Misbah © AFP
Misbah-ul-Haq (above) does not seem like the type of captain who can lead from the front like Imran Khan © AFP

By Mohammad Zahid

Pakistan’s batting problems

The fact is that the current crop of batsmen that Pakistan are producing are too complacent. Our great batsmen of yesteryear were consistent and when they were at the crease you knew that their intention was to win the match for Pakistan and see the team home. Sadly these days many of our young batsmen are more worried about making a half century and cementing their place for the next few matches instead of looking to make a big hundred not out and leading Pakistan to victory. The quality just isn’t there! It pains me to watch Pakistan batting these days and the One-Day International (ODI) series against Australia was frankly nothing short of embarrassing at times.

I keep hearing excuses that this is a young team, these boys are inexperienced. I’m sorry but those same excuses are becoming tiresome to listen to. There are batsmen in our limited-overs teams who have been around for many years, yet time and again make the same mistakes. It’s almost come to a point now where I’m surprised when Pakistan’s batting doesn’t collapse.

One of the biggest problems is that the Pakistani batsmen of today don’t know how to pace an innings, it’s either an all-out attack or too many dot balls; there is no middle ground. They seem to have lost the art of playing the ball with soft hands and rotating the strike. Instead we see a wild shot after several dot balls and that more often than not ends in a dismissal.

The mindset and a lack of a finisher

With Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf at the crease there was a sense of calm; you knew that usually one of them would see the team home when chasing. However, of the current lot of batsmen never mind a finisher, they don’t even have starters. The mindset of the Pakistani batsmen at the moment is one of fear and a total lack of confidence. One or two wickets and the team just collapses. The batsmen have lost the art of knowing how to build an innings and that is a huge concern. On a flat deck, a nice seventy or eighty and then you flop in the next three or four innings — what’s the point of that? As an international batsman it’s not that difficult to pick up four or five singles an over, but unfortunately our batsmen seem to be incapable of even managing that.

ICC World Cup 2015

It pains me to say this but I’m not very hopeful of Pakistan’s chances in New Zealand and Australia. Our bowling resources aren’t what they used to be and our batsmen if faced with a target of 220 or more will struggle on those wickets. I look at the all-round strength of teams like South Africa, Australia and India and our team looks way behind those teams in terms of talent and competition for places. It’s going to take a lot of luck and a super effort from the players to do what Pakistan did in 1992.

Leading from the front

In 1992 Imran Khan literally grabbed that group of players by the scruff of the neck and turned them around. He led from the front, he went and batted at number three to guide the team. Do I see Misbah-ul-Haq doing the same? No I do not. I don’t think Misbah has that personality to drive his team forward at the World Cup. I’d like to see Misbah lead from the front by batting at number three during the World Cup and showing his team mates how it should be done. I don’t want him hiding at number five or coming in at number four. He should come in at four and guide the team and his batting unit.

Saeed Ajmal’s ban

I’ve played against Saeed many times and I’m surprised that suddenly the authorities have decided that his bowling action is illegal. Saeed has been around for many years, where were the authorities when he was playing for so long! It seems to me to be a case of the powers that be now wanting to stamp their authority and penalising some of the modern day bowlers when these same bowlers would not have been penalised if they played in a previous generation. I mean is Saeed Ajmal’s bowling action worse than Murali’s? Of course it isn’t and that’s what makes this whole situation so ridiculous. However if Saeed does come back I don’t think he’ll be the same bowler, he won’t be as effective. If you’ve been bowling with the same action for twenty or more years, then to suddenly have to change it and still be the same bowler is virtually impossible.

Pace bowlers injuries

I am of course no stranger when it comes to injuries and I worry about the likes of Junaid Khan who seems to be picking up a lot of injuries of late. I would urge Junaid to improve his preparation ahead of matches and also to look at his nutrition and to take the fitness work more seriously. The opportunity to play for your country doesn’t come back once it has gone. Those days never return and the onus is on you to make sure you are fit and ready for every match.

Mitchell Johnson

I love watching him bowl. As a former fast bowler there’s something very enjoyable about seeing a pace bowler making the batsmen jump around at the crease. He’s improved beyond recognition and that’s down to his own hard work, self belief and efforts. As a fast bowler you can smell fear and I hope that odour isn’t present when Pakistan are batting against Johnson.

Fast bowling is all about aggression and getting in the minds of the batsmen. At times as a fast bowler you can have a bad match yet five or six good deliveries in the entire match is enough to make the difference between a win and a loss. Johnson is aggressive and he’ll be looking to get under the skin of the Pakistani batsmen, something that the Pakistani boys need to be wary of.

However the wickets in the UAE will test Johnson, He’ll have his work cut out to get some response from the surfaces and that could be Pakistan’s saving grace.

Pakistan versus Australia Test series

On paper Australia have to be favourites but I feel that Pakistan’s spinners can hurt Australia. If you compare the spinners on both teams I feel Pakistan’s options are better, but Pakistan’s spinners need their batting colleagues to put the runs on the board and that is my concern.

(Mohammad Zahid, a former fast bowler, took four for 64 and seven for 66 on his Test debut against New Zealand in 1996. But he went on to play just four more Tests. He also played 11 ODIs. The above article is reproduced with permission from PakPassion.net)