produced -- Umar Gul did so splendidly in the last contest between the two teams in Pakistan.

Above all, this team needs to remember that there could be enough distractions on this tour. As a professional, these cricketers must know their limits.

Sure, they must relax and everyone has a different way of going about it. But they must remember if their cricket is not good, even a small incident will be blown out of proportion by the hyper-active media.

They can leave diplomacy and public relations for the politicians. As men in white on a cricket field, their job is to win.



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