Pakistan has a weak batting line up. This is a line I have heard throughout the last two decades or so. When I started watching cricket in 1996 as a 6 year old, my 1st memories are of an aging Javed Miandad, trying to drag Pakistan across the line against India in that quarter final. Ever since, it’s been a similar ordeal. Before every game there is this nervous wait of an impending collapse.
And at times our coaches and captains have utilized this not so novel idea of going in with 3 to 4 bowlers only and plastering the batting line up with numbers. If you have followed international cricket even remotely, it is clear that this strategy hasn’t worked for Pakistan. This is why Mohammad Hafeez has had such a long career. He offers something unique. In favourable conditions, 10 quality overs from a top 6 batsman. Whenever Mohammad Hafeez is dropped or banned from bowling, finding the combination becomes a headache and half. This factor has become a bane for the team management especially considering that they took 6 pacers and only 2 spinners in the squad. Now Shadab Khan, has suffered an injury, they will left clutching at straws.
In the Afghanistan game Shoaib Malik and Harris Sohail went for only 51 runs, in completing the 5th bowler quota. However, this strategy played right into the hands of the Afghans. When Mohammad Nawaz had broken through thrice, Sarfaraz had to sneak in overs from the relatively lesser bowlers. It was a defensive strategy, which Afghans would have preferred certainly. Their game plan has been to dig in their heels early and go hard at the end. Wickets in hand was simply what they wanted and this four bowlers strategy played right into their hands. Despite having the bulk of overs from frontlines in the last 15 overs, Afghan took advantage and were under little pressure. They were 94-3 in the 25th over. The final score was 163.
India, with their batting line will not allow Malik, Harris or Fakhar to bowl tight overs. Shadab Khan if fit has to slot in the side. Mohammad Nawaz, will also have to bring his A game. Bangladesh has already reinforced their squad. A loss here and pressure will mount on team management to call back Mohammad Hafeez.