T20 World Cup: Problem runs deeper in Pakistan cricket, says ex-skipper Rashid Latif

Pakistan will play their next game against India on June 9. (PC: ICC)

A visibly tired Mohammad Amir bowled the Super Over for Pakistan, instead of Shaheen Shah Afridi or Naseem Shah, and conceded three wides. When Pakistan batted, Iftikhar Ahmed and Shadab Khan were given the task to chase down 19 off six deliveries. They failed. Why Fakhar Zaman, a left-hander who could have used the angles better against left-arm seamer Saurabh Netravalkar, didn’t take strike was anyone’s guess.

Pakistan’s defeat to the United States, however, wasn’t solely down to their Super Over tactical disaster-class. The US played better cricket and deserved their win. They had recently beaten Bangladesh in a bilateral T20I series. But Pakistan are the last T20 World Cup finalists and one of the title contenders in the ongoing edition.

The funny part of Pakistan’s defeat is that it hasn’t surprised people who know Pakistan cricket at close quarters. “It was expected,” said former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif. “It was a long time coming,” said a senior cricket correspondent from Karachi.

Back in Pakistan, expectations around Babar Azam’s team have been unusually low this time. Poor performances in the lead-up to the T20I World Cup could be a reason. Pakistan drew a home T20I series against a second-string New Zealand, lost a game against Ireland and lost the series in England. Latif, in fact, had predicted that Pakistan would lose to the US.

“I had predicted it, as I did the preview of the match,” Latif told RevSportz. “The problem runs deeper in Pakistan cricket. It doesn’t have a stable Board. It doesn’t have a stable selection committee. It doesn’t have a stable coaching staff. It doesn’t have a stable team. The foundation of Pakistan cricket has become weak. We have gone to this World Cup without a specific target,” he elaborated.

To make matters worse, Pakistan play an outdated brand of T20 cricket. They haven’t posted a 200-plus total in this format for close to two years now. Against the US, Babar got stuck upfront, as wickets fell at the other end. The pitch had something for the bowlers to start with, but the Pakistan skipper hitting his first boundary after 24 balls was slow-going.

“They clearly lacked intent. It was a 180 pitch and they were about 20 runs short,” said Latif. “See how Rohit (Sharma) and Virat (Kohli) have changed their game to meet the demand of modern T20 cricket. As far as our batsmen are concerned, I don’t know whether they are selfish or lack the required skill-set.”

After the game yesterday, Babar sort of blamed his bowlers. “We were not up to the mark in the first six. Didn’t take wickets. Spinners didn’t either,” he said at the post-match presentation. According to someone in the know, Babar no longer remains a popular captain, although before the tournament, the team presented a united front.

Pakistan will face India on Sunday, which has now become a must-win affair for them. Is Latif hopeful? “The New York pitch is bad and a bad pitch reduces the difference between two sides. Also, it’s a totally different game and I expect Pakistan to move into fifth gear,” he concluded.