"At least show some passion, pride and commitment" : Azhar Mahmood
by Azhar Mahmood
DateLine: 5th February 2015
Our thanks to www.PakPassion.net as exclusive source for the following article:
In his latest blog for PakPassion.net, Pakistani all-rounder Azhar Mahmood writes about Pakistan's disappointing start to their World Cup preparations, team selection, the lack of intensity and their realistic chances of achieving success in the tournament down under.
The World Cup Squad
There's one major problem with the squad that the selectors chose for the World Cup and that is the lack of an all-rounder and that upsets the balance of the team. Without a genuine all-rounder, your tail is either too long or your bowling line-up suffers if you opt for the extra batsman. Pakistan's problem of a lack of a genuine all-rounder is compounded by our bowlers not being very good with the bat in their hands.
The squad has been picked and there is no point in me sitting here and trying to justify why a certain player was picked and why another was not. The squad is there, it's been chosen, now it's down to the players who have been picked to perform.
Team Selection, particularly the omission of Wahab Riaz
The balance of the squad as I've mentioned earlier isn't right, but then the starting eleven picked in the two One Day Internationals against New Zealand was also surprising. I'm not quite sure what the game plan or the tactics were, based on the selection of the team for the two defeats against New Zealand. You have an experienced bowler like Wahab Riaz sitting on the bench and not playing. He should have been playing against New Zealand to get him ready for the World Cup. Instead now we have a situation where he has had no game time in New Zealand ahead of a huge match against India.
Mohammad Irfan and Ehsan Adil's fitness concerns
Watching Mohammad Irfan bowling in the second of the one day internationals against New Zealand concerned me. He seemed to be below his normal pace and at times was struggling to hit 130kph. I'm not sure if he's carrying an injury or was just taking it easy but something was definitely amiss.
It's a tough ask of Ehsan Adil to take him to such a high profile tournament with very little international cricket behind him. He's a young bowler with a bright future but experience is vital at the World Cup and I don't understand why experienced bowlers are being left out to accommodate Ehsan. I don't like criticising fellow professionals, but Ehsan's fitness levels do not look that great and his body language leaves a lot to be desired.
Lack of aggression
Over the years I've played against and with some of the most aggressive fast bowlers ever. Yet when I watched the two recent matches against New Zealand what I saw from our pace bowlers was alarming. They are being hit for boundaries and yet they just stroll back to their mark and serve up more of the same for the batsmen. Are our bowlers in New Zealand just there to be hit around? Because that's what it seemed like. Come on, you're playing for Pakistan, you're representing millions of people, at least show some passion, pride, commitment. Show some fight and heart, and look the batsman in the eye!
I'm shocked that Yasir Shah wasn't played against New Zealand as I think he could be Pakistan's trump card at the World Cup. I disagree with those who say that Pakistan cannot play two leg-spinners in the same team, I think it could work. We are heading towards the end of the cricket season in Australia and New Zealand and the wickets are tired and the ball will spin so that's why I suggest Pakistan include Yasir Shah. If he goes for some runs then he will also get you some wickets and taking wickets in limited overs cricket despite all of its changes, remains a way of stemming the flow of runs.
Haris Sohail had a good last series with the ball in the UAE but conditions are totally different in New Zealand and Australia and he's very inexperienced. You cannot depend on him as a fifth bowler as he has hardly bowled and he is just starting his international career. So just to lengthen your batting line-up you are playing him as a fifth bowler which is a flawed idea and a risky one. Over the years our bowling has won us so many games and here we are playing only four front-line bowlers!
Four defeats in New Zealand obviously means that morale in the camp will be low as they head to Australia. However the match against India presents Pakistan with the ideal opportunity to boost their morale. Defeat India in the opening match and the four defeats in New Zealand and whatever happens in the warm-up matches is forgotten.
However things are not going to turn around on their own, the players need to lift their game and show more pride and commitment.
Lack of intensity
There appears to be a lack of intensity in the field and also in the running between the wickets which is alarming. Our batsmen are taking two runs when three are on offer and our batsmen need to get busy, look for the singles instead of just blocking the ball and looking for the boundary. The approach seems to be block, block, block, big shot and then block. The lack of singles is confusing as this is a basic skill in batting at any level. I feel that our boys need some almonds given to them to improve their alertness.
The responsibility for improving the levels of intensity and the body language lies with everyone out there in New Zealand and that's the players themselves, the coaching staff and the captain, everyone has to ensure that this improved. You are due to play a huge tournament in a matter of days yet look at the body language. An example of this was Bilawal Bhatti who was being hit to all parts yet nobody was going up to him to advise him or offer some support to him or to build up his confidence a little. That's extremely worrying to see.
He's played so many matches for Pakistan yet time and again he's making the same mistakes. Look at his dismissal in the second match against New Zealand. You've hit a four, you are facing a bowler who is bowling close to 150 kph and yet you try to hit him for four again by playing a wild slog. You are new to the crease, if you want to attack a bowler, go for Elliott. This is a lack of basic skills and a lack of cricketing awareness.
If you keep taking singles that creates pressure on a bowler, you don't need to play wild shots at the start of your innings. Play yourself in, then go for the big shots if needed later. Umar should look at Steve Smith who has improved beyond recognition since he started in international cricket. Umar has talent in abundance but he needs to utilise that talent, make the most if it and reassess his batting.
But I think given his form Umar should be dropped in favour of Sohaib Maqsood for the two World Cup warm-up matches and at least Pakistan's group matches.
Lack of a leader amongst the pace bowlers
Unfortunately given the lack of experience amongst the selected pace bowlers for the World Cup, there is the issue of a lack of a leader. The sort of bowler who is the pack leader amongst the pace bowlers is missing. Over the years Pakistan's pace bowling department has always had that focal point, the leader, but this group of bowlers is missing that vital ingredient.
I know he's not been in good form of late but I think he can perform at the World Cup. He just needs to click and in the last two matches the shots he hit when he was out could have gone for four if they had been a few yards either side of the fielder. He just needs a bit of luck and his batting will click and I think he will come good at the World Cup. However it's not just Younis who isn't performing with the bat, the youngsters aren't making the volume of runs either.
He provides so much balance to the side and if he passes the forthcoming test on his bowling action, then that will be a huge boost for Pakistan and it gives them a two-in-one player as he can bowl ten overs economically and pick up some wickets too. There isn't a replacement for Hafeez and that is a huge problem for Pakistan who I feel are banking heavily on him passing his test.
The onus is on Waqar now to lift the team. He can lift the team and it's important that he does as he was always a fighter as a player and had a never-say-die attitude. Also there is Mushtaq Ahmed who of course is a World Cup winner and his role is important too. As well as Mushtaq and Waqar it's vital that the senior players get the best out of the younger players and ensure that happens quick.
Pakistan's chances at the 2015 World Cup
The body language of the Pakistan team doesn't fulfil me with much hope for the World Cup. As a Pakistani and as a former Pakistan player I want them to win the World Cup, but I don't think there is much chance of that actually happening, unless there is a major turnaround in the form of some players and changes are made to the approach and the starting eleven.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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