Pakistan are still in the tournament, thanks to their consecutive wins over South Africa & un-beaten New Zealand side but more so thanks to England’s inability to bat on difficult pitches & pressure situation against Sri Lanka & Australia. As similarities between the 1992 campaign are drawn, the Pakistan team has got into a momentum just about the right time or even a little too late, we will find out in the next week. It took Pakistan 6 matches to finally get their playing XI right, let’s see how many matches it takes for them to get their batting order sorted.
For starters Babar showed what he’s made of but let’s not forget the role Haris Sohail played yesterday. Two back to back match winning performances by Haris, the guy who was sitting out for Shoaib Malik, who is having a Nasir Jamshed 2015 like horrendous tournament. But does Hafeez at number 4 inspire confidence? Let’s start by digging into Hafeez’s performances during the world cup.
The professor has been dismissed by Finch, Markram & Kane Williamson, to mildly put it professor has gotten out to kindergarten kids, no disrespect to either of the part-timers. In the first match Hafeez batted at number 6, a position ideal for him but since West Indies blew away Pakistan, a lot of changes were hastily made & Hafeez was back to number 4 & even played a match winning innings against England, largely thanks to an easy drop by Jason Roy but since then his performances have dipped. Against Australia Hafeez again looked solid & had the Australian captain worried for most. He timed the ball superbly as he usually does & Finch wasn’t sure where & how to complete 20 overs of Maxwell & Richardson but just when the game was in balance, Hafeez gifted his wicket to Finch himself on a full-toss, which had most Pakistan fans shaking their head in disbelief. Soon after his wicket, the team collapsed and Pakistan went on to lose by 41 runs, margin could have been much bigger if not for resistance from Hasan Ali & Wahab Riaz.
Against India, Hafeez was dismissed early and let’s be honest Pakistan were never really in that chase from the beginning. Then came the do & die match against South Africa, in a brief innings Hafeez looked completely out of sorts, after a solid foundation had been laid by the openers. He lost his wicket at a crucial stage to Markram, when Pakistan were precariously placed at 143-2 at the 30th over mark. If not for Haris Sohails, best international innings to date Pakistan would have not put up a challenging total.
Yesterday again, in a tough situation, against an un-beaten New Zealand side in a run-chase Hafeez after looking jittery against Ferguson and Santner gifted his wicket away to Kane Williamson, by now I am starting to think Moshrafe Mortaza should ask Musfiqur Rahim to give up his pads for an over and have a go at Hafeez because that’s the likeliest option he would be dismissed by.
The problem with Hafeez innings is that just when he looks settled, he throws it away. This may be okay for an inexperienced batsman in his first year of international cricket but not for someone who has played for more than 16 years now. We’re in twilight of Hafeez’s career & yet team management or Hafeez seems to have no idea about his ideal batting position or Hafeez is just too arrogant to admit that he’s not a lower-order batsman.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not discarding Hafeez, I still think he should be in the team & has a lot to offer but I am worried about his batting position because it hurts the dynamics of the team. With Hafeez at 4, Sarfaraz pushes himself down to number 6, which more or less takes Sarfaraz the batsman out of the game. Yes, we may have won the last 2 games but can we afford these same mistakes against tougher opposition in semifinals (IF we make it there)? Can a modern one day team when considering your opponents have Dhoni (Pant as back-up), Mushfiqur, Butler (Bairstow as back-up) & De-Kock afford a specialist keeper? The answer is simply, NO. For Sarfaraz the ideal position to bat should never be below 5, because he can’t hit the big shots unlike Hafeez who actually can. Sarfaraz ability lies in rotating the strike & he’s great at it but at number 6 he’s wasting his talent & since he’s the captain of the side, there’s really no one else to blame.
In the next match which is against Afghanistan on Saturday, I would like Haris Sohail, to bat at number 4 after proven himself in the last 2 games and Sarfaraz to come in at 5, with Hafeez the finisher at 6. This will give Pakistan team much needed balance without having to drop a bowling all-rounder. Ideally this position should have been for Asif Ali, but he hasn’t looked up to the challenge of world cup. Having said all of this, Hafeez can make me look extremely stupid by playing another match winning innings from the number 4 spot in the very next game.
Osama Ashaqeen, cricket enthusiast. Twitter/Insta: Ashaqeens