Pakistan faced an embarrassing defeat at the hands of India in a dominant all-around performance in Ahmedabad, further solidifying India’s position as the tournament favorites. In a remarkably short span, Rohit Sharma managed to score 86 runs, making Pakistan’s total score inconsequential.
A remarkable collapse ensued, with eight wickets falling for a mere 36 runs, even as Pakistan seemed to be in control. Failing to compete in a Pakistan-India match proves more demoralizing than a mere loss. It served as a stark reminder of the challenges Pakistan faces in this World Cup.
The Unraveling of Pakistan’s Batting Lineup
Although India showcased their bowling prowess, Pakistan’s stronger batting lineup could have added pressure to the hosts. However, Pakistan relinquished that opportunity and exposed their own weaknesses.
For over thirty overs, Pakistan exhibited an unexpected calmness given the circumstances. The top four silenced the home audience. Babar Azam’s fifty-first century was met with hesitant applause, which, amidst the oppressive heat of Gujarat, resembled the fluttering of a hundred thousand handheld fans.
Pakistan’s strategy may suffice for Twenty20, but it won’t consistently yield results in longer formats. Pakistan needed a dominant innings from their top order, but despite promising starts, it eluded them. Babar’s inability to build upon his fifty-plus score was particularly disheartening. To last the fifty overs, Pakistan required a solid foundation from their middle order, which, unfortunately, disintegrated catastrophically.
The pitch showed minimal activity, with sporadic low bounce and little deviation from the trajectory. It wasn’t conducive to carefree strokeplay; as the ball aged, it lost speed and vitality, but it wasn’t overly challenging. Pakistan seemed to have miscalculated by aiming for 300 runs when 250 might have sufficed.
Furthermore, Pakistan contributed to their own downfall. Abdullah Shafique played across a straight delivery.
Imam-ul-Haq exposed his stumps excessively. Saud Shakeel and Babar both narrowly missed straight deliveries. The all-rounders failed to make a significant impact, resulting in a disjointed effort.
It was challenging to attribute Pakistan’s collapse solely to intense pressure. The initial stages of Pakistan’s innings lacked evident intensity. While some lower-order batsmen appeared nervous, the primary issue was the lack of specialized skills rather than mentality.
For at least a decade, Pakistan has grappled with the stark reality that India produces exceptional batsmen and high-quality spinners who perform consistently at international levels. In contrast, Pakistan struggles to field six batsmen capable of exerting dominance in international cricket. They depend heavily on Babar and Mohammad Rizwan and occasionally on individual heroics or the bowlers to bail them out.
This strategy might work in Twenty20 cricket but falls short of ensuring consistent success in longer formats. It’s an issue that requires immediate attention post-World Cup.
Concerns About Batting Depth
In addition to the overall quality of Pakistan’s batsmen, the depth of their batting order is another concern. While the lower middle order may contribute modestly, the strongest teams have players capable of playing significant innings – a quality lacking in Pakistan’s all-rounders.
When these all-rounders were needed to defend a modest total, their shortcomings became apparent. Pakistan’s support bowlers, particularly the spinners, exhibited a quality gap. The successors to Saqlain Mushtaq and Saeed Ajmal are yet to emerge. Pakistan needs specialists, not generalists.
This doesn’t imply that Pakistan can’t compete in the tournament, but it seems challenging at this stage. To succeed, they need more consistent batting performances from key players, as modest totals are hard to defend. Their best batsmen must turn individual brilliance into consistent excellence. The bowlers, especially Shaheen Shah Afridi, need to regain their edge.
While the road ahead is demanding, it’s not insurmountable. After their defeat in Ahmedabad, Pakistan cannot afford to be disheartened. Instead, they need a psychological reset and a performance that restores their confidence.
Compared to their formidable adversaries, Pakistan faces an uphill battle in rectifying their faults. However, the season is still in its early stages, and the team deserves further consideration.