Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Way Forward.

All the rumors of sacking Misbah as a captain are laid to rest after Pakistan's victory in the Asia Cup. The fear of Pakistan going downhill after the ODI series lost against England is no more there.  Pakistan cricket has been stable ever since the disastrous tour of England ended. For once the cricket season ended  on a high with not much to worry about.

But what's next for Pakistan. There are still many questions that have not been answered yet. Who will be the next captain for Pakistan. Which new ball bowlers will have a future in the team. For how long can we persist with spinners as our main weapon. Who is the right choice as a wicket keeper in different formats, and more importantly what is the right balance for the team to go forward.

Unfortunately Pakistan don't play much Cricket this year. A tour to Sri Lanka in June with 3 Test, 5 ODI, and 2 T20's. Followed with the ICC World T20 competition in September and the last official series for the year against Australia in October which includes only shorter format games.

There is no doubt Misbah ul Haq has been the influential figure behind Pakistan's stable performance uptill now. He is fit and performing well, but for sure he won't be able to lead Pakistan in the next World Cup as he will be 38 in may. Pakistan have no vice captain in their team as the board wanted to avoid any infighting among the players. They need to groom a captain for the future and the only choice that looks obvious are Shoaib Malik and Muhammad Hafeez. This has to be a careful decision to make though.

Pakistan's fast bowling attack looks as week as it ever has. For a country that has produced great fast bowlers over the years, this is not a good sign to see. Our problem is not that we don't have the fast bowling resources, but its that we don't use our resources at the right time.  Take the example of Aizaz Cheema, who got the chance at the age of 32. How long can he serve Pakistan, perhaps for a couple more years. Just one bad tour and we won't see him again. We should have utilized him at his prime which we didn't.

Thats exactly what we are doing with our current crop of fast bowlers. Muhammad Talha, Rahat Ali and Junaid Khan are our future but we aren't given them the opportunities to express themselves at the highest level. We can afford one wayward, pacer who can come in and bowl quick. Keeping in mind the fact that next World Cup is in Australia and spinners won't be as big a threat.

Spinners have served Pakistan well over the past year and half and will be a key factor this year as we play most of our cricket in Asia. Without a shadow of doubt Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi, Abdur Rehman and Muhammad Hafeez are world class spinners and will be a key factor in the T20 World Cup later  this year.

The only problem Pakistan don't have a solution is the Wicket Keeping slot. There isn't a world class wicket keeper in the first class circuit and the only choice Pakistan have is between Kamran Akmal and Sarfraz Ahmed in the shorter formats, Adnan Akmal can easily hold his place firm in the Test Arena due to his adept glove work. Bringing Kamran Akmal back will not be a bad choice, who is the better batsman among all the wicket keepers, but needs to work a lot on his glove work.

One problem that has not been that visible over the past year or so has been the balance of the team. Pakistan mostly play a batsman or a bowler short. That's mainly because of the absence of a quality all rounder. Hammad Azam is another example of a player who hasn't been given much chance to prove himself, Shoaib Malik failed after multiple tries and Abdul Razzaq hasn't been completely fit. One genuine all rounder in the team will help share the load on both the batsmen and bowlers and bring more variety in the team.

Best time for Pakistan to assess the captaincy and change of attack will be earlier next year when they travel to Zimbabwe and South Africa for a complete series. South Africa is a fast bowers paradise and Pakistan will have to pick the best possible fast bowlers for that tour who can lead them to the next World Cup. This also will be the decisive series for Misbah ul Haq and perhaps the right time for him to step down and give a couple years to the next captain.

With a sensible coach and captain Pakistan are no more a team who explode, they are a stable unit, players not fearing for their places in the team and know their roles. The way forward is simple, just a few tweaks here and there and we can achieve a lot in the near future.

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