Can you imagine listening to a heavy metal song at a ghazal soiree? Can you imagine listening to a desi wedding song when you buy a ticket to a heavy metal concert? Either of that happening would still make more sense than Sarfraz Ahmed coming in to bat at the backend of an innings for Pakistan which he did against Australia in Mohali during the World T20 match on Friday.
Sarfraz is known for little dabs and rotation of strike, not for big-hitting and yet he didn’t once get an opportunity to bat before the 15th over during the entire tournament.
Before the World T20 got under way, Shahid Afridi vowed to bat up the order and lead from the front which made sense versus Bangladesh given the platform he was provided with, but the Bangladesh game was an anomaly.
Against India, New Zealand and Australia, Pakistan needed stable middle overs and a big finish and in all three matches, they totally messed up the batting order. When Shoaib Malik or Sarfraz were required at the crease, Afridi came out to bat. When Afridi was required, he was already back in the pavilion. Batting order is just one of the many basic mistakes Pakistan made during the tournament.
A lot of Pakistan’s planning was premeditated without any deliberation on the venue, pitch or the opposition. On a spinner’s paradise against India in Kolkata, Pakistan opted to play with 4 genuine pacers. Against New Zealand, they kept trying to hit boundaries towards the longer part of the ground. And against Australia, they had no plan for the last four over of the innings. Too much time was spent on “body language”, “big-heartedness”, “aggression”, “passion” and other intangibles which have more of a place in story books than a cricket field. It wasn’t as if Pakistan even succeeded in doing that, news of grouping and infighting has been circulating all over the media.
Let’s access the tangibles and see how planning could have been done:In theory, a batting partnership should be about one batsman going after the bowling and the other rotating the strike until both ends go berserk in the last few overs. Four Pakistan batsmen (see the table above) had better than a boundary-per-over ratio, which means at any given time when constructing an innings, one of those four should have been batting at one end with a rotator at the other.
Pakistan do not have the luxury of left-handers in the middle-order hence this was one method that could have been applied.
In two 170-plus run chases, Pakistan made fatal errors in their batting order and approach despite getting a decent start in each case. Against New Zealand, Khalid Latif was sent in at No. 3 after the dismissal of Sharjeel Khan where Shoaib Malik would have made a lot more sense. Malik is one of the two rotators in the team but has a boundary hitting capacity better than a boundary per over, hence he would immediately have got going and allowed Ahmed Shahzad to carry on what he was doing.
This would also have meant that Afridi had a platform to launch from, instead Pakistan got stuck and Afridi had to come up the order with no hitter remaining at the end. The two rotators, Malik and Sarfraz, came into bat at Nos. 6 and 7, respectively. You can expect Sarfraz to score 35 off 25 but you can’t realistically ask him to go at 12-plus runs an over from the word go.
Against Australia, Pakistan got off to a decent start thanks again to Sharjeel Khan and then incredibly, Khalid Latif was again sent in at No.3. This time, however, he was ably supported by Umar Akmal who gave his best performance of the tournament.
Akmal was dismissed with Pakistan still requiring 109 runs from 57 balls, still too early to play your trump card. At this point Malik would again have been a better option but instead Afridi came out to bat and scored 14 off 7 and yet again, when Pakistan required power-hitting at the end, Sarfraz Ahmed and Shoaib Malik were left to chase too many. There was even a case to send Sarfraz at No. 3, where he could have rotated the strike and set it up for the likes of Afridi and Akmal.
In fact, there was a case for Sarfraz to come up the order versus India, more so as he is accustomed to playing on rank turners and is known for manufacturing shots against spin. Instead he came into bat at No. 6. What is the point of selecting him if you are not going to use him? Isn’t cricket all about making the best use of resources at your disposal? Pakistan might not have reached the semifinal even if had they used methodology but at least there would have been some logic behind their decision-making process.
These are just basic errors that could have been avoided. I will not go into complex details of how numbers can be used to plan, there is no need to, you can only go into the complexity of something if you first do the basics and Pakistan still haven’t managed to grasp that world cricket has moved on and believes in common sense and planning more than mere words such as “talent.”