Preview, 4th ODI
Oddly enough, it's at Multan. Pakistan's very own MCG isn't as fashionable a venue for one-day cricket
as it is for tests, where its traditional chappati wicket gets a test almost every season. The last time we played here was way back in September, 2004 against Zimbabwe
. I have very vivid memories of the game, we were 4 down for 30 odd, before Razzaq and Inzi rescued us to very nearly 300, after which it become a no-brainer.
Pakistan have lost early wickets to the new ball in both the last two games, a factor which has been crucial in Pakistan not quite getting enough runs on the board. We cannot afford another repeat of that Zimbabwe outing tomorrow, given this is must win game for us if we are to keep the series alive. They weather and the wicket should be very nice
come tomorrow. But that's just about the only thing that can said to be having a 'nice' condition as far as Pakistan are concerned.
The bowling, barring Asif, is in utter shambles. Rana is completely out of sorts. Arafat is not bad, but not terribly frightening either. Gul is either very good or very bad, or injured. Like him, Razzaq has also been prone to dwindling in between the sublime and the ridiculous. Shoaib is completely absent. Afridi's lost the plot too. One shouldn't really be too bothered or surprised over Shoaib's absence, and I know it's odd that I say that given how ineffective most of our attack have looked, but it's just that I am very accustomed to seeing a Shoaib-less Pakistan team.
With a player him, you almost half expect him to break down with some thing or the other every third game or so, so it was actually a bit of miracle he survived six tests and 4 ODIs in a row in this home season, by his standards an injury was long over due. After missing the first three games with what was initially described as a bad ankle, he's now out of the whole Sri Lankan tour
with a 'bone spur' in that very ankle.
The Afridi injury is what I'm more worried and frankly angry about. If professional cricketer's had their way they'd make your believe injuries were always just a product of bad luck, but Afridi's got entirely him self to blame, or at least, that's what Express
, my local Urdu daily, have suggested. According to him, Afridi contracted the injury whilst taking a shower. He then aggravated it by giving a bear hug to some one (Express did not mention who) on the eve of the game it self. And then on top of all this, he insisted
not only to play against the advice of the coach, but he also opened the innings and bowled at a tough time. After all this, what did he expect? Rib cartilages don't heal over night. He's out of the whole series too.
And then there are the doubts over Sami and Gul. Gul has a side strain, which is shame, because he only just started bowling well after having lost it at Peshawar and Pindi. Sami on the other hand has some terminal problems (like a ridiculous side flip -with reference to hair obviously-, over sized ego and the like), but now, he's further complicated this situation by carrying around a higher then normal body temperature. Rao Iftikhar Anjum
has been called up as a much needed cover.
It gets very interesting when Rao is in the Pakistan team, if he gets a game, you just watch out for how each member of the commentary team will pronounce his name in their own individual style. When we were touring Australia, and he was playing in the VB series, you could be forgiven for thinking there were several Iftikhar Anjums in the team, Raaaooo, Rayo, Row, etc. etc. But he's a good bowler this man. Remains very much under the shadows of Shoaib, Sami, Rana and the others when he plays, but does whatever donkey work he's asked to effectively.
Along with Pakistan's bowling worries, their batting, with the exception of Malik, has been underachieving for the better part also. For a change, a change which I can't quite adapt to, Inzi is not backing up his words with runs. Collectively, poor running and poor shot selection have cost us, and Bobby Woolmer will be hoping this is rectified soon. Would be nice if we could bat second, just to see how India fare when defending. India don't have any worries as such though, except of course for some terminal hair related issues for Dhoni, although this too doesn't have quite the affect on his performances I'd hope for but nevertheless, India look really good. And all the pressure is on Pakistan. Let's see what happens.