Time and tide wait for none, not even once or for fun. And surely, time’s run out Pakistan as far as their chances of making it to the semi final stage of the World Cup are concerned.
They won a few games and lost more than they won but the manner in which their bowling was tanked in some of the games, whether you take the contest against Afghanistan or Australia, where their bowlers failed to take a wicket not until the 34th over by which time the Aussies had walloped them to different parts of the Chinnaswamy was a forgettable sight for their fans.
But forget the on-ground failures or the inability of a Babar Azam to score consistently or on other times, that of the other men in green, what hurt the team in a way few other things did in the ICC 2023 Men’s ODI World Cup was the absence of Naseem Shah.
The brilliant fast bowler, among the finds of Pakistan cricket, was ruled out due to a shoulder injury. That pain, however, is being felt by the rest of the side and fans, whether back in Pakistan or elsewhere in the world.
Naseem Shah has proved to be one of the most promising players for the team for his ability to swing the bowl both ways.
It’s one of the hardest things to do and, without a doubt, a thing of envy.
Though, that’s not all; maintaining a strong line and length makes Naseem Shah a lethal bowler that few would like to face, especially in the power plays. That main strike bowler that can attack and at the same time, support the other brilliant force that is Shaheen Afridi came to hurt Pakistan and it makes less sense to question the fact.
Forget not that a fine skill of the right armer is his ability to generate pace and moment off the pitch.
But here’s how the dynamics of Pakistan changed quite a bit since Shah’s absence led to Hasan Ali- 99 wickets from 65 one-dayers.
Brought in as the replacement, Hasan Ali, hasn’t quite been the force he was or maybe still can be for he’s just 29.
Therefore, more responsibilities were placed more on the shoulders of spinners, and the they failed- sorry for the harsh word- to showcase impactful performances.
Shadab Khan could manage to pick up just 2 wickets in the five games, meanwhile Usama Mir, who’s a very promising youngster, took three wickets in as many games.
Here are the stats of Naseem Shah in ODI’s
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Furthermore, a team should have versatile bowling options available that can take wickets at the right time, especially under pressure situations.
Pakistan fell short as they were majorly relying on their pace unit, which on an ideal day is a trinity when Shah, Rauf and Afridi bowl in tandem.
But even Haris Rauf, the man who soldiers on for Pakistan, didn’t make it any special- did he?
Haris Rauf, who so often does the bulwark of the fast bowling duties, managed to pick 10 wickets in the six games that have been held thus far, but proved to be quite expensive for the side.
One of Rawalpindi’s finest exports to the national team and certainly, the best since a certain Shoaib Akhtar, Rauf leaked runs at the death overs and wasn’t consistent.
The lone bright star was Shaheen Shah Afridi. He has proven to be phenomenal with the bowling as he picked up 13 wickets in six games, but he lacked support from the other end, precisely the end where Naseem Shah would’ve held the command.
Instead as the tournament wore on, the bowlers couldn’t maintain the pressure and leaked runs, particularly at the death overs where Shah’s striking pace could certainly have inflicted some damage.
Did this cost Pakistan a win in a couple of close matches, particularly the game against the Proteas? Most of us know the answer.
The addition of Naseem Shah in the squad earlier gave the side the leverage of a left- arm-right arm combination. How this would have been a potent mix for Pakistan is that it would’ve proven to be dangerous for its opponents.
But as fate played its part, the injury of Naseem Shah created a vacuum in the squad as no bowler, at least, until now was able to consistently take wickets in the middle overs- something that comes naturally to Naseem Shah .
This weakness of the team was exploited in a few matches by teams like India, Afghanistan, and South Africa. How though? Grabbing big wickets and preventing partnerships from being formed being the end results of a key strike bowler missing out.
The inability of the bowlers to take crucial breakthroughs in the middle overs hampered the team’s performance in the long run. Was that really hard to see?
Resultantly, Pakistan managed to win just two from the six ODI World Cup games played thus far.
image- ICC Cricket Schedule