Comment: Saved by a whisker, Pakistan still on knife-edge (Dawn (Pakistan))

IMAGINE this: Umar Akmal behind the stumps botching up a regulation chance offered by A.B. de Villiers before South Africa obliterate our bowlers to send a deflated Pakistan crashing out of the World Cup.
That imagination might as well come true when our dilutelooking team face the Proteas in a crucial Pool ‘B’ fixture later this week considering the way MisbahulHaq and company sneaked through against Zimbabwe on Sunday.
Sunday’s victory saw the greenshirts finally earn their first two points but apart from some spirited bowling by Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz who were tenaciously and bravely defending a mediocre 235, the 20run escape in the end didn’t have any trace of conviction. Even the bowlers after reducing Zimbabwe to 1688 looked clueless against Elton Chigumbura and No 10 Tinashe Panyangara who in their 47run stand almost put Pakistan back on the brink. Thankfully, however, our pacers exploited the extra bounce at the Gabba superbly.
Batting and fielding, if not brushed up quickly, will sink Pakistan Down Under.
Our batting anguish is connected with the selection of playing XI. Opening has been our ageold crisis. If openers fall early it mostly becomes a catchup game for the rest.
If anyone doesn’t know what an embarrassing cricket gaffe is, look at Nasir Jamshed these days. The lefthanded opener looks alien to batting and carries a ‘thick layer of butter’ to his fingers.
All major teams have wellset, robust opening pairs giving cushion to their middle and lateorder, whereas we have faltering Nasir and a lookingforform Ahmed Shehzad.
Will the touring team management bother to explain the reason for playing the completely outofsorts Nasir whose fitness as well as ground fielding have become a laughing stock these days, and keeping promising wicketkeeper/batsman Sarfraz Ahmed (selected as makeshift opener) on the bench?
Pakistan have no room to relax with pool games left against the UAE, South Africa and Ireland. Will our team management still stick with Nasir after his two horrible outings? Will a player who flopped against the West Indies and Zimbabwe bowlers be able to tackle the likes of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander?
To put it straight, if Misbah and Waqar Younis keep their trust rather blind trust in Nasir for the UAE game and he wilts again, and all of a sudden they bring in Sarfraz for the demanding Proteas encounter, how could the team management expect the young gloveman to show his talents in one game?
Umar’s forgettable glovework in the World Cup so far makes Sarfraz’s ouster from the playing XI even more outrageous. Umar let his team and millions of Pakistan supporters down by dropping sitters against India, West Indies and Zimbabwe.
Sarfraz is a specialist wicketkeeper while Umar is primarily a batsman. Secondly, Sarfraz for the last several months had been in fine touch with the bat. And thirdly, if Umar misses a chance behind the stumps the onus will be on the entire team management (as they finalise the team) which can negatively affect the morale of the playing eleven. On the other hand, if Sarfraz fails to grab an opportunity only he will face the blame.
Pakistan’s fielding too has been shambolic at the World Cup and when it’s not their day, our players seem like a schoolboys’ team and their fieldwork needs massive improvement if Misbah and his men are to have any chance of progressing to the quarterfinals.
The batting, meanwhile, certainly requires some energy. Losing early wickets does not mean premeditated slow batting as Misbah or his batting colleagues do, particularly in crucial games giving a wrong message to the opposition. Wellcalculated counterattack remains the best option. An outofthebox reshuffle in the batting order also does wonders at times.
An ambience devoid of merit and energy not only hampers a team’s onfield progress but also results in freefall of the squad’s morale. Perhaps the Pakistan team management has not realised this fully. They have blundered, and blundered badly, or may I say stubbornly at least in team selection. While still on the knifeedge, one can hope against hope that Pakistan would review their team selection and strategy in the games ahead.