Unlike neighbours India, Pakistan has consistently produced a rotating line of talented fast bowlers. While they haven’t unearthed a ‘great’ paceman in recent years, Pakistan’s cricket development continues to yield a slew of skillful quicks.
To prolong their World Cup campaign, Pakistan’s precocious bowling arsenal will need to collectively fire if they are to cause a monumental upset against favourites Australia in the quarter final at the Adelaide Oval.
Pakistan’s current bowlers don’t leap off the page unlike some of their predecessors. No genuine superstar exists in this team. Due to a plethora of injuries and suspensions, Pakistan has been forced to tap into their treasure trove of bowling depth. Hence, the bowling attack that will combat Australia is raw with limited international experience, presenting a swirl of intrigue and uncertainty.
Wahab Riaz, a frighteningly quick left-armer, has taken 12 wickets in his last four matches and menaced late in innings with an eclectic use of deadly yorkers and bouncers. Despite still relatively inexperienced at the international level having played just 53 ODIs, Wahab has assumed the role as the spearhead of the fledgling attack even though he doesn’t open the bowling. Pakistan will heavily rely on Wahab, who is clearly the team’s most experienced bowler with fellow pacers Ehsan Adil, Rahat Ali and Sohail Khan combining for a mere 21 ODIs.
Speaking to Firstpost, Pakistan legend Wasim Akram believes the inexperienced bowlers can cause major headaches to Australia’s famed batting line-up. “Pakistan have some very talented bowlers, who importantly have sheer pace,” he says. “They have a good mix of left and right armers, who have been in good recent form.”
Mohammad Irfan, the towering bowler with the physique of a basketballer, has been ruled out of the tournament after suffering a stress fracture in the pelvis. Starting the tournament as Pakistan’s spearhead, Irfan will be “greatly missed”, according to Wasim.
“He is a massive blow because he is seven foot one and can generate tremendous bounce from his great height,” he says. “He is someone that can’t be replaced because there isn’t anyone close to his height and who can produce that kind of bounce.”
Wasim believes captain Misbah-ul-Haq’s penchant for pace should ensure Pakistan opts for a four-pronged attack despite spin being traditionally useful at the Adelaide Oval. The 1992 World Cup winning player implores Misbah to be fearless against the notoriously aggressive Australians.
“I think Misbah is very comfortable captaining pace bowlers and will favour playing four quicks,” he says. “Misbah needs to be bold but also calculated. He needs to think outside the box. I think he should mix things up and use left and right handed bowling combinations.”
Australia’s powerful batting line-up trades on their intimidation, with each player down to Mitchell Starc at number 10 capable of decimating an attack. Australia has a bevy of highly destructive batsmen, although they are somewhat dependent on numerous all-rounders. Including the forever maligned Shane Watson, Australia boasts just five specialist batsmen. It feels their explosive middle-order can somewhat be exploited if the top-order fails but only the penetrative and well-rounded New Zealand attack has been able to scythe through.
Against New Zealand, Australia suffered a humiliating capitulation to Trent Boult’s furious swing. Last start against Zimbabwe at Adelaide, Pakistan was able to generate reverse swing and hopes to replicate that success against an Australian team that has often struggled to cope with late movement over the years.
But Wasim believes Pakistan should not be infatuated with merely pace and swing, and implores the bowlers to exude patience.
“To be successful against a very good team like Australia, you have to be disciplined and consistently bowl in the right areas,” he says. “It dangerous to just ball fast or try to make the ball hop around, because the Australian batsmen will seize on anything that is not accurate and can score heavily.”
Possessing so many destructive batsmen makes Australia capable of posting massive totals. They scored more than 400 against Afghanistan and plundered 376 against Sri Lanka after battling with a run rate at four for the first half of their innings. More devastatingly than any other team, Australia has the furious capability of exploding in the final overs and propelling their totals to seismic heights. Instead of fearing the brutal firepower of Glenn Maxwell, James Faulkner and others, Wasim believes Pakistan needs a calculated plan to curtail the potential damage.
“Everyone knows Maxwell and some of the others will be attempting a variety of shots, so it is really important for the bowler to look at the batsman’s feet at the last second to know what shot they are going to attempt,” he says. “At the death, variations are integral. But more importantly, it is vital to be able to cope with the pressure and not get rattled.”
While cautious, Wasim is optimistic that a new batch of bowlers has been unearthed. “They have been impressive at times during the World Cup but these bowlers need to play more cricket to get to the next level,” he says. “They need to play more overseas instead of Dubai, where they rely too much on reverse swing. They have to get used to bowling in different conditions.”
Despite some typically erratic form in the group stages, Pakistan showcased their inherent dangerous capabilities by upsetting South Africa in Auckland. Pakistan finished third in their group largely on the back of their potent attack, which carries a significant burden due to the team’s batting frailties.
Wasim says susceptible batting ensures Pakistan is a considerable underdog against Australia but he is adamant the pressure is firmly on the home team.
“There is lots of pressure during a World Cup, and when I played, we struggled in the sub-continent in 1987 and 1996,” he says. “But in 1992 in Australia we could just play without the pressure and were able to perform at our best. Australia has all the expectation now being at home and as the favourites. Pakistan does not have that expectation and they can be a very unpredictable side, so it will be interesting to see what happens."
It might be hard-pressed to envisage Pakistan emulating the success of 1992, but at least an exciting crop of pacemen has re-energised their team and provided hope for a grander future. Cricket is stronger with a resurgent Pakistan.
Updated Date: Mar 20, 2015 08:16:24 IST