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Pakistan struggle for form

cricket Updated: Jun 07, 2009 02:05 IST
Venkat Ananth
Venkat Ananth
Hindustan Times
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They arrived here as runners-up from South Africa 2007, but haven't looked the part since. After two big losses in the warm-ups, Pakistan have plenty to worry about come Sunday when they kick off their campaign against England. While rustiness has been the official line to account for their defeats so far, one look into the Pakistani preparations, and you know they are a side with plenty to work on.

For starters, their fielding has been sluggish in both matches. There was a clear lack of intensity, with plenty of misfields and dropped catches. Unlike other teams, India included, who stepped up the fielding workload during practice, Pakistan preferred to concentrate on batting and bowling — not addressing their larger concerns. Another area, where Pakistan were down was body language. While India’s aggressive posture saw them through on Wednesday, Pakistan were casual at times, not taking the warm-ups seriously.

If their batting capitulated against South Africa, their bowling looked ordinary as Rohit Sharma tore them apart at the Oval. No bowler looked like taking a wicket, and there were hints in the nets before the India game. Umar Gul didn’t bowl in practice due to the chronic injury he's been carrying. Mohammad Aamer, the young tearaway did not have a proper crack, and was thrown into a match situation. Sohail Tanvir looked out of sorts. The spinners haven't looked a serious threat, Shahid Afridi and Ajmal Saeed included.

One of the main problems surrounding Pakistan has been their batting. Their top order simply failed to come to terms with the fiery South African bowling and kept losing wickets at important intervals against India. Their batting is middle-heavy, with inexperience at the top. Worse, some of their best players - Misbah-ul-Haq, Shoaib Malik and Afridi bat lower down the order. On the evidence of their two warm-ups, it almost seems as though they don't know their best eleven ahead of the real tournament.

But, as Pakistan have shown during the years, it would be foolish to write them off at this early stage. Yes, they are a side with problems, inexperience and some off-colour players, but with a relatively easier Super Eight group awaiting them, they might just turn out to be the surprise package.