The road to the quarter-finals will only get bumpier for the West Indies and Pakistan after whosoever loses the Pool B match in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 on Saturday. An ill-planned Pakistan went down against archrival India, and alarm bells began ringing loud and clear – in what is fast turning out to be a “Group of Death” – when Ireland chased down over 300 runs against the West Indies. Ireland’s remarkable victory has once again proved that sides below the Test playing nations are quickly learning the 50-over format and are no more minnows.
The pressure is now on the “Big 4” in Pool B and one more upset from either Zimbabwe or Ireland could open wide the four quarter-final places from this group. South Africa and India are the two teams which surely look well set for a place in the knockout stage after winning their opening group matches. They will be meeting on Sunday and the winner might give the indicator as to which one of them could go all the way and top Pool B.
I can’t remember a weaker Pakistan side playing in any of the past ICC Cricket World Cups than the one at this tournament. It’s not because other teams have got stronger, but because Pakistan has ignored more deserving players like Shoaib Malik, Azhar Ali and Zulfiqar Babar. There seems to be a lack of planning from the Pakistan think-tank for such a mega event.
It’s not a bilateral five-match ODI series in which the team can experiment in one or two matches. The side needs to pick specialists for specific spots. I sincerely hope that the team management has learnt its lesson and will not falter on Saturday against a wounded West Indies.
Nasir Jamshed should have been in the initial squad as a reserve opening batsman and now that he joined the squad as a replacement, he sat out instead of opening with Ahmed Shehzad. I would be the last person not to have Younis Khan in the playing eleven. Who doesn’t go through a lean batting form, but using Younis as an opening batsman is an injustice to such a talented batsman.
The top four batting spots are specialists’ slots and those who are in form should raise their hands for it. If Younis has to be slotted in the playing XI, then he should come down the order when the ball gets a bit old. Pakistan might persist with Umar Akmal in dual roles of wicketkeeper/batsman against the West Indies.
But the sooner they bring back Sarfraz Ahmed the better, as it would give confidence to their specialist wicketkeeper, who can also bat aggressively down the order. Despite losing against Ireland, West Indies showed they have plenty of depth in their batting with century-maker Lendl Simmons and Darren Sammy scoring at a brisk pace down the order. I don’t see the white ball bothering batsmen much in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 and it will be better for Pakistan if it doesn’t have a third spinner as excessive baggage in the playing XI against the West Indies.
Pakistan doesn’t have much confidence in their batsmen and barring captain Misbah-ul-Haq, the rest are still struggling to get used to the conditions in Australia and New Zealand. It leaves them with no other option but to persist with Haris Sohail’s left-arm spin along with Shahid Afridi and leave out Yasir Shah. Even without Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard, the West Indies have Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels as two very experienced top-order batsmen.
It was no less than a surprise to see Gayle consume over five dozen deliveries and scoring 36 runs against Ireland! He is not accustomed to such batting. He needs to bat in his aggressive style at the top of the order and if the gamble pays off, the West Indies have plenty of batsmen to swell the total.
West Indies have named a young Jason Holder as captain which I am afraid is another bad move. You go with an experienced player as your captain in big tournaments instead of throwing a youngster into the deep end. Holder could be captaincy material, but he has to first prove himself in bilateral series and get some captaincy experience.
Holder also missed the trick and used too many bowlers to unsettle Ireland — eight bowlers to be exact — and none of them bowled the full quota of 10 overs. This again shows lack of experience on part of Holder. The Christchurch wicket might suit West Indies fast bowlers as it will be a day game. Pakistan needs to field the right combination to have any chance against them.
No more experiments please!
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