Crescent Kashmir

Pakistan’s batting standards need to improve: Iftikhar

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PAKISTANI cricket fans have always had a knack of perceiving their misery with a comic angle.

One of the popular notions among them is how when their team bats, the pitch looks like a bowling friendly surface and that when they bowl, it turns into a batting paradise.

That was very well the case in their first ever One-day International loss to Afghanistan in their World Cup match here on Monday.

Pakistan, had posted what looked like a decent total at that time on a famously spin-friendly Chepauk wicket, scoring 281 runs after electing to bat first.

The major contributions had come from captain Babar Azam’s responsible knock for 74 before fireworks by Iftikhar Ahmed — with support from Shadab Khan — helped the team accelerate in the death overs.

After their spin battery had kept Pakistan from firing all cylinders from the start, the Afghanistan batters, it felt, were playing on a flat surface, with the ball easily coming on.

But it was more of the Pakistan bowlers’ lack of accuracy to begin with and inventiveness when their mistakes put them under pressure.

This was the Pakistan pace attack which was being dubbed as the best in the world hardly two months ago. According to Iftikhar, it still is. For him, it was the batters who should have done better.

“At least 300, or even more, should have been scored on this wicket,” Iftikhar told reporters after the match. “The bowlers gave their best but I think the batting standards need to improve.

“It is true that our bowling is still number one, but it is not performing as good as we expected it to.”

Iftikhar, however, admitted that the Pakistan bowlers kept succumbing under pressure as the match progressed and weren’t able to bounce back when they were hit for runs.

“The thing about one-day cricket is that if you start your over with one bad ball and are hit for runs, then you are already under pressure before bowling the remaining deliveries and you tend to falter,” observed the right-hander.

The Afghan attack, in contrast, as Iftikhar put it, were rewarded for their consistent demonstration of discipline throughout Pakistan’s innings.

“I think they bowled very less bad balls, and we did a lot of them,” he noted.

Having lost three of their five matches in the 50-over showpiece so far, Pakistan would be desperate to win their remaining four fixtures.

The first of them is against the high-flying South Africans on Friday here at the Chepauk only.

Iftikhar conceded that Pakistan have been bogged down by the recent results, but are positive for better outcomes in the upcoming matches.

“There are ups and downs in cricket, I think our down is going on, we can’t do much but keep trying,” he said. “We can’t rule out our ability to bounce back, and we will do our best to return to the top of our form.”

Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2023


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