‘India would have had a better chance to make the final had they met New Zealand in the semis’

Pakistan did as well as was expected of them. The media in Pakistan seem to want a bit more from this team and were possibly expecting a miracle. However, if one was to look at the composition of the team, it was clear that the team was bereft of senior bowlers. With that handicap, it was difficult to compete with the top teams of the world including South Africa and Australia. Given all these issues, they did really well although quite frankly, they were destined to reach the quarter-final due to the tournament format and presence of associate teams in the group. If they had then, somehow, beaten Australia then that would have been nothing short of an upset.

As they say, hope is eternal. One would have hoped that a miracle could have happened in that game in the shape of a gem of an innings by Misbah-ul-Haq, or Ahmed Shehzad might have played above and beyond what was expected of him or Younis Khan would have somehow played an important role despite his loss of form. Let’s be honest, there aren’t any match-winners in the Pakistan team.

So, once again, when you look at the Pakistan team and search for someone who will play an exceptional innings, you tend to look at Misbah who seems to take his time to get going. In a way the state of Pakistan batting meant that Misbah did have the luxury of time to entrench himself and play a long innings with acceleration at the end. In this game against Australia, I thought he was playing very aggressively in trying to come out of his shell and collecting runs very early on. His captaincy was very good and he did come out fighting when the chips were down for Pakistan. In terms of bowling, Wahab Riaz bowled a fantastic spell but he did not have the support of our gentle giant in the shape of Mohammad Irfan. There just wasn’t enough penetration in the attack and Shane Watson and others were able to ride the storm and overcome a modest target set by Pakistan.

One can harp about Wahab’s bowling, but overall our bowling was pretty good. What was encouraging to see was them playing five bowlers at a time when all seemed lost in the tournament. Of course, the bowlers we had to play with what was forced on us by injuries. Regardless, it was good to see us playing with specialists. Contrast that with South Africa against New Zealand where they suffered heavily when their main bowler got hammered and they had to turn to their part time bowling options which isn’t ideal. Suddenly the floodgates opened up and the game got away from them. However, as I said, it was encouraging to see that Pakistan played with five bowlers. This is similar to the time when Imran Khan was captain and where I was the sixth bowler. Often I would end up bowling my 10 over quota before the main bowlers could finish their allocation. But then we had the likes of Wasim Akram who could bat a bit and Imran Khan who was an accomplished all-rounder, which is a luxury which Pakistan does not have today.

I don’t see the need for so much fuss about the next captain of Pakistan when we have important issues at hand that need resolution. For instance, why not talk about the lack of bench strength or the fact that newer players are not coming through? The problem in Pakistan is that when we lose, we tend to look for an easy solution like replacing a captain when we should be looking a little deeper into these problems. How are the academies doing? Why aren’t they producing the next Inzamam-ul-Haq, Wasim Akram or Waqar Younis? The academies need to do more for Pakistan cricket. We keep on wondering why the team is not good enough but don’t ask about the underlying reasons for this malaise. Yes, we have to choose a new captain for the One-Day International (ODI) side, but really what we should be spending our energies on is thinking about the composition of the team and looking to fill all the gaps.

I believe the India-Australia was a fair result. One has to say that India looked in terrific form. Their bowlers bowled sharp and were ably lead by MS Dhoni, who looked like a completely different kind of a leader. Unfortunately for them, they came up against Australia and lost. I do feel that had they met New Zealand in the semi-finals, they would have had a better chance of moving to the final. Australia, had an advantage over India in the fact that India are yet to win a single game against them in the four months leading to the World Cup. One could say that the law of averages could have come into play against Australia, but their batting depth is incredible. In the semi-final, with Brad Haddin struggling in the final two overs, Mitchell Johnson came in and smacked the bowlers left, right and centre. That gave an impetus to the Australian team which they took with them on a high note into the Indian innings. The Indians seemed to start well but the fact is that with a huge total to chase, the loss of one or two wickets puts you back to square one. Also, Johnson took two important wickets of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli which hit the Indians very hard.

Who will win the 2015 World Cup? It’s a very tough call. Both Australia and New Zealand are in great form and have equipped and prepared really well for this tournament. New Zealand have a fantastic captain in Brendon McCullum. He leads by example and the team believes in him. In contrast, Australia has a captain who is not in the best of form and there are better ODI players than him in the country. However, Australia have the firepower and, more importantly, they will be playing in front of their home crowd at Melbourne. Unlike the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) where there were many more Indians in the crowd, there should be a very big home support; the Kiwi supporters will be outnumbered there. So who will win on March 29? Well, any one of these teams can win on the day, so no clear favourites here. The rivalry between the two nations is comparable to that between India and Pakistan and when these two teams go at each other, it’s a different ball game altogether.

As told to Amir Hussain, Senior Editor at PakPassion.


(Mudassar Nazar is a former Pakistan batsman and Head Coach at the ICC Cricket Academy)