Friday, 23 March 2012

Pakistan's deadlock situation

Misbah ul Haq is a captain with a bag full of tricks - so many that not only does he leave the opposition surprised but also sometimes leaves his team members and fans scratching their heads. He added another feather to his cap when he decided to field 6 bowlers against India in this recent Asia Cup at the cost of a specialist wicket keeper. That move baffled me.

Sarfraz Ahmed
I was confused at the team selection: Pakistan had opted for Umar Akmal as the keeper and Sarfraz was left out to accommodate the extra bowler - Wahab Riaz. It is not like Pakistan has not done this in the past but I could not quite understand what Sarfraz had done to be left out. The keeper did not get the opportunity to catch in the first game against Bangladesh and scored a useful 19 not out (although that came at a Strike Rate of 67.85 which by ODI standards might be considered mediocre but in the context of the match, those were useful runs nonetheless as the difference of victory was 21 runs). He took a catch against Sri Lanka and did not bat. Yet Pakistan went ahead to field an extra bowler in the team against India, a speedster who last performed with the ball a year ago, played only 2 ODIs since May 2011 and conceded 47 runs in 7 overs in his last outing.

Apply some MBA?
Maybe it was a genius move by the MBA grad. One might say that it was to widen up the bowling options and I will not argue against that. The result of this clever experiment was that Umar Akmal as a makeshift keeper spilled around 10 runs easily and missed a few chances and Wahab conceded 50 runs in 4 overs. And I will not object to their performances as them doing better might have not impacted the result of the match given the way Virat Kohli was playing.

My objection is not against the captain trying different things but as to the frequency of these experiments.
Pakistan has played 9 ODIs in 2012 so far and the maximum games without changing the keeper were only 3 - Umar Akmal kept wickets against Afghanistan and the first two ODIs against England. His brother (Adnan) was brought in for the next two games. Then Sarfraz was entrusted with the glovework against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka but for some reason he could not win the captain's trust and was replaced by Umar Akmal in the next game against India. He was then drafted in for the final against Bangladesh.

The following question rises as a result: Why the management is not consistent on the team selection and when will this wicket-keeper dilemma be resolved?

Adam Gilchrist
Most likely if Misbah is asked this question he potentially might suggest the need for a wicket-keeper batsman, someone who can add depth to the batting line up - a reason which actually justifies making Umar Akmal keep. And given the trends in cricket, it is understood that a keeper-batsman adds a totally different dimension to the team. We can look at the examples of Adam Gilchrist, MS Dhoni and Kumar Sangakkara.Wicket keepers in the past were understood to be a conventional number 7 batsman who played a useful innings if they could and it was assumed that the batting was the responsibility of the batsmen in the team and not the keeper.But players like Gilchrist came along to change that perception. Adam Gilchrist, who has been named as the keeper for the Greatest ODI Team of All Time was known for his explosive batting and safe keeping and was one of the main catalysts in the Australian domination over world cricket in the early 2000s. It was a perfect combo – an excellent, safe keeper who bats like a batsman and not like a basher lower down the order. It changed the way teams looked at their keepers and soon many teams followed the trend. 

Kamran Akmal - Another drop?
Pakistan too had Moin Khan and Rashid Latif at the time, who were excellent keepers and could bat but their batting was not of the level of Gilchrist, Dhoni or Sangakkara. They retired and were replaced by everyone's favourite and an all-time great in his area of expertise:Kamran Akmal.With the aggressive style of his batting, it seemed like Pakistan had found its own keeper-batsman. Kamran Akmal strengthened his position in the side after a match winning 113 in the infamous Karachi test against India in 2006. He did not hold back in ODIs, scoring 100s while opening, against West Indies and England. But even who don't follow cricket regularly would know elder Akmal's consistent achievements with the gloves during 2007-2011. He was in and out of the team and Pakistan experimented with the likes of Zulqarnain Haider, Sarfraz Ahmed and Mohammad Salman but could not find the perfect combination.
Sarfraz Ahmed has made a point with his safe pair of hands and scored his career best knock of 46* against Bangladesh in the final of the Asia Cup - an almost Man of the Match worthy innings in this close game. It is the captain's job to give him th econfidence and the consistent run with the side. His career spans 4.5 years and he has only played 18 ODIs. For a young keeper, the pressure of being dropped and not being given a consistent chance can be disconcerting. He definitely has the potential to become the next Moin Khan or Rashid Latif if not Adam Gilchrist.

Opinion: A Potential Best Solution

A potential ideal scenario might be to let Adnan Akmal keep in Tests (since he just proved himself in the tests against England), Umar Akmal in T20s (it is with the hope that the mistakes of a makeshift keeper can be overcome in the shortest format) and Sarfraz Ahmed in ODIs. Pakistan’s next assignment might be a series against Bangladesh and that can be considered a possibility for the team to groom this young keeper and make him a permanent in the team.


I understand the reason to have Umar Akmal as the keeper for T20s but why do you want to have different keepers for Tests and ODIs. If Sarfaz or Adnan prove themselves in either they should keep him for both the formats.

I want to say that you are absolutely right about this situation,
Thanks for sharing and keep sharing

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