When a captain retires, he leaves behind a fleet of players who could serve the team. Unfortunately, minus Misbah, Pakistan has a barren-looking middle-order. Nobody is sure at which number he

will get a chance in future

If a team's batting lineup crumbles on a batting paradise, please don't expect bowlers to bail you out in big matches like an ICC Cricket World Cup quarter final. I wasn't expecting a miracle once Pakistan was bowled out, or rather I should say, caught out by Australia for 213 on the friendliest batting wicket in Australia.

It was painful to watch the irresponsible attitude of the Pakistan batsmen and Australia accepted all 10 catches that came their way. After playing so many years of international cricket, Pakistan batsmen still don't understand the meaning of “rotating the strike” and to be honest, it simply hurts a lot. Our batsmen play so many dot balls that in sheer frustration they go for airy fairy shots and good fielding units like Australia doesn't miss out on its catching chances.

The shot selection is bound to be poor if a batsman continues to block, block and block. In cricket, it's sheer recklessness. Full marks to Michael Clarke for reading the defensive mindset of the Pakistan batsmen and strategically placing his fielders at right places.

Misbah-ul-Haq, Haris Sohail, Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi and Sohaib Maqsood all fell to rash strokes and the blame squarely lies on them rather than the brilliance of the bowlers. Clarke choked the singles with utmost perfection and Pakistan simply fell into that trap.

Misbah, who rightly batted first after winning the toss, and Haris had neutralised the early loss of both openers by taking the score to 97-2 in 23 overs. But when Pakistan's procession of wickets starts, it generally finds it difficult to stop it.

Clarke cleverly rotated his bowling resources and, although Glenn Maxwell went for a few runs, the off-spinner got two prized scalps of Misbah and Umar, both caught identically at the mid-wicket fence.

It was not for the first time in this ICC Cricket World Cup that Pakistan batsmen have stuttered. It was the third time in the last five matches. Against Zimbabwe Pakistan was bowled out for 230-odd runs, while against South Africa the score was more or less the same, thanks to the Duckworth/Lewis method. In both these matches, it was the fast bowlers who took the side home.

The only consolation for Pakistan was a magnificent spell of fast bowling by Wahab Riaz who bowled one of the most lethal spells of left-arm fast bowling I have seen for a long time in international cricket.

The way Wahab tested Shane Watson with a barrage of short-pitched deliveries, it reminded me the fiery days of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar. Who knows what the result could have been had Rahat Ali caught Watson and Sohail Khan didn't drop Maxwell? But then Pakistan came to the tournament with a bad fielding reputation and it justified this by dropping around 15 catches in seven matches. One catch could change the result and Pakistan dropped more than two per match! It's too many!

Wahab was lethal and, more importantly, accurate. The way he made Shane hop and jump not only made the match look fascinating but also exposed Australia’s vulnerability against short and express fast bowling. Due to the surfaces they play their cricket on, the first natural movement of the Australia batsmen is front foot, but when a 150kph delivery is targeted around the head area, there is little time to recover and this is exactly what Wahab exposed last night.

In the coming days, a lot will be written and said about this contest between Wahab and Shane, but I hope people don’t forget the way Wahab accounted for Clarke, one of the finest batsmen against genuine fast bowling. It was not only aggressive bowling but intelligent captaincy. I am sure India will have seen this with interest and would have learnt from Wahab. I will be keen to see it pounce on this as it is definitely a better side than Pakistan.

Hats off to the Pakistan fast bowlers, who brought the team this far in the tournament. Only against the UAE, the batsmen were able to take the side past the 300-run mark. Victories against teams like the United Arab Emirates, Ireland and Zimbabwe were expected but they didn’t come easy either. But look at the losses – India, West Indies and Australia – three powerhouses of cricket.

The only silver lining in an otherwise below par ICC Cricket World Cup for Pakistan was the hostile bowling of Wahab and the emergence of Sarfraz Ahmed as opening batsman. Adam Gilchrist used to open in one-day internationals for Australia and I can't see any reason why Sarfraz cannot be groomed on similar lines. When a team has a wicketkeeper-batsman, it gives it a leverage of adding a regular bowler and field a more aggressive playing XI.

Sohail Khan, Rahat Ali and Ehsan Adil did their level best within their limitations, but when batsmen consistently put on low totals, how could one blame these three fast bowlers for not doing enough.

I also feel sorry for Shahid Afridi playing in his last World Cup. In a sharp contrast to Wahab's tally of 16 wickets, Afridi could bag only two wickets in seven games! Afridi will himself be very disappointed as he could score only 116 runs. But, to be realistic, Afridi seemed to have lost bite in his bowling and those fastish leg-spinners, which used to trouble batsmen around the world when he was at his best, were hard to spot out in this World Cup.

For Misbah, it was a disappointing ending to his ODI career too. No doubt as a batsman, I dare to raise my fingers at his stats despite the fact that he didn't score a single century despite collecting over 5,000 runs. He remained a defensive captain and seldom showed aggression. He consumed too much time to take decisions like ignoring Sarfraz for the first four successive pool matches. Had he showed some more aggression, like Imran Khan did in the twilight of his career, it would have been more beneficial for Pakistan.

When a captain retires, he leaves behind a fleet of players who could serve the team. Unfortunately, minus Misbah, Pakistan has a barren-looking middle-order. Nobody is sure at which number he will get a chance in future. Umar, Sohaib, Haris don't know where their international careers are heading, while it was sad that a player like Younus Khan couldn't be slotted regularly in the World Cup matches. After Misbah we have to really start from scratch to form the nucleus of our middle-order batting and I am afraid it won't be that easy at all.

The team management of Waqar Younis, Mushtaq Ahmed and Grant Flower didn't carry magic wands to Australia and New Zealand and it would be inappropriate to point fingers at them. The same is the case with the players, they don't deserve to get the bashing like we received after we lost the 1999 World Cup final against Australia.

It is the Pakistan Cricket Board which needs to sort out the chronic problem of finding the right structure of domestic cricket so that more players come through to play competitive cricket. They also need to streamline its well-equipped cricket academy in Lahore. Engage former Test players from Pakistan to come to the academies, teach youngsters and remove flaws in their batting and bowling. Players can't be taught once they get picked for the national team, but our problem is that we expect them to overcome their deficiencies once they wear national blazers.

It's time to move on and stop cherishing four successive victories in group matches with three coming against Ireland, Zimbabwe and UAE. We have four years to get ready for the next World Cup but before that, a lot of international cricket has to be played. So put the thinking cap on now and come up a roadmap, assuring Pakistan fans that all is not doom and gloom!