The Indian cricket board responded to the national team’s defeat in the semi-finals of the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia last week by sacking their senior selection committee on Friday.
India were dumped out of the tournament in Australia after a 10-wicket hammering by eventual champions England and Rohit Sharma’s side was labelled “clueless” and “out of their depth” by former players, fans and the country’s media.
Former head coach Ravi Shastri also said the team needed to appoint a new captain for the shortest format of the game. But it was the Chetan Sharma-led senior selection committee that was first to go.
“The Board of Control for Cricket (BCCI) in India invites applications for the position of national selectors (senior men),” the BCCI said in a statement, adding that it was looking to fill five positions.
THE final was in the balance with four overs to play, with Pakistan marginally ahead of England on the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern par score. The threat of rain, though, did not materialise. Had the skies opened up, Pakistan would be the Twenty20 World Cup champions.
Instead, that over changed everything for Babar Azam’s men in a low-scoring title clash at a packed Melbourne Cricket Ground — the scene of Pakistan’s sole 50-over World Cup triumph three decades ago. Two wickets in two balls from Wasim Akram had turned the game in Pakistan’s favour then.
This time, Pakistan saw their pace spearhead succumb to injury. Shaheen Shah Afridi twisted his knee while taking a catch to dismiss Harry Brook and leave England at 84-4 in the 13th over while chasing 138.
Having been assessed by the team doctors, Shaheen returned to the field but came unstuck after the first delivery of the 16th over. Part-timer Iftikhar Ahmed, tasked to complete the over, was belted away for a four and a six by Ben Stokes, and England won with an over to spare to join the West Indies as the only other side to have won the T20 World Cup twice. They also became the undisputed kings of limited-overs cricket, adding this to the ODI World Cup they won in 2019.
Comment: England triumph as final turns on Shaheen’s injury
Pakistan were left contemplating what could have been. They had seemed destined for the title, and could have done well had their batting fared better. Put into bat, openers Babar and Mohammad Rizwan weren’t able to provide the foundation that had led Pakistan to their victory over New Zealand in the semi-final. Their struggle throughout the tournament resurfaced in the final.
The middle order, which had been key for Pakistan during their run in Australia, failed to fire. However, Pakistan can take heart from the way their bowlers kept them in the hunt, especially against a side that had torn apart India in the semi-final.
They can draw inspiration from the way they bounced back after suffering last-ball defeats to India and Zimbabwe in their opening two matches. In reaching the final, they showed that Pakistan remain a force to be reckoned with in world cricket. In fact, this should spur them on to greater success. This should be a springboard to improve in other formats of the game — in particular, the 50-over format with the ODI World Cup set to be held in almost a year’s time.
When Saqlain Mushtaq, in that famous press conference last month, dropped his Qudrat Ka Nizam line, he was ridiculed for trying to sidestep and almost justify his team’s cricketing failure by linking it with force of nature.
It turns out that the bearded spin maestro was delivering another one of his doosras. A month later, his mini phrase has a cult following and pretty much defines not only Pakistan’s run to the final but also everything that lies ahead.
In fact, if you look closely and in the right places, you’d find that the all-encompassing Qudrat line has been the primary theme of the World Cup. How else would you explain Pakistan being a match away from becoming world champions today when up until a few days ago they were a match away from flying back home? That’s Qudrat Ka Nizam for you.
How else would you explain Zimbabwe avenging the embarrassment of falling for a fake Mr Bean by almost knocking Pakistan out of the tournament? How else would you explain Pakistan coming back from the dead, thanks to an alley-oop dished by the Netherlands of all the teams? And what scientific logic is there for South Africa to annihilate India but fall to the Dutch?
And what of Pakistan keeping the 1992 narrative alive? And what of a playground bully helplessly watching its players fly off home after a historically embarrassing defeat? The karmic yet random, unfathomable yet justified absurdity of it all is what Saqqi meant with Qudrat Ka Nizam.
Read: Pak vs Eng: Five things to know ahead of winner-takes-all World Cup final
The beauty of it all is that if it rains all day today and tomorrow, even then it’s Qudrat Ka Nizam at work — although a bit too literally.
And if cricket does happen, and Pakistan win, that’s Qudrat ka Nizam too, because if a flood-hit country that is in the midst of a financial and political crisis somehow emerges as the best in the world at cricket, surely Mother Nature is by its side.
But then if script is flipped and England were to triumph, guess what? We will still get a bailout because that’s just Qudrat ka Nizam.
Captain Babar Azam told his rejuvenated Pakistan side on Saturday to ride the wave of four consecutive victories and win the Twenty20 World Cup final. The 2009 champions suffered last-ball losses to India and Zimbabwe to start their tournament but bounced back to surge into Sunday’s final against England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. “We have lost the first two matches, [but] the way we came back the last four matches, we’ve performed very well,” Azam said at his pre-match press conference. “I’m more excited than nervous … it is no doubt that pressure exists, but it can only be suppressed with confidence and belief in ourselves. And for good results, it is important that one must do so.” Pakistan are slight underdogs against Jos Buttler’s England, but Azam is banking on the strength of his fast bowlers to give them an edge, particularly in the six-over powerplay. “England is a competitive team, their [10-wicket] win to reach the finals against India was a proof of that,” he said. “Our strategy is to stick to our plan and use our pace attack as our strength to win the finals. “Utilising the powerplay to grab as many wickets will be essential for the match,” he added. Notwithstanding any late injuries, Pakistan are set to name the same team with Shaheen Shah Afridi spearheading a dangerous attack and Azam and Mohammad Rizwan headlining the batting. Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ramiz Raja met the squad on Friday and gave them a pep talk, reflecting on how the Pakistan team he was part of beat England to win the 1992 one-day World Cup. “When the chairman came and shared his experience of the World Cup, it put a massive boost in our confidence,” said Azam. “He advised us to stay calm and focus on what goes well.” More than 90,000 fans packed the MCG when Pakistan played India early in the tournament and they have enjoyed solid support wherever they have played in Australia. “They give us confidence and [it’s] good to see when we go anywhere, any stadium, they come and support the Pakistan team,” he said.
Green Shirts book their place in the final at MCG opposite one of India and England, who clash tomorrow in the other semi-final
Pakistan hardly put a foot wrong and dominated pretty much from start to finish, beating New Zealand by seven wickets in their World Cup semi-final clash at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday.
The reward for them is an entry in the World Cup final opposite one of England and India on Sunday. If it turns out to be the former, than it would keep them on track to replicate the template of their successful World Cup run from 30 years ago when they had come back from the dead to beat the Kiwis in the semis and England in the final.
They had a nightmare start to the day as Babar Azam lost the toss and was forced to field first when he’d have liked to bat. Then, on the first ball of the over, their star pacer Shaheen Afridi was hit for a four. From that point on, however, it was all Pakistan.
From bowling to fielding and even decision making, Babar and Co got every single thing right as the Kiwis were a distant second. Set a target of 153, it was expected that the out-of-form pairing of Babar and Mohammad Rizwan could struggle. Those concerns were quickly put to bed as the Pakistan openers dominated Kiwi pacers.
Both the star openers, after a tournament’s worth of struggles, came alive when it mattered the most and scored half centuries each. The pair did not stay till the end, but their body of work was enough to let latter batters get the team over the line comfortably.
153-3 after 19.1 overs: Southee to Masood, 1 run
152-3 after 19.1 overs: Southee to Masood, 1 run wide
SOMETIMES the heavens align. Sometimes it snows in April. Sometimes the magic takes hold of Pakistan cricket, rescues it from the jaws of despair, and clears its path to the pinnacle. At times like this it is best to go with the mood, to trip the light fantastic, to savour Pakistan’s version of magical realism. The Netherlands created the mood, and Pakistan’s bowlers, led by the star-shaped celebrations of Shaheen Shah Afridi, propelled Pakistan into the T20 World Cup semifinals.
New Zealand await Pakistan under the Sydney lights in an echo of 1992. The romantics among us see shades of the cornered tigers in almost every tournament, but for once those comparisons may be genuine.
A miserable start followed by a do or die resurgence. Inspirational bowlers carrying a batting order rediscovering its mojo. Qualification against the odds, delivered by rain, luck, and other results. A left-arm fast bowler perfecting his art; lethal round the wicket. A young leg spinner seizing the world stage. A new international batsman, fearless and audacious. A low-key final group game to see Pakistan safely into the semi-finals. These are the welcome shadows of the past.
And the Adelaide Oval, a historic ground that has seen almost 150 years of cricket, where higher powers intervene to keep Pakistan’s hopes alive. Now, by inspiring the Netherlands to a shock victory over as lacklustre a South African team as you will find. Then, in 1992, by conjuring a rainstorm that saved Pakistan from certain defeat to England and allowed Imran Khan’s team to progress.
The Green Shirts will clash with New Zealand in the semifinals on Nov 9
The similarities are everywhere, and by Wednesday they may well mean nothing, but for now, in this sweet moment, they are powerful and beg the question of whether the miracle can be reworked? History, some say, is circular, always returning to the same point. Well, Pakistan are here again, defying all expectations, with New Zealand standing between them and a World Cup Final at Australia’s Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Perhaps, most importantly, Pakistan have momentum, which is often decisive in the final stages of a world tournament. England have it too — another echo. But it isn’t fate or circumstance that creates momentum, it is the players, the energy they bring, and the manner of their victories.
Pakistan’s momentum resides predominantly in their exquisite bowling attack. This is no statement blinkered by jingoism but a verdict supported by fact. For speed, control, and impact there isn’t a pace attack that can match Pakistan’s. The best decision that coach and captain made was to opt for the attacking option of picking four fast bowlers, and deploy them exclusively in the power play and at the death.
Since that switch, Pakistan haven’t conceded more than 130 runs – admittedly South Africa’s innings was rain affected. Those high pressure performances carried Pakistan. If one of the quartet struggles, the others compensate. Haris Rauf, Naseem Shah, and Mohammad Wasim, have all played their part, with Shah’s audacious change of pace bamboozling Bangladesh as they sought to accelerate.
But the fast bowling hits a higher note now that Afridi is on song. In Adelaide, he delivered an early breakthrough, as he often does, luring dangerous Litton Das into an aerial cut. And when Bangladesh threatened to rally, it was Afridi’s match defining three wickets that ripped the soul out of Bangladesh’s innings. No team enjoys facing a confident Afridi, and Shaheen Shah at his best makes this attack world class.
The other key wickets fell to Pakistan’s spinners. Iftikhar Ahmed showed his growing value with a tight spell and the prize scalp of Najmul Hussain Shanto. Yet the decisive moment once more was courtesy of Shadab Khan, whose reputation as a wicket taking threat in the middle overs is blossoming.
Bangladesh were dangerously placed at 73 for one in the 11th over, before two wickets in two balls from Shadab. They only managed another 54 runs. Controversy accompanied the LBW decision against Shakib Al Hasan, but Pakistan have had their share of misfortune via the decision review system and the third umpire’s call was marginal but fair.
Pakistan needed excellence from their bowlers, as Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam again struggled to master Australian conditions. Rizwan was more successful, and it was his unorthodox technique that was largely responsible for a 57 run partnership. But it was hard to watch and they didn’t dominate. Babar, in particular, is in horrible form, a player of effortless class finding each run a great effort.
Mohammad Nawaz, sent in at number three, struggled too. Any target induces anxiety in a knockout game, and Nawaz is finding it hard to hold his nerve in key moments. The start added unnecessarily to the pressure.
It was a relief, then, and a sharp contrast, when Muhammad Haris leapt to the attack and again fearlessly grabbed the initiative. A more orthodox cameo from Masood, who seemed liberated lower down the order, settled the game and Pakistani nerves.
The bowlers and middle order are carrying the team in this World Cup, and Pakistan have another level to reach once their top order starts to function. That may take a hard decision about where the captain bats, but if he and Rizwan prosper too Pakistan will be truly formidable opponents.
Pakistan’s second world title in Australia is, from nowhere, more than a distant dream. This is the way of Pakistan cricket, and the noise of Pakistan’s prospects is a growing clamour, where the mood and the moment are amplified by echoes of a legendary past. At times like these, the magic of Pakistan cricket feels almost real.
Babar Azam was supposed to lead Pakistan to Twenty20 World Cup glory but the team are on the brink of an early exit and the usually inspirational skipper is facing growing questions about his batting and leadership.
Babar scored the most runs at last year's World Cup in taking Pakistan to the semi-finals, where they lost to eventual champions Australia.
But the player ranked among the best batsmen in the world has scored just eight runs in three matches so far in Australia.
He got out for a first-ball duck in Pakistan's agonising last-ball defeat to arch-rivals India in their first game of the tournament.
The 28-year-old Babar then made four as the team lost by one run against Zimbabwe in a shock defeat.
Pakistan finally managed a win over the Netherlands in their third Super 12 match on Sunday, but they lost four wickets including Babar run out on four while chasing 91.
Read: Pakistan face improbable path to the semi-final
They play South Africa on Thursday in Sydney and must win their remaining two matches and hope other results go their way to stand any chance of making the semi-finals.
Babar's struggles have reflected a wider malaise among the Pakistani batsmen at the World Cup.
“Even when they score runs, why we lose? Because of the way they score runs,” said former captain Waqar Younis, also taking aim at Babar's opening partner Mohammad Rizwan, referring to their scoring rates.
The strike rates of Babar 129.19 and Rizwan (127.11) are below some other T20 openers including South Africa's Quinton de Kock (136.14) and Indian skipper Rohit Sharma (140.13).
Babar was ranked the leading batsman in the world in T20 international cricket before being displaced by Rizwan during the Asia Cup in September.
Babar has since slipped to fourth but still holds the top position in the ODI chart.
“I think Babar sometimes plays for himself,” another former captain, Wasim Akram, said previously in suggesting the opening batsman drop down the order in the Pakistan Super League.
The skipper wasn't comfortable with the idea.
Waqar called Azam “insecure” and also took aim at his ability as a captain. “There is a difference between a captain and a leader,” Waqar told a chat show.
'He's human also' When India's superstar batsman Virat Kohli was in a slump earlier this year, Babar backed him to climb out of it, tweeting: “This too shall pass. Stay strong.”
That tweet came back to haunt Babar when former India spinner Amit Mishra sarcastically aimed it back at the Pakistani batsman after another low score against the Dutch.
Vice Captain Shadab Khan jumped to the defence of his leader after the six-wicket victory over the Dutch in Perth.
“He's a world-class player, no doubt about that, but he's human also. Sometimes humans make mistakes, but he's our leader, he's our best captain,” said Shadab.
“He supports us, so we have to support him now. He's one shot away (from regaining form).”
Former captain Shahid Afridi also expects Babar, who still averages over 42 in 95 T20 internationals since making his debut in 2016, to prove his doubters wrong.
“Two to three bad games don't make you a bad player!” Afridi said on Twitter. “Babar Azam is our most consistent performer, he needs our support and backing.
“He will be back with a big match-winning innings soon. “