Comment: Hopes rise with warm-up wins as Pakistan begins to find its feet

Pakistan’s back to back wins in the World Cup warm-up games against Bangladesh and England have come as a breath of fresh air.

Prior to these victories, there was little to rejoice for Pakistan cricket fans as the team not only lost a series of games in New Zealand, the spate of injuries to some of the key players including Junaid Khan and Mohammad Hafeez marred the build up campaign for Misbah-ul-Haq’s men ahead of the World Cup.

But as I always say that one good win can do wonders for the team’s confidence, the warm-up victories especially against England will surely boost the players’ morale for the all-important opening game against India at Adelaide.

Having said that, Pakistan is still confronted with a huge challenge in the World Cup and Misbah’s men will have to work very hard in all three departments of the game to make their mark in the mega event.

While Pakistan can draw a number of positives from the warm-up games, the continuous failure of the top order remains a major worry.

Nasir Jamshed had a poor first game yesterday but, perhaps, one could give him a margin of error as he barely got the time to settle down after his arrival early Wednesday morning.

As for Ahmed Shehzad and Younis Khan, their chequered form is disconcerting for everyone. Both the players are surefire match-winners on their day and their roles will be key if Pakistan is to reach the podium at the mega event.

Younis has struggled on the tour so far but he is too good a player to be written off at this stage. If India can retain Verat Kohli after six poor games with the bat, we can surely keep faith with Younis for at least the first two matches in the World Cup if not more. He is a big match player and has the ability to hold the innings together. Younis has the same value for Pakistan as Ross Taylor, Kumara Sangakkara or AB Devilliers have for their respective teams.

As for Shehzad, he must learn to curb his instincts to play too many strokes at the start of the innings. He has tremendous potential and is not afraid to take on the opposition, but he must concentrate harder to see off the new ball first before flexing his muscles.

The highlight of the warm-up games, for me, is the return to form of both Sohaib Maqsood and Umar Akmal. The two young guns looked the part with their dashing half-centuries and will be a handful for the Indians on Saturday, no doubt about that.

Sohaib, the tall fellow, caught my eye at the time of his debut a few years ago. He has a fantastic reach as a batsman and, if allowed to play natural game, can change the complexion of the match in matter of few overs.

In bowling too, Pakistan finally have reasons to smile. All the faster bowlers including Ehsan Adil, Sohail Khan and Wahab Riaz bowled well in the England game which put to rest all rumours regarding their fitness.

However, what really delights me is the form of Mohammad Irfan as well as that of Yasir Shah who bowled superbly in the warm-ups.

I have always maintained that if intelligently used, Irfan has the ability to run through the sides, as he showed against Bangladesh in the first game. He has the height, the pace and the variety to unnerve any batsman and will relish bowling to the Indians at Adelaide.

Yasir, of course, adds real variety to our bowling. He was amongst the wickets as soon as he was handed the ball by skipper Misbah and may well prove a surprise packet for teams in the coming games. I can say this from experience that since countries like England, New Zealand and Ireland produce only finger spinners, a wrist spinner of Yasir’s quality can really bother them in the World Cup contests.

Here, we need to accept the fact that Misbah does not have the team that either Imran Khan or Mushtaq Mohammad had during their days which boasted many world class players and match-winners. For that matter, even Australia does not have the kind of team today that Ian Chappell once led, nor does the West Indies which enjoyed such supremacy under Clive Lloyd in the 1970s and the 80s.

The Greenshirts have a tough first game againt arch-rivals India and, despite all the talk of MS Dhoni’s men having a horrible time in Australia, the fact remains that they are a world class batting side with tons of talent.

Pakistan, if they are lucky enough to make first use of the Adelaide wicket, must score 300 plus runs to pose any serious challenge to India. And though India’s faster bowlers have not done great of late, their spinning duo of Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin can cause a lot of problems for our batsmen.

However, I feel our team is peaking at the right time. While they scampered home against Bangladesh on Monday, on Wednesday they looked much more convincing in their win over England and played according to a plan which was good to see.

Courtesy by     Dawn.com

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