x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Champions Trophy: Former Pakistan bowler Shoaib Akhtar disappointed

While in Dubai for a charity event, retired Pakistan paceman Shoaib Akhtar harps on Pakistan's batting woes at the Champions Trophy in England, writes Ahmed Rizvi.

Retired Pakistan bowler Shoaib Akhtar, right, was in Dubai on Wednesday and is looking for talented cricketers from the UAE. Photo courtesy Mirza Azeem Baig
Retired Pakistan bowler Shoaib Akhtar, right, was in Dubai on Wednesday and is looking for talented cricketers from the UAE. Photo courtesy Mirza Azeem Baig

DUBAI // Shoaib Akhtar has blamed Pakistan's batting woes at the Champions Trophy on a lack of experience and inspiration in the dressing room.

The Pakistan batsmen, save the captain Misbah-ul-Haq and the opener Nasir Jamshed, have been in woeful form in England, failing to bat through their quota of 50 overs in both their Champions Trophy matches.

In their first match, against West Indies, Pakistan were bowled out for 170 in 48 overs. Against South Africa, they managed to get only 167 in 45 overs, chasing 235 for a win.

Only Misbah (96) and Jamshed (50) managed to get into double figures against West Indies and the two scored the bulk of the runs (55 for Misbah, 42 for Jamshed) in the second match as well.

"Very disappointing," said Akhtar, 37, the former Pakistan pace ace who retired in 2011 and currently is in Dubai as the ambassador for the Sprite Cricket Stars programme. "Our batsmen have just not shown the courage or bravery to step up.

"It's a question of maturity. You need to show a bit more maturity towards the game and they are certainly not doing that. I have a huge problem with that. When you look at the youngsters coming into the other teams, they show the attitude as if they have been playing for the last 15 or 20 years."

Akhtar also blamed team selection for Pakistan's struggles. Senior players such as Shahid Afridi and Younis Khan, and the talented Umar Akmal, were left at home due to poor form, while youngsters like Umar Amin were given the nod.

The lack of experience has been telling, especially in the Pakistan top order. The opener Imran Farhat has managed 2 and 2 in the two matches and the No 3 Mohammed Hafeez has got 4 and 7. Asad Shafiq and Shoaib Malik (8 against South Africa) were out for a duck against West Indies, and Amin, who replaced Shafiq in the second game, struggled in his 29-ball innings of 16.

"Unfortunately, they did not pick the right team," Akhtar said. "Those batsmen who can get quick runs in the last 10 overs have been left out. So I will say the selection was not right in the first place and second we are struggling in our batting department, big time. The vibe we are supposed to have, or used to have, that is missing.

"We need to have some inspiration in the dressing room. We need to have senior players in the dressing room to tutor the youngsters, to transfer their experience and teach them how to play cricket at that level, how to build an innings.

"But when you take all the senior players out of the dressing room, there is no one to teach them and there is no one they can look up to."

The Sprite Cricket Stars is a programme aimed at finding the best team of talented cricketers from the UAE as well as encouraging sport among the labour communities and population as a whole.

In his role as ambassador, Akhtar has been visiting labour camps across the country, interacting with his fans, and the "Rawalpindi Express" has been touched by his experiences.

"I have met 40,000 to 50,000 people in about five days," he said. "We make them dance, we make them laugh, we give away gifts. It is a good getaway. It is a couple of hours well spent."

arizvi@thenational.ae

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