KARACHI: Pakistan go into the fifth and final match of their ODI series against New Zealand on Friday looking to at least save themselves from the embarrassment of a whitewash but former cricketers are not putting much hope in them doing so.
More than the four consecutive defeats, it is the manner in which Pakistan have wilted without a fight that has led to such pessimism regarding the Men in Green’s chances of claiming a win.
“They have not been impressive in the first four matches,” said Imran Nazir, while talking to The Express Tribune. “People thought after every defeat that now they will improve but apart from the last match — in which Paksitan put up a fight — there haven’t been many improvements.”
Imran believes pointing to the difficult conditions should not be a way out since this is a side that recently won the Champions Trophy. “The team that won the Champions Trophy should not find it that difficult to adapt to new conditions,” he said. “Yes the conditions are tough but losing by such huge margins is not acceptable. This isn’t the way champions play. The final game is where the first match was and, frankly, I am not expecting much from the side.”
Imran believes Sarfraz and co missed a trick by dropping opening batsman and former skipper Azhar Ali from the side for the fourth ODI. “I was surprised at seeing Azhar being dropped,” he said. “Yes he hasn’t been performing but he is one of the most technically sound players in the team so you back him to perform. I expect him to be back for the final game and to finally put up a good opening partnership with Fakhar Zaman.”
One of the main issues plaguing Pakistan is the performance of Shoaib Malik. Usually one of the team’s best players, Malik has struggled in this series and there were fears that he will miss the final game after showing delayed signs of concussion from the blow he suffered to the head.
However, he has been declared fit and former chief slector Sallahuddin Sallu believes he will finally come good.
“Malik has been performing well under pressure for many years now,” he said. “He was unlucky to be injured in the last game and lost his wicket due to that but he will hopefully do well in the final game.”
Sallu believes there is more than pride at stake in the final game. “If Pakistan lose this, then they will find it incredibly difficult to perform in the T20Is since the New Zealand will have a huge psychological advantage over Pakistan.”
Sallu, like Imran, also criticised the team’s decision to tinker with the opening partnership. “This is not the time to be experimenting like they did in the last game when they sent Faheem Ashraf as an opener,” he said. “They need to send specialist batsmen on their preferred places. The bowlers also need to focus on varying things up like the Kiwis are doing. Our bowlers have variety but they just aren’t using the right ball at the right time.”
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