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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sri Lanka can decode Pakistan's bowling strength

Imran Khan, Saturday, June 20, 2009

Over the past week, the Pakistan team has shown the cricket-playing world why they are so necessary for the health of the game globally. They are a talented, unpredictable side that has a fan base in many of the cricket-playing countries.

 It's amazing that a side that looked so rusty in the initial stages of the competition turned it on just when it mattered most. The win against South Africa was structured around the bowling of Pakistan, and once again Umer Gul and the spinners, Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal, bowled exceptionally to get the team home.

 Looking ahead to the finals, Pakistan would certainly have been hoping that they got to face West Indies. Of all the teams in the fray, Sri Lanka is the one that has got a measure of Pakistan's bowlers. The Sri Lankans have played in Pakistan recently, and they have faced enough of Afridi, Gul and Ajmal to know what they are about.

The thing about T20 cricket is that the more you get to see of a bowler, the better you are able to line him up and hit him. There is a similarity in the success of Sri Lanka and Pakistan in this tournament because both have relied on the variety in their bowling to get the job done. However, Sri Lanka scores over Pakistan by having greater depth in their batting, and that is why they have been unstoppable so far.

 Pakistan had a lot of things going for it on Thursday against South Africa, and they must be hoping for a similar performance on Sunday. For me, the bowling of Gul has been the stand-out performance of the tournament. He has been the best pacer on show and his accuracy at the death is remarkable. Afridi too seems to have worked hard on his bowling, and against South Africa his batting came good as well. He has also been ably supported by Ajmal, in the spin department.

 The other plus was the captaincy of Younis Khan. True, he has made some tactical errors, but his ability to galvanise his teammates and his own hard-working, unselfish approach to the game has helped the cause of Pakistan.

 As mentioned earlier, if there is one team that can decode Pakistan's bowling strength it is Sri Lanka. However, Pakistan is unpredictable, and finally it depends on how they play on Sunday.

 Whatever the result, this performance from Younis Khan's team would be one bit of good news amid the doom and gloom back home in Pakistan. A ICC World Twenty20 win would give the Pakistanis a reason to smile, and that would be the biggest incentive for the team. However, I would rather they concentrate on playing to plan and potential tomorrow instead of focusing on how much their country needs this win, because that would only put pressure on the side.

 Pakistan cricket has once again proved what talent it has. However, the ICC must find ways to help the team during this difficult time. The decision to deprive it of the World Cup could have been avoided by merely swapping the venues of the next two editions of the tournament - Australia could have hosted it in 2011 and India and Pakistan could have hosted the next edition.

 The decision to move the cup out of Pakistan has deprived the board of much-needed revenue. I know that it's hard to see the situation improving by 2011, but by postponing the turn of the subcontinent to 2015, a message of hope and support would have been conveyed to the Pakistani cricket establishment.

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