Last year was one of the best cricketing years in the history of Pakistan cricket. Even though there were no outstanding individual performances or earth-shattering results, Pakistan won more games than they lost in all formats of the game, and even ended the year with the best win:loss ratio in ODIs among all teams.
They won more games than any other team in ODIs and even reached the semi-finals of the World Cup; dominating over most teams along the way.
The turn of the new year, however, has not been the same, which makes it obligatory to ask- what went wrong?
In the ODIs played in 2012, Pakistan lost 0-4 to England, won the Asia Cup while dropping a game to India, and in the current series against Sri Lanka, are trailing 1-2.
Not the kind of results you would expect from a team that was the best ODI outfit last year. Having said that, can we really judge the team?
After the loss against Sri Lanka last night, the fans’ reactions were outrageous. Some called Pakistan the worst ODI team, some blamed it on Misbah, some called for Afridi to be dropped, while the chants for axeing Younis Khan grew ten-fold. Sound familiar?
But are these critics fair?
The way Pakistan collapsed last night does deserve some criticism. But then, it is not every day that you lose 4 wickets in an over or 5 wickets for 3 runs or your last 8 batsmen for 33 runs.
It was a sensational collapse and not one that Pakistan experiences often. It is the type of collapse that we generally inflict on other teams. We have rarely collapsed in such a horrendous way. Pakistan have botched a number of chases in the past, but not by losing wickets the way they did yesterday.
So I really think that it was a one-off incident.
Sure, the team is not a strong ODI outfit, even though the same team notched up win after win in ODIs last year and also won the Asia Cup just a few months ago. Sure, the team requires some changes, but I don’t think they warrant the negative reactions they’ve had to face.
Mohammad Hafeez has a century and an 89 in his last 8 ODI innings. Azhar Ali is growing as an opener, with every game. Asad Shafiq shows promise with starts and with time will learn to convert them. Misbah is taking responsibility and batting well. Umar Akmal is going through a bad patch and Afridi cannot be criticized for his batting. The bowlers have been doing well for a long time. You can’t call for the axing of any of these players.
Younis Khan has had a prolonged bad patch and I think he needs to be replaced in the ODI squad. Pakistan also need to find a good wicket keeper who can bat; and going back to Kamran Akmal is not the answer. There must be someone out there. Just a few changes along these lines can bring back the balance in the team and may even turn Pakistan’s fortunes around.
But an overhaul, or a change in captaincy, or dropping Hafeez and Afridi, or sacking Umar Akmal are not answers to a team that has, more often than not done well, in the recent past.
We are the Asian Champions after all, and we should be allowed one bad evening like yesterday’s.
Published with permission from Well Pitched - a cricket blog.