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PSL: Early Days

PSL: Early Days

Kamran Wasti

Some disclaimers:

20-20 Cricket does not appeal to me. Since the whole thing started, I can actually list down the games, or chunks of games that I have watched.

I watched the opening over the 2009 World Cup Final only because of Mohammad Amir whose career I had been following since I read about him in a newspaper during one of my flights way back in 2009. Once it was complete with Dilshan humiliated into submission by the 17-year-old, I took out a book gifted to me by my father (who had passed a few weeks before), turned the TV off and had a peaceful private time alone.

I did go to the frst match between Zimbabwe and Pakistan last year but only because one of my favourite uncles who is more elder brother than uncle, wanted to watch and needed company.

There were a few others – a notable one being the “Haseena Twenty Twenty” ad for some Punjabi Film that under small culvert on a road under a railway in Rahim Yar Khan around five, six years ago.

A more recent encounter was the innings of Shahid Afridi’s team (either Karachi or Peshawar) a few days back while sitting with my friend in a fast-food joint. That’s all for me for PSL so far. Whether I get to watch more depends on how pushed I am.

However, some observations in that short session made me carry out a very basic statistical working. It is a comparison of Pakistani and foreign batsmen in the PSL. The resulting table gives you a measure of the gap that exists between Pakistani batsmen and the rest.

The strike rates are somewhat similar (though even there foreign players retain the edge) but the rest of the numbers are glaring:

On average, foreign players spend an over more at the crease while scoring more runs at a faster pace and taking an over and a half to hit a six.

 

The numbers below highlight this problem which has been there in Pakistan cricket and which ultimately ensures a garbage-in-garbage-out returns for the team:

 

Runs

Innings

NO

Average

Balls

6s

SR

Balls per 6

Balls per Completed Innings

Pakistanis

815

58

14

18.52

748

21

109

36

17.00

Foreigners

924

42

8

27.18

829

31

111

27

24.38

The bottomline:

Pakistani batsmen are clearly inferior to the non-Pakistani lot which mostly comprises some good 20-20 cricketers who are past their best and others who are clearly second-rate.

Foreign batsmen last longer, score faster, hit sixes more frequently and ultimately deliver more. This would be more obvious by the time this tourney ends.

This, at a time, when all the ills of Pakistan’s failings in limited-over cricket are being put on the coaching staff – the irony is that under Waqar in his first run, Pakistanis were still putting on good scores and chasing big ones. Following his departure, a clear tussle was obvious between the ways of Whatmore and Misbah with the latter’s approach holding sway. As a result, we clearly saw batsmen going into the shell that became Misbah’s hallmark (and hence his tuk-tuk title) but was applicable to the rest of the team as well. This is in marked contrast with other teams that Whatmore has coached over the years.

It was under him that Sri Lankans started to use the opening overs as slog overs and later Bangladesh would have a teenaged Tamim Iqbal rattling opening bowlers of the opponents. It was he whose opening assault left India shell-shocked ensuring their first round knockout in the 2007 World Cup.

Whatmore had mixed 20-20 success with Kolkata Knight Riders: Afer a disastrous first season bottom finish, they improved slowly before Whatmore left leaving behind the nucleus of a team that would win the IPL; on paper it would be easy to give credit to the new coach for suddenly turning the fortunes around but that is now how things work in cricket. It needs constant hard work to get to a position and then build upon that.

Waqar Younis’ stint is similarly confusing – under him Pakistanis seem to revel in tests (though only on slow, flat Asian wickets) while they struggle in limited-over cricket. However, it becomes less convulated if one recognises that here is someone who played for and then led Pakistani teams that repeatedly put up big scores on flat wickets and then bowled teams out to win games. Even when they struggled to put up big scores (like in Australia in 1996-97 or in South Africa in 1992-93), Pakistanis retained the ability to hit big. Imran Khan hitting big sixes at the fag end of his career on huge Australian grounds or Javed Miandad liting South African bowlers for sixes at the twilight of his career all happened in a team that Waqar was part of (although he was out due to injury during Imran’s last outing during the World Cup 1992). Even if his skill as coach is under question (which it always is with so many vultures around), anyone with the IQ of a boiled potato can understand that Waqar would never encourage middling or below-average returns that Pakistani teams have become synonymous with them in limited-overs cricket.

It would be pertinent to remember that the English and New Zealand teams that recently thrashed Pakistan have played some of the best one-day cricket in their history; England, for example, have repeatedly crossed 300 since the summer while New Zealand wiped the floor with Sri Lankan tourists recently. To expect this current lot of Pakistani cricketers to win would be akin to expecting a miracle. The performances of the new lot in PSL confirm that no new one-day wizards are on the horizon – the most successful Pakistani batsman in the tournament is Ahmad Shahzad whose ability to sleep as well as take fresh selfies in the middle of a premeditated defensive push back to the bowler off a slow leg-side full-toss are well-known. What is not known though is whether Pakistanis actually have the ability to rise above blaming all failures on the coach and thing pragmatically.

 

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