This embarrassing show of batting from the Pakistani team is nothing new but, unfortunately, just like our beloved Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), our cricket team has not shown any inclination in identifying the issues and trying to overcome them either. Playing the blame game does not, in anyway, constitute as identifying an issue; regrettably, this is something our ‘team’ fails to understand.
I remember the time when our team’s aggressive intent and confidence used to be the key to our victories. Sadly, gone are the days when we saw our bowlers taking the game to the batsmen and intimidating them or when Shoaib Akhtar’s glare would throw off the batsman from his game. Now, our players lack the confidence and the belief in their abilities. Now they’ve become timid when it comes to expressing their skills on the pitch. Maybe it’s because back then we had a different generation, a different breed of players, or maybe because now our team just doesn’t believe in themselves anymore. And this lack of confidence has started to show in their performance.
Many might lambast me for my absurd observation and argue that a team’s performance cannot depend on a mere glare. Well, I agree, but at the same time, you can’t always get a batsman out with stereotypical tactics. When things are not going as expected, and who would know better about expectations than us, then one has to use different tactics and has to be confident about his playing abilities and place in the team. After all, the belief that ‘I can do it’ is what makes the difference and takes one a long way.
Even a talented player like Ravindra Jadeja achieved success in the gentleman’s game because of his confidence and playing ability. When I see Indian openers chase 350 in an ODI, I see the reason being their self-belief and confidence. But when our team chases a score of a mere 200 runs, our openers enter the arena like convicted murderers with nervousness and anxiety radiating from their faces.
I remember the time when Shahid Afridi wasn’t known as ‘boom boom Afridi’ and every time he would get on the pitch, I would feel a chilling wave creep down my spine, fearing for worst. But that wave has been missing for years now, maybe because I have become used to it since every batsman in our team now is as precarious as Afridi used to be. For example, I certainly did not expect this kind of attitude from the likes of Aizaz Cheema or Junaid Khan, both of whom were evolving as deadly bowlers but have lost their ability to stand out.
There is a cricket myth which says that sub-continental batsmen play spinners better than others. If this is true, then Pakistan is clearly not a part of the subcontinent because ever since I have been following cricket, except for the likes of Mohammad Yousuf, Inzamamul Haq and Younus Khan, all Pakistani batsmen have been vulnerable even against mediocre spinners.
During the Test series in against Sri Lanka, we were bamboozled by Rangana Herath and lost the match by 50 runs. And who can forget our famous Sydney Test defeat of 2010 where Aussie Nathan Hauritz humiliated us and eliminated Yousuf with his caught-and-bowled effort. Neither could we hold our fort during the West Indies Test series of May 2011 in Guyana when Devendra Bishoo sent us running home after a loss of 40 runs. Amit Mishra was too hot for us to handle during the recent T20 World Cup and Monty Panesar created mayhem during the 2012 Test match held in UAE.
So, do we still deserve to call our batsmen better players of spin than AB de Villiers, Jacques Kallis and Michael Clarke?
I think the answer to that is pretty evident.
What our players need to understand is that there is no point in improving your technique if you are always going to be terrorised by the thought of losing a wicket or are too afraid to play a shot; this being one of the reasons I abhor how Azhar Ali plays. We need players who are willing to take risks and understand that you lose some and you win some but at least you gave it your all and went in with confidence beaming. It is because of this very frame of mind that one gets bored when watching our team playing Test matches.
This mind-set also needs to be followed by cricket fans who are ready to bash and criticise our team every time we lose but cannot stop boasting when we win. Our team needs our support regardless of the result of the match – that is when they can be confident on the pitch and not be afraid to take risks.