This peculiar situation unfolded during a World Cup match against Australia on Friday. In Pakistan’s bowling display, there were no ‘bad’ elements; there were only ‘good’ and ‘ugly’ facets, two contrasting extremes that have, for centuries, defined Pakistan cricket.
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For Pakistan, it seems there’s no middle ground. On one hand, they restricted Australia to a total that appeared to be just half of the maximum number of overs, and on the other hand, they were relentlessly pummeled for 29 boundaries and 19 sixes.
Remarkably, this transpired even after their bowling spearhead, Shaheen Shah Afridi, produced the best individual bowling figures of the tournament, claiming 5 wickets for 54 runs.
It’s now widely acknowledged that the absence of Naseem Shah has left a noticeable void in the team’s performance. However, alongside this, Haris Rauf‘s apparent lack of situational awareness and the absence of international-quality spinners have also adversely impacted the team’s overall performance.
Rauf, for example, hasn’t got a hang of Indian tracks where he is either bowling too full or too short — the latter in most cases — which has hurt the team like no end.
Rauf has been hit for 11 sixes in four games and that is more than two sixes per game, which isn’t a great piece of statistics for a tearaway quick who is supposed to intimidate the batters.
He went for 24 in his first over against Australia and 3/83 in 8 overs aren’t numbers that he would like to remember.
Legendary Wasim Akram, who is an expert on Pakistani show ‘Pavilion’, made a telling comment about Rauf.
“Rauf till he doesn’t play domestic cricket, he will have problems in ODIs. In T20, you can survive as it is only four overs and you expect batters to attack. But you learn ODI bowling when you play domestic (red ball) cricket. I want to see Rauf bowl six balls back of length (three quarter) on stumps,” Akram said on the show.
There were problems aplenty for the Pakistani bowlers, with regards to planning.
With the side boundaries being 62 or 63m, the best length is fuller and mostly on block-hole which is expected from a fast bowler, who has a whippy slinging action.
The straight boundary at Chinnaswamy Stadium is 72m and yorker length deliveries wouldn’t be easy to hit straight.
But Rauf kept on pegging it on shorter side and gave enough width to Mitchell Marsh and David Warner to play horizontal bat shots on both sides of the wicket.
Talking about game awareness, former skipper Misbah ul Haq also had an observation about Hasan Ali which was equally scathing.
Despite knowing that Marsh’s favourite area is the arc between square leg and mid-wicket as he plays the pick-up shot (pull or flick) pretty well, Hasan got his square leg fielder well inside the 30-yard circle and kept a third man for the streaky edges.
As far as leg-spinner Usama Mir is concerned, he was seen bowling with five men on the on-side, yet he never bothered to bowl a googly to right hander Marsh.
On a track where the ball isn’t turning much, the best shot is straight hits and unlike the Pakistanis, who tried to cut or pull (Iftikhar and Rizwan) Adam Zampa’s deliveries pitched on stumps, the Australians went for the jugular and succeeded.
Bowling length balls with mid-on and mid-off fielder being kept up and third man posted at the boundary made no sense if one checks the wagon wheel of the two Australian centurions.
Aaqib Javed, just before the start of the World Cup, had spoken about how Rauf would need a good spinner at the other end during the middle overs in order to make a difference.
In all fairness, good leg-spinners need good captains and in Babar Azam, neither Shadab nor Usama have found a tactician, who would set wicket-taking in-out field for them when they are scurrying for cover.
Pakistan’s failure as a bowling unit lies as much with the bowlers as with Babar’s lack of tactical nous.
(With PTI Inputs)