Pakistan team seems out of shape and tired

There is a plethora of reasons which can be presented in favour of Pakistan for producing such below-average performances

Pakistan team seems out of shape and tired PHOTO: AFP

Apart from the depressing performances Pakistan batting lineup has been dishing out in the ongoing Asia Cup, if there is one thing that everyone would have noticed is Sarfraz Ahmed and co’s body language.

Rewind back to the Afghanistan match where Shaheen Shah Afridi created three chances for Pakistan and courtesy Fakhar Zaman, Usman Shinwari and Haris Sohail, three sitters were dropped.

Catches have always been the key to win matches and Pakistan, visibly lethargic in the field, have been unable to take them.

There is a plethora of reasons which can be presented in favour of Pakistan for producing such below-average performances, but one thing which stands out against them is their physical and mental weakness in this Asian extravaganza.

Both concepts are correlated; if you lack in one, you lack in the other inevitably.

And if a case if to be presented in an attempt to discover which one notion is causing problems, then my vote would be for the physical aspect.

Pakistani players developed a strong case for physicality during Steve Rixon’s reign, but since his departure, Men in Green have had to work with a new fielding coach, New Zealand’s Grant Bradburn, and he doesn’t seem to be doing his job properly.

Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur once discussing Pakistan’s fielding called Rixon a ‘tough taskmaster’, a necessity for the Men in Green since they were never a part of environment where physical fitness and world-class fielding was considered vital.

His sudden exit from the fray and the arrival of a new coach has put Pakistani players into a transition phase where they would be looking to adjust to the demands of the new fielding coach.

This argument then begs a question that who is Bradburn and what has he done to the team on his very first assignment that they have fallen meteorically from grace in the fielding department.

Bradburn — someone who is not Rixon

Bradburn was in running for the New Zealand head coach role when their game-changer Mike Hesson called it a day, but the 52-year-old couldn’t even make it to the top two.

Gary Stead then won the race for the top Blackcaps job, beating Heinrich Malan to it.

Meanwhile, Bradburn was never Pakistan’s first choice coach in fielding as the Pakistan Cricket Board has earlier contacted Australian Darren Berry, who said no citing family reasons.

Pakistan eventually had to make-do with the situation and appointed Bradburn in the role, but country’s cricket fans would not be welcome him back with flowers if the team returns without winning the Asia Cup or at least putting up a good fight in the tournament.

They’ve disappointed with the bat, but they’ve been equally frustrating in fielding, something for which Bradburn will have to be answerable.

Way out of misery?

Pakistan have at least one more chance to send a stern warning to the world that they are still the same world beaters and the Champions Trophy win was not a fluke, when they take on Bangladesh in supposed semi-final, since the winner of the match faces India in the final.

Meanwhile, two defeats, and convincing ones, at the hands of arch-rivals India will only be forgiven if Pakistan make it to the final and bring the coveted trophy home.

In this time of adversity, Pakistan team needs fans’ backing and support to pick up the pieces and start fighting again and they will get just that, but only if they show a glimpse of fight when facing the Tigers.

Pakistani cricket team has come a long way under Sarfraz after being down and out in limited-overs cricket during Misbah’s long and Azhar’s short reign at the helm, and they will have to make sure they don’t fall in that pit again.

With the 2019 World Cup knocking on the door, Pakistan will have to improve — in batting, bowling and especially fielding — otherwise fingers are already being pointed at Sarfraz and his captaincy.