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Luck favours the brave

And Pakistan was anything but brave in the first ODI against England … if they thought that one win against Ireland would boost the team’s morale, then the crushing defeat against England by 44 runs (through D/L method) will bring them back on Earth.

So why did Pakistan lose to England in one day game after beating them in Tests, the superior form of Cricket. Simple; they didn’t play upto their potential and acted as if they were the better team even when they were down and out. The captain Azhar Ali’s insecurity is to blame for the loss as first he took 84 balls to score a fifty and later tried to be stupidly innovative with his field placing and bowling changes.

Pakistan Cricket team and its management must realize that Cricket has evolved into a modern sport; anything below 275 is chaseable these days due to improved batting techniques, rules favouring the batsmen and above all, use of 2 new balls from both ends being some of the factors. Add the number of dot balls you play and it becomes a crime. The Greenshirts wasted 134 deliveries that went without being scored on, whereas managed 45 and 61 runs in first and last 10 overs. Are they serious in improving their ODI ranking or do they still believe that their bowlers can defend any score above 200?

Let’s talk about the selection – not selecting Yasir Shah was a blunder and retaining Mohammad Hafeez was even a bigger blunder. No person of sane mind would have picked up Hafeez in his current form but in Pakistan, if you have scored a century in 10 years, you are an automatic selection. Shoaib Malik also showed why he is still not treated as a threat by bowlers because he added to the team’s vows rather than doing something constructive. And then there was Umar Gul who was selected for his performance in England – five years back.

Wow … isn’t that an innovative selection? Why not select Mudassar Nazar who once won a match for Pakistan in England and was dubbed as the Man with the Golden Arm! I bet he can still bowl better than Umar Gul 30 years after that incident because with Umar Gul, no one including the bowler is sure what he will bowl next.

The two youngsters Mohammad Nawaz and Imad Wasim are no doubt prospects for the future but to send them to bat together or bowl in tandem is something not even a rookie would attempt. Every person who has played Cricket knows that a senior-junior combo on the pitch is the best thing for both the players but in Pakistan, you have to play for your place in the side rather than for the team.

Wouldn’t it have been better had Wahab Riaz been sent to bat with Mohammad Nawaz so that while one could rotate the strike, the other would smash the ball out of the park. Same is the case with the bowling; why was Imad Wasim replaced after bowling the first over and then recalled to bowl when a similar styled Nawaz was operating from the other end. Had there been a faster bowler at the other end, the result might have been different but do we have an express bowler who can bowl yorkers? No. Players drop catches deliberately on the bowling of the best bowler we have – Mohammad Aamir – which is both disgraceful and shameful.

The most positive thing from last night’s match was the success of Babar Azam and the failure of Mohammad Hafeez. Babar Azam has proved his worth time and again and it’s the right time to make him a regular member of the side in place of Mohammad Hafeez. Not only can he catch the ball, he can play a big innings that can change the course of the match.

Sami Aslam should make it to the team as an opener with Azhar Ali dropping to number 3 or 4 and Sharjeel Khan as the opening batsman, with no place for Hafeez. That’s the only way Pakistan can improve their ODI raking ahead of the Champions’ Trophy; otherwise they will have to play the qualifiers ahead of the event and that might not result in victory because while other teams are playing Cricket of the new millennium, we are still stuck in the 90s.