India playing like champions; Pakistan disappointing: Zaheer Abbas
Former Pakistan captain Zaheer Abbas has heaped praises on the Indian team for their impressive performances in the ongoing Cricket World Cup. The 67-year-old said that the Men in Blue have looked a rejuvenated side and been very impressive in all three departments of the game.
"The performance of the Indian team has been superb. As you know, the opening batsmen have scored more than 300 runs and the batting never collapsed. So far they are playing like champions. They were brilliant against South Africa. Fielding was outstanding, surprisingly better than the Proteas. Bowlers bowled according to the field. It looks like a charged team," Abbas said, in an interview to Cricketnext.
In stark contrast, neighbours Pakistan have performed poorly until now, losing to India and the West Indies by comprehensive margins in their opening two games. As a result, Abbas urged head coach Waqar Younis to bring in new players at the end of the quadrennial event.
"Waqar should get a new crop of players after the World Cup and build a new team. Boys will listen to him. It has been a norm in the recent past where players have scored a half-century and have literally booked their places for the next two matches.
“The coach should put his foot down and be a bit more tough with the guys. The message should be loud and clear that when you play a loose shot and get out after scoring 50, the player should be penalised, by dropping him for the next match,” he said.
Ajmal’s withdrawal right call: Abbas
Abbas also questioned the rationale for Mohammad Hafeez’s withdrawal from the tournament, considering that the matches were widely spread out, but agreed with Saeed Ajmal’s decision to rule himself out of the mega event.
"I was shocked, to say the least, when I heard that Hafeez will miss the World Cup due to a calf muscle injury. He could have easily stayed back in Australia for two weeks and played the match against West Indies, given the fact that there is so much gap in between matches," the former right-hander said.
"PCB had already decided not to send Ajmal to the World Cup. You need to be 100 per cent sure before sending a player who was recently banned for his bowling action. So it was the right decision," he added.
He explained that the top order’s failure to provide robust starts has been behind Pakistan’s struggles, as it has increased the pressure on the middle and lower order. He also criticised the team management for constantly tinkering with Younis Khan’s batting position in the line-up.
“Somebody has to stay in the middle to take the innings forward. The problem is not with his position in the batting order but more with the Pakistan top order who are not getting runs, putting too much pressure on the middle order. Top order needs to fire.
"First they asked him to open the batting that didn't work out and then went back to the tried and tested formula of pushing him to No. 3. Younis didn't come good in the warm-up games but before that he was in good nick; that's precisely the reason why he was picked by the selectors for the World Cup,” Abbas said.
Akhtar’s scathing remarks unwarranted: Abbas
He also reacted to the scathing comments made by former speedster Shoaib Akhtar on the team’s successive losses in the competition, adding that while the results have been frustrating, it wasn't right for an ex-cricketer to criticise his former teammates in such a harsh manner.
"Yes, we all have been disappointed with the Pakistan team but to talk like that about players with whom you have shared the same dressing room is harsh and not good," he said.
He concluded by picking Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and India as the probable semi-finalists of the World Cup.