Pakistan and unpredictability go together
By Harsha Bhogle, Mumbai, June 13 : The one thing you can be certain of with Pakistan is that they will inevitably surprise you with their performances on the field. They are currently playing an ODI series vs Sri Lanka and have maintained a strong Castrol Index of 151 points.
With the ICC World Twenty20 looming, in Sri Lanka, they are sending out a very strong statement with their bowling.
I don't know if there is a sporting DNA but Pakistan seems to produce bowlers with far greater regularity than they do batsmen. If you ever have a choice between one or the other, you'd always want to have bowlers on your side because they tend to win you more matches. And just looking at this Pakistani bowling line-up, it is difficult to believe that in the last eighteen months they have lost three match-winning new ball bowlers.
Currently, Pakistan can call on Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul and Mohammad Sami in the fast bowling department and I am absolutely certain there are five others either waiting to be discovered or returning to form. As a result, they can play around with whoever is available without losing too much potency. And since continuity has rarely been a strong point with them (almost all their bowlers go through form swings faster than a prima donna does her moods!), they just move on without losing too much sleep.
In Sri Lanka, Tanvir and Sami have been the game changers. This is evident by their Castrol Index figures; both have a Bowling Efficiency of over 50. Their ability was never in doubt and Sami, who has an international record that does his ability no justice at all, is back to bowling seriously quick. It is interesting that it took the Bangladesh Premier League for him to make a statement again but from what I saw in Sri Lanka, he could take a tournament by storm. As can Sohail Tanvir who, when in rhythm, can work up a fair bit of pace too.
To add to these three, Pakistan have three spinners in Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Hafeez. Bear in mind that two of those can bat in the top six and you have a team that is as balanced as any, especially in sub-continent conditions. Ajmal and Afridi are good for a full quota of overs (whether 4 or 10) most days and Hafeez can bowl earlier than them and get quiet but valuable overs in.
So should Pakistan be a major threat? Yes, if they can get their batting in order. Periodically, you hear names and see performances that promise much more. Umar Akmal, Ahmad Shahzad, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, not to mention Imran Farhat and Taufeeq Umar. But not one of those has become the major player he threatened to be. That is why Pakistan will be far more dangerous in the shorter form than in Tests. Indeed the shorter the form, the better Pakistan will be. At the moment, I believe they are at their most dangerous at T20 and least threatening at Test cricket.
But one thing hasn't gone out of Pakistan cricket and that is their unpredictability. Maybe that is in their DNA too for they are perfectly capable of capitulating to Sri Lanka one day and beating them by 60-70 the next, as we have seen in this series.
And so with Pakistan, it is best not to expect. Just enjoy whatever is on the menu that day!