BY WASIM PARKAR – FAN FUEL BLOGGER
After some engrossing cricket in the group stages of the ICC Champions 2013 Trophy, I look back at some of the performances that were simply not up to par.
1. Pakistan’s batting: Everyone knew going in to the tournament that Pakistan’s batting was a weakness. That a performance of such ridiculous ineptitude would be on display was beyond everyone’s worst nightmares. Pakistan capitulated to scores of 170, 167 and 165 all out in their three games, not once having completed their allotted overs.
Mohammed Hafeez managed an average of 12.66, Shoaib Malik a feeble 8.33, Kamran Akmal a horrible 7.66 and Imran Farhat a pathetic two! Even more damning is the fact that the four of them have combined to represent Pakistan on 549 occasions.
Numbers explain only half the story. There was a clear lack of strategic understanding and an absolute inability to comprehend and gauge the match situation. Wickets were thrown away when consolidation was needed. When quick singles and rotation of strike was the order of the day, maidens were dead-batted against part-time spinners. It was a brutally limp performance from the men in green.
2. Australia: Your captain and best batsman is injured on the eve of the tournament, and is subsequently ruled out. One of your leading batsmen and senior players lets the team and possibly the whole nation down by swinging a punch at the opposition’s youngest player on a late night out after a defeat. It can’t get worse, can it?
It can. Australia was brutally exposed at the Champions Trophy for what they are, an average team in all formats of the game. The era of dominance has been over for a while, but the glaring spotlight of an international tournament has shed away any futile optimism about a possible resurgence.
While the bowling can provide hope for the future considering the age of the bowlers, the batting failure was inexcusable. Australia didn’t cross 250 even once in three innings. The openers failed miserably, the middle order lacked substance and coherence, and batsmen were shuffled up and down constantly for no rhyme or reason.
3. West Indies: As expected, the West Indies provided moments that thrilled and infuriated in equal measure. Were it not for the vagaries of Duckworth-Lewis, West Indies would have been looking forward to a semi-final against England. However, the hard luck story masks the bitter truth that the team was responsible for its own downfall.
The Windies certainly have the best exponents of the 20 over game in their side, both in the batting and bowling departments. However, the 50 over game requires a different kind of temperament, and there is a greater emphasis on the pacing of innings.
The batsmen were at their most effective in the first 10 overs and the last 10 overs the game, facets that are honed by their expertise in the shortest form of the game. However, the team threw away positions of great strength in the middle overs by ceding wickets to unnecessary big shots. If these overs were managed sensibly, this West Indian team could have written a different story.
4. New Zealand: Every cricket fan expects commitment, effort and a never-say-die attitude from New Zealand. On that count, the Black Caps duly delivered. Nonetheless, Brendan McCullum and his team go back home with plenty of regrets. After winning a tremendously exciting opening game against Sri Lanka, New Zealand were in a position of strength to qualify for the semi-finals, but the consistent failure of the top order batsmen, meant the efforts of the bowlers went unrewarded.
5. Kieron Pollard: The biggest middle order hitter in the game gave plenty of ammunition to the critics who say he doesn’t have the patience to become successful in longer forms of the game. He threw away his wicket chasing a wide ball in a tricky chase against Pakistan and then got out attempting to clear the boundary against India, when they were still nine overs left in the innings and he was the last recognized batsman.
Even that was topped off with his last act of the tournament. With West Indies five runs ahead of par in a crucial game against South Africa, Pollard attempted an unnecessary heave to throw away his wicket, handing over a semi-final place to South Africa.
6. Luke Ronchi: Ronchi scored 23 runs in three innings at an average of 7.66. You know Australian cricket is in a bad state when their export is the worst player in the New Zealand team.