Once a Pakistani batting line-up commanded respect. It had within it the silken, wristy strokeplay of Saeed Anwar, the feistiness of Younis Khan, the sagacity of Mohammad Yousuf, the obdurateness of Inzamam-ul-Haq and if all else failed, the madcap eccentricity of Moin Khan.
Today, they must all watch this Pakistan team and chuckle in mirth. From those lofty heights of once upon a time, the Pakistan batting is now so utterly shambolic that even one of the best ever spells ever seen in a Twenty20 international failed to save them from an ultimately inevitable defeat against India in Mirpur on Saturday.
Batting? What batting?
For Pakistani fans, it must have been tragically funny to watch. On a helpful pitch against the likes of Ashish Nehra and Jasprit Bumrah, Pakistan’s batsmen forgot the basics of batting technique. Like everything else, batting also has its own grammar and there are certain rules to be followed, even in a Twenty20 match.
Most of Pakistan’s batsmen though batted like school kids allowed to hold a cricket bat for the first time. Apart from Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik, the other batsmen in Pakistan’s top five looked like they had little idea of what they were doing. From displaying a glaring lack of footwork to needlessly driving at balls away from the body, it was actually not much of a surprise that they found themselves stuttering at 42/6 and then skittled out for 83.
But the troubling aspect of this shambolic batting performance is that it was not just simply a matter of the batsman having a collective failure. The rot runs deeper – if we are led to believe this lot of batsmen are currently the best in Pakistan right now, Pakistani cricket is staring at a dark future.
'Pace is pace, yaar'
For one man, that insipid batting performance must have rankled a lot. Mohammad Amir will perhaps never be able to erase the stigma of his dark spot-fixing past but such lion-hearted performances will go a long way in repairing some of the damage he has done. It is to his credit that a contest seemed dead and buried suddenly became alive again, at least during the four overs he bowled.
On any other day and with maybe a more liberal set of umpires, Amir might have taken five, even six wickets and taken his team to the unlikeliest of victories. That did not prove to be the case but in the twenty four balls he delivered, he was electrifying, seemingly making the ball swing whichever direction he wanted, that too at incredible pace. This time, it was India’s batsmen who had no clue. Once India were 8/3, everyone watching must have sat up a little straighter. But there was not to be any fairytale, largely due to Virat Kohli.
Kohli has plenty of big centuries to his credit but the 49 he made here will remain very special. On a dangerous pitch, he was the only batsmen across the two sides who looked at ease. Because his basics are very sound, Kohli played Amir perfectly – moving back and across and ensuring he showed the full face of the bat to the ball, thereby smothering the swing. Once Amir had finished his quota of overs, Kohli went back to his usual domineering self and got India comfortably home, after that brief opening scare.
Had Pakistan’s batting managed to hold on and squeak a few more runs though, it may have been a far more interesting match. But once the years go by, people will see the scorecard of this match and attribute the result to Pakistan’s batting collapse. Amir’s heroics will quietly slip under the radar.