x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

This Pakistan Under 19 World Cup side flattered to deceive

Too many of the rest of the Pakistan Under 19 cricket squad are made up of precisely the kind of bits and pieces players who it is difficult to see getting beyond this level.

Once opener Sami Aslam departed Pakistan's frailties were exposed in the final on Saturday, March 1, 2014.  Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Once opener Sami Aslam departed Pakistan's frailties were exposed in the final on Saturday, March 1, 2014. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

In many ways, it is a considerable achievement that this batch of Pakistani cricketers managed to reach the Under 19 World Cup final.

The truth is that this has been a strangely underwhelming squad of young talent, especially given the kind of explosive players Pakistan have unveiled to the world in previous editions of this tournament.

They are not bereft of potential, of course.

Also read: South Africa Under 19s conquer where seniors failed: beat Pakistan to win the ICC World Cup

Given Pakistan’s permanent drought as far as opening batsmen go, it is inconceivable that Sami Aslam will not get a look in at senior level soon.

He is already in the process of building a handy first-class record and this tournament was further evidence of the inevitability of a senior appearance.

He is very much a modern left-handed opener: not pretty but effective and able to cash in once set.

Imam-ul-Haq had a big tournament, and his lineage is enough to ensure his name will be heard again.

As a leg-spinner in a country with a keen eye for spotting a good one, a watch will be kept on Karamat Ali.

Zia-ul-Haq also looks to have a chance to sparkle some more.

Too many of the rest of the squad are made up of precisely the kind of bits and pieces players who it is difficult to see getting beyond the U19 level.

Zafar Gohar and Amad Butt both had their moments through the tournament, with bat and ball. But it is difficult to see them, for now at least, as the answer to Pakistan’s search for a quality all-rounder.

A clue to the lopsided nature of the squad lies in some vital numbers. Aslam and Imam between them made 640 runs in the tournament. That represents a whopping 47 per cent of the total runs the side made (1,355); two batsmen, that is, responsible for nearly half the team’s entire bank of runs.

The pair made one hundred and five 50s between them. The other 11 players who had a bat made just two 50s.

Time and again, the exit of one meant a complete breakdown in the order. It is safe to say that Pakistan’s batting worries at senior level are not going to be resolved overnight.

The bowling kept them in it but even the nature of that was not one to make the hairs on your arms stand up.

At some points during games – when functional left-arm spin followed functional left-arm spin for over after over – it felt like a reversion to Pakistan pre-Imran Khan.

In those days, lists of the top-10 wicket-takers in domestic cricket were stuffed full with a kind of unfashionable, workaday left-arm spinner, season after season.

It could also be in line with Pakistan’s modern incarnation, the senior team being so heavily reliant on Saeed Ajmal and several others.

Granted Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and others have a bit more colour about their bowling, but it would not hurt to have the prospects of a young, raw tearaway coming through the ranks. This team, sadly, does not have one.

Perhaps the most heartening thing about this squad is how they performed in the field.

No senior side has been this collectively sharp, and neither have many Pakistan age sides. That has been a definite departure from the norm.

If this team’s efforts are an indication that Pakistan has started to produce better fielders in the junior level, then it might prove to be consolation enough from this squad’s achievements.

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

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