ISLAMABAD - Overconfident Pakistan cricket team was given a cricketing lesson by the minnows Zimbabwe, as the green shirts were thrashed by seven wickets in the first One-day International played at Harare Sports Club.
This defeat was very much on the cards after surviving some anxious moments in the two Twenty20 internationals, where Zimbabweans although lost both of them, yet they showed resilient. It was only their lack of experience which cost them the whitewash, as they had lost only 11 wickets in two matches.
It was mentioned clearly by this scribe earlier that Pakistan bowling looked pretty ordinary and well below par during the T20s and the team management had to take some urgent and drastic measures, if they wanted to win the ODI series as well, but all the suggestions were neglected, the result of which was embarrassing seven-wicket defeat at the hands of the hosts.
Pakistan batting looked clearly out of shape, despite getting a 50-run opening stand, a feat which was witnessed after a long time, as opening department remained a source of concern for the green shirts. Both openers Ahmed Shahzad and Nasir Jamshed played sensibly and gave a solid foundation to the team.
After Ahmed and Nasir, Haeez and skipper Misbah played exceptionally well, but all the other batsmen failed to make any sort of impact and kept on throwing away their wickets at regular intervals. Haris Sohail had scored loads of runs in the domestic circuit, but despite getting more than satisfactory chances, he is a complete flop as far as international cricket is concerned.
It was feared that green shirts would suffer and missed experienced Younus Khan to give the batting much-needed boost in the middle of the innings, but the selectors had other ideas. Sarfraz Ahmed had now played in numerous ODIs, but his performance both with gloves and willow remained not more than average, especially he is a big flop when it comes to score runs at the depth.
Afridi is known for throwing away his wicket and never played according to situation. No matter what situation or circumstances, Afridi plays his natural game and he is quite lucky to be still in the playing XI, as he often scores in one or two innings and cements his place for next 12 to 15 matches, without taking wickets either.
Pakistan cricket team lacks genuine all-rounder. Sohail Tanveer is fit enough to play in the county and other destinations, but the selectors do not consider him in ODIs or longer version of the game. He is restricted to T20s only, which is a grave injustice to not only the player of great caliber who can bowl and bat at down the order and score quick runs, but also a grave injustice to the entire nation by depriving them of witnessing a genuine all-rounder playing for national team and scoring good runs as well taking crucial wickets.
Bowling remains the weapon of team Pakistan, no matter it was the team of late 80s, 90s or it is a team of current days. Batting was never their strength but the bowling is exposed badly by the average Zimbabwean batsmen, who scored runs freely against almost all the bowlers. M Irfan and M Junaid got the bashing from Zimbabwean openers, as they posted 107 runs opening stand. If Pakistani pace attack can't provide breakthrough against the ordinary batting of Zimbabwe, then how it will be possible for them to bowl exceptionally well against top sides of the world. Pakistani bowlers flopped miserably to get wickets in the T20s and the first ODI as well. It is worthy to ponder over how Pakistani bowlers will take early wickets in the upcoming two Tests against the same opponents.
Only Saeed Ajmal bowled with authority and command while all the other bowlers were handled with utmost ease and comfort by the host team. Umar Akmal's absence is already felt badly both as batsman as well as wicketkeeper, as his inclusion provided Pakistan with a luxury of playing with an extra bowler or batsman. The PCB must take this matter seriously and do whatever then can to help Umar Akmal come out from prevailing situation. If he is ill, then the board must provide him with best available doctors, as he is the future of Pakistan and can serve the country in the years to come.
The time is ripe to save national exchequer and show the door to foreign coach Dav Whatmore and company and hire local coaches. Pakistan is blessed with so many past greats, who can help team to give consistent performances. The PCB has been suffering from dire financial crises and the team is not giving even ordinary performances so it makes no sense of wasting such a huge amount on foreign coaches who have been giving mixed results since the day one.
Pakistan has to come out with all cylinders blazing in the remaining two ODIs to lift their shattered moral and take the series. Casual approach will serve no purpose while aggressive-minded approach is the need of the hour to clinch the ODI series.