December 29, 2010

I had recently written that in spite of beating Australia at Headingley in July, the series against England will be a stiff test for the young Pakistan team. My worst fears have come true as Pakistan struggled throughout the second Test at Birmingham.

It amuses me when I read reports that the Pakistan Cricket Board is looking for a batting coach. Obviously, Pakistan’s poor show in England has ‘inspired’ the PCB to mull over an ‘exclusive’ batting coach. But I wonder how a coach will radically change the technique needed to negotiate a moving ball in English conditions?

Even if the PCB appoints a batting coach, the question is who should be the right man? I have read reports where Inzy (Inzamam-ul-Haq) wants to be the coach. Inzy has been one of Pakistan’s best batsmen and his experience can surely come in handy, but when Pakistan already has someone like Ejaz Ahmed in the coaching staff, why look beyond?

First of all, I don’t think a batting coach will do any good. And Pakistan’s current fielding coach Ejaz is absolutely capable of teaching the lads a few things about batting as well. During his heydays, Ejaz was a good batsman and he can come in handy. What the boys need is mental toughness and the current team management, including Waqar, can surely pass on a few tips.

The likes of Stuart Broad and James Anderson can be dangerous customers in English conditions as one of Pakistan’s most talented youngster Umar Akmal is finding out. Umar had no clue against a swinging ball. By shuffling too much across, he is becoming far too vulnerable. This has been the case with many others.

Under the circumstances, the PCB is also a confused lot. The decision to recall Mohammad Yousuf reflects the state of mind of the national selectors. While ‘retirement’ has become a bit of joke in Pakistan, one can’t deny the necessity of experience in the team. I will assume Yousuf’s inclusion (he had quit the game recently) is well intended and he should add muscle to the batting whenever he gets to play next.

Talking of experience, Sachin (Tendulkar), Laxman and Dravid continue to give the Indian batting line-up the ‘monstrous’ look that it has. The best thing about them is that they have gelled well with the youngsters. The team’s performance if uppermost in their minds and the way Laxman batted in the third Test at P. Sara Oval was really commendable. The Indian team looked like a unit.

I think the 1-1 result in the Test series versus Sri Lanka was a fair result. But the wickets, the poor turnouts and the general atmosphere made it a rather boring series. Except for some personal landmarks that determined the outcome of the matches and Muralitharan’s retirement, the series was nothing much to write about.

I am hearing a bit about Suraj Randiv. I haven’t seen him much so I would not like to comment, but anybody who takes wickets against a strong Indian line-up, must be having a lot of promise. But, for God’s sake, do not start saying he is a good replacement for Murali! 800 Test wickets is simply mind boggling!


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