Wounded warriors? Getting thrashed by the minnow Zimbabwe in the warm ups is nothing less than a deep wound. Both of them are considered as the best for odd reasons like one is a pure champion of the game for so many years and the other has just perfected the newest format of the game which probably suits their bubbly dubbly style of cricket (I tend to disagree a bit here but that is for some other day).
Yes! We are talking about Australia and Pakistan and now both of them face each other on 2nd May at Gros Islet. It is Australia's first game while Pakistan has already played one against Bangladesh (which they won with elan). While Pakistan’s track record is the best compared to the rest in this format, Team Australia looks very strong and are a T20 specialist side this time, at least on paper. Let’s look how deep this well is and set a tone for the match!
Australia: They are yet to master this format unlike others and they have probably learnt their lessons. The selected squad has many T20 specialists, a new Captain, a strong bowling lineup, a deep and intense batting (as usual) plus a couple of competitive spinners. It looks all set for better tournament this time around. Many of the Cricket gurus around mentioned them as favorites; do you think they will make it?
I have my own doubts. The so called strong bowling attack is full of pace battery rather than application. On slow and low pitches extra pace is always desired. It makes the ball come onto the bat nicely. Add to it the little bit of bounce extracted from the pitch; it makes the ball perfect to go after. So, if their application goes wrong by some inches, they are bound to leak runs. Both Shaun Tait and Mitch are prone to spray deliveries everywhere on the pitch. Nannes is a decent bowler one day and a struggler the other; he is still unable to portray himself among the top in the business.
Absence of Brett Lee could be a blessing but they messed it up sending Harris instead of Bollinger. It’s not bound to be very costly as Harris is having a run of his life at the moment and he is willing to prove his mettle more than anything. Bret Lee was out of match practice and all the injuries make him a different Brett Lee, not the one we know. His days are almost over.
If pace is unable to get quick wickets, spinners will have to play out of their skin. They can fancy getting some help form slow spinning tracks but the quality of spinners is not amongst the best. Hauritz is a hard worker but many teams can negotiate him better than Murali, Ajmal or Harbhajan. Smith is a new kid on the block. It is a huge challenge for Australians to keep every end on hold.
Their batting is actually strong, good as well as deep. Warner is in fantastic form. Watson can turn any game around single-handedly. Clarke’s slow proceeding is a liability sometimes but he can also steer the inning better. On the other hand, that puts considerable pressure on the likes of Hussey and White to keep the run-rate up. Their lower order, that includes Haddin, Mitch and Hauritz, can play a helping hand.
Overall, this Australian team looks good but is not without its weaknesses. But then, we know that they are capable of winning games purely with their incredible determination and never-say-die attitude.
Pakistan: Statistics can be deceiving. They look the strongest team on paper but currently, they are in turmoil. A horrible Australian tour, followed by many controversies, bans and fines have taken their toll. They seem to always be in the middle of one issue or the other. Shahid Afridi and the Coach are regularly issuing statements that the team have put all past issues behind them and are focused on winning the ICC World T20. Their next step is to prove it right in the middle.
The team is missing some key players in Umar Gul, Younis Khan and Shoaib Malik. Younis Khan could have played the anchor role which is more important in the case of Pakistan as their top order is always vulnerable. Afridi fancies himself at number three which, to me, is not a good option unless he is in a devastating mood and form. The senior batsmen have a huge responsibility this time. Misbah, Hafeez and Salman Butt will not only have to steer the innings but also keep the run rate up. Fawad Alam can be of help with his gutsy innings in the middle. While the Akmal brothers can be destructive on their day, they tend to take too many risks in their shot selections. Razzaq and Afridi will have to secure the lower middle order and provide the fire power in the latter stages of the innings. Overall, their batting is thin and out of form, as the warm up matches suggest. Thanks to a selection blunder, Pakistan will miss Shahzaib Hassan for sure as he is in a fantastic form in the domestic season.
Bowling has always been the strongest point of Pakistan. They have every variety with Aamer and Sami's pace, Asif and Razzaq's line and length and a strong, if not lethal spin attack consisting of Ajmal, Afridi, Abdur-Rehman and Hafeez which looks ideal for West Indian conditions. At the same time, that is one too many. Hafeez and Afridi are automatic choices but they will have to select one of Ajmal or Abdur-Rehman which in a sense is useful when they can select between off and leg spin based on the tracks and the opponent.
The pace attack has one point to mull over. Umar Gul's ability of death bowling will be heavily missed. He not only secures last part of the innings but also took wickets. He is such a gift for the captain to experiment with his remaining options as he knows that the last spell is secure. But keep in mind though, that he has also been in a horrible form lately. Aamer is good with the new ball but who will accompany him among Asif, Sami and Razzaq? Asif is slow and is vulnerable on the WI tracks. Razzaq has done it in the past but again, slow pitches will haunt his pace bowling. Sami can be the ideal option. Again, the selection committee denied us the chance to watch the seven feet tall Irfan!
Back to our concern of death bowling, we can expect Aamer to secure one end. Afridi might try Ajmal or Razzaq from the other end. All in all, the Pakistan team is also not without its problems and the chances of lifting the title don’t look promising. Defending the title will be a stiff challenge.
The Verdict: The match between Australia and Pakistan will be a thriller if Pakistan’s batting lineup can put up a decent total on the score board. In any case, this is bound to be a lot of fun to watch!
( Like most young Pakistanis, Mudassar's first real encounter with Cricket was with the 1992 World Cup final as an Eight year old. After that, like many of others, he became a fanatic of the game. Now he is a complete fan and enthusiast, loving and following the game.
Professionally, he is a Website Application developer. To keep up with his cricket craze, he started a Cricket blog and is soon going to launch his own Cricket portal at CricketVibe.com. You can reach him through the comments section or at http:://blog.cricketvibe.com )