Saeed Ajmal tries slapstick in effort to entertain
There has been much too much negativity around the Pakistani cricket team's performance after yesterday's match with England. Most of it, I think, is uncalled for.
People have criticized our fielding since we dropped at least 5 catches in the space of 20 overs, Saeed Ajmal dropping two, Ahmad Shehzad, Salman Butt and Yasir Arafat one each, and gave away, in the "shoulder-shrugging estimation" (as Andrew Miller termed it on Cricinfo) of skipper Younis Khan, about 20-25 runs through shoddy fielding. This is just looking at the bad aspect of things. Nobody's talking about the fact that we actually managed to take 3 catches (one of them not even a sitter) and restricted the English to just 185, when they could easily have crossed the 210 mark. I prefer to see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty.
Critics are also complaining about Pakistan's batting performance, claiming we never got going, or, as Waseem Akram put it in terms he understands best now, never "teed off." They point out that when we knew that we needed over 9 an over to begin with, we should have made full use of the fielding restrictions in the first 6 overs (as every side in T20 actually does), and when the required run rate shot up to over 16, gone for the big strokes rather than trying to gently nudge the ball for singles. They have also criticised the fact that whereas the English were hitting the ball at will over the boundary, our guys could hardly cover half the ground before being caught out at mid on. Personally, I think this was all a bit of miscommunication and does not warrant the kind of vicious attacks on Pakistani players we have seen. I have it on good authority that the captain had worked out a comprehensive strategy whereby the goundwork was being laid for the big assault between the 40th and 50th overs. Apparently panic set in around the 17th over when it was communicated to him that there were now only 3 overs remaining. Can happen to anyone.
There have also been calls for the head of the coach Intikhab Alam, especially since he is reputed to be earning in excess of 700,000 rupees per month without much to show in terms of success, or even a competent display on the field. Stories are circulating about him and Younis being at daggers drawn over strategy. Apparently this division arose particularly after the 17th over of Pakistan's batting when Younis began to panic, because in Inti's opinion, Pakistan should have tried to see the day out by preserving wickets. After Misbah holed out, Inti was in favour of sending in a night-watchman, a tactic Younis apparently rejected. This vilification of Inti, again, I think is, unfair and petty. Those who follow Pakistan cricket as assiduously as myself, know that all Inti ever promised when he took up the job was that we would get to see the "Pakistan team in a new light." I think he has lived up to that promise.
People bitching about our performance have also shut their eyes to the other positives that the game provided. It was lovely evening, the stands were full, they played "Dil Dil Pakistan" on the stadium speakers before the start of the Pakistan innings, a tune we thought had been consigned to the dustbin of history (and I don't agree with those who think that should have given us a clue to what kind of innings we would see), the rain didn't stop play in the middle and apparently the beer stall did roaring business despite (or perhaps because of) the Pakistanis present in the stands. Best of all, despite this being The Oval and the umpires being Billy Doctrove and an Australian, nobody walked out of the ground and refused to return.
In any case, as skipper Younis said to CricInfo, who really cares what happens in the T20 World Cup???:
"It won't be a disaster even if we exit before the Super Eights," said Younis. "It would be sad if we don't make it, but I have never attached too much importance to Twenty20 cricket, as it is fun cricket. I mean it is more for entertainment, even if it is international cricket. It is all for the crowd. Twenty20 is all about fun. Everybody expects players to come out and entertain."
I think the captain has it perfectly right. We have been highly entertained and we should be happy with that.