ODI Ranking Failure: ‘Aggression’, a missing chapter in Pakistan cricket
By Tahir Abbas
Sitting in second place in the ICC test rankings, Pakistan finds itself in danger of playing the qualifying round for the 2019 World Cup given its eighth ranking in the ODI tables.
The present day limited over cricket does not comply much with the defensive approach that Pakistan sports as the white ball screams for an aggressive mindset. Today’s vastly prevailing attacking attitude was ignited years ago by Kaluwitharana and Jayasuria who rocked the grounds with their power hitting that eventually helped them clinch the World Cup title in 1996. With that unprecedented demonstration, cricket began to take a new shape as sailing sixes and racing fours became an integral part of the first 15 overs. The emergence of Shahid Khan Afridi in 1996 laid foundations for a new era of power hitting when he scored the fastest ODI ton in 37 balls – a record that stood for almost 18 years before AB secured it with his own stamp in WC2015.
Pakistan’s self-protective approach in today’s exuberant era however provides a very gloomy picture for the country’s fans. The twitchy approach has already seen the green team falling to the 8th rank, and if not elevated, can very much find itself playing the forthcoming world cup’s qualifier round. The latter is particularly a sour pill to digest for Pakistan followers who have seen their team lift an ODI and a T20 World title in the past. Pakistan must raise itself six levels up in order to avoid playing the qualification round. The country already recently avoided a horrible eviction from the next year’s champion’s trophy by narrowly overcoming a weak Zimbabwean and struggling Srilankan side.
The ‘transition phase’ has become another joke for Pakistan cricket off late. After every World Cup exit, PCB announces a new transition phase with the injection of new blood in the form of fresh players. The fruits of all those labors however are yet to be seen. Misbah’s captaincy reign from 2011 did provide a sense of calmness in the green team, sadly though it did appear to come at the cost of belligerence. Pakistan’s highest total in the last world cup was mere 238 despite the batting friendly rules by ICC which included three power plays and only four fielders outside the circle in last 10 over’s, etc.
After Misbah’s retirement from limited over’s cricket immediately after the World Cup, PCB’s search for a new marshal ended up with astonishing selection of Azhar Ali, a man who was not even considered in the 16 man squad for the game’s most prestigious tournament.
It has been almost 8 months since Azhar’s appointment as a captain and the test-player’s tag is yet to shine in his new limited over’s role. Slow starts, aggression-less approach, strange team selection and suicidal batting order changes have eventually dropped the team to an endangered zone. The logic less inclusions of Bilal Asif, Mukhtar Ahmad and Iftikhar Ahmad on the basis of very few good performances in domestic circuit did not help Pakistan either whereas the injuries of Haris Sohail and Imad Wasim dented the team further down.
It is said time and again that there is no shortage of talent in the country. It’s about time the PCB should start augmenting its bench strength and urges the team management to shape up the teams combination without much experimentation. Azhar Ali also needs to revise his laid back approach and try to shore up his leadership skills with a killer instinct. His development as an attacking leader can reintroduce a chapter into Pakistan cricket that was quite sorely missing over the past few years.