February 10, 2011

‘Razzak can be Cup’s best man’

Veteran Pakistan all-rounder can be as good as a Shane Watson or Yusuf Pathan, writes Wasim Akram.

As the ICC Cricket World Cup approaches, I can feel the urgency in the team camps. I can sense the butterflies in the stomach, no matter how good an outfit you may be. This is what makes world championships special!

Almost every pundit is choosing his favourite team and top player, but with great caution. It is foolish to predict in cricket and hence almost every erudite expert is ‘talking’ along predictable lines. And, I am not going to be any different.

Like all ODI championships, the all-rounders have a great role to play and the teams that have them will be at a great advantage. There was a time, when Imran (Khan), Kapil Dev, Ian Botham and Richard Hadlee would vie among each other for the No.1 all-rounder tag. In this ICC Cricket World Cup, it will be among Shane Watson, Yusuf Pathan and Pakistan’s Abdul Razzaq. These three can make or break their team’s fortunes.

I will be keenly watching Razzak’s performance. He is definitely up there with Shane Watson and Yusuf Pathan, but is somewhat lacking in his bowling skills. Razzak will have to focus on pace and improve his fielding, too. In spite of his great experience, he is relatively young and a proven match-winner. If Razzak can be a bit more mentally tough and physically robust, he will definitely end up as the Player of the Tournament.

While cricket is always a team game, a few individuals will have to play leading roles for Pakistan. In the absence of Mohammed Aamer and Mohammad Asif, Umar Gul will have to spearhead the bowling attack. Gul is bowling quick and if he can utilize the reverse swing, he will be deadly.

I hope Shoaib Akhtar stays fit throughout the tournament. Shahid Afridi’s main job is to handle Akhtar well. In a recent interview, Afridi said he sees a limited role for the veteran pacer. I agree with him. Akhtar should be used in short bursts, of about four overs at the start of the innings, then he can bowl a couple in the middle and then in the slog overs. Because Pakistan need Akhtar’s pace, short spells will be best. His reverse swing at hostile pace will be really effective.

Sohail Tanvir’s absence will hurt Pakistan. After Razzak, he was a dependable all-rounder. Tanvir is a good bat and could have contributed to the score lower down the order. But it’s no point crying over spilt milk. I think, with Afridi around, there is plenty of option. Team selection will certainly be key.

For Pakistan however, Ahmad Shahzad will be the player to watch out for. Apparently, I am his ‘hero’ but he compares his batting style after Sachin Tendulkar! Just 20, Shahzad is extremely promising. He left his mark with a century against New Zealand recently and he is high on confidence and won’t succumb to pressure easily. I have watched him play in the Under-19 ICC Cricket World Cup in New Zealand. He has got all the shots in the book and his best form of defence is to attack. I think Shahzad will be very consistent on sub-continental tracks.

It’s looking good for Pakistan. The captaincy dilemma has been sorted and Afridi has been rightfully chosen to skipper the team. Will he lead by example? That’s the million dollar question!

Courtesy: www.espnstar.com

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