March 4, 2016
Pakistan’s disappointing performance in the Asia Cup has stirred an untimely debate over selection  for the World T20 squad, with some quarters clamouring for captaincy change right before the big tournament.
The Asia Cup T20 in Bangladesh was generally being viewed as a testing ground and launching pad for some young Pakistan players  who had performed well in the Pakistan Super League. But the team’s weaknesses  were badly exposed in Dhaka’s competitive playing conditions.
Pakistan opened their Asia Cup campaign against India and promptly crumbled  to the opponent’s average bowling line-up. The batsmen could only put up a meagre 83 on the board. The drubbing could have been even more humiliating had Amir not bowled a splendid spell to shake the Indian batting early in the innings. The paceman grabbed three wickets in the powerplay to restore some pride to Pakistan.
Pakistan’s dismal performance continued in the next two games against the UAE and Bangladesh. Mercifully, Afridi’s side overpowered the UAE but it was not as convincing a victory as it should have been. The batsmen, especially the top order,  were badly exposed yet again. Then came the do-or-die match against Bangladesh. Pakistan won the toss and batted first only to be battered by the home team’s bowling.
In the T20 format, an aggressive batting attack  has become the mandatory approach, but Pakistani players could not hide their below-par batting technique and ended up reeling before the bowlers. To everyone’s surprise, Pakistani batsmen played 58 dot balls in a match against India. Similarly,  53 dot balls against UAE and 50 such balls against Bangladesh. On average, the team consumed only 60-65 balls out of 120. That’s a record of sorts.
Pakistan will be facing top teams like Australia, New Zealand and India in its World T20 group matches and the current performance of Afridi’s men leaves a big question mark hanging over their preparation for the mega event. In the three matches of the Asia Cup, only Sarfaraz Ahmed and Muhammad Amir showed some spark, leaving other team mates way behind.
Even captain Shahid Afridi demonstrated no sanity with the bat in any of the matches to inspire his players. The Pakistan Cricket Board needs to consider whether players can improve their performance when the skipper himself appears reluctant to change his approach to the game. Legendary batsman, Javed Minded, has also raised questions about Afridi’s performance and bluntly stated that the skipper can no longer be trusted as a reliable performer.
Meanwhile, surprises continue to unfold in the selection saga. In another hasty decision, team selectors have reportedly called Ahmad Shahzad for the World T20 to replace out-of-form Khurram Manzoor. If they do so, the selectors will be reneging on their earlier decision to drop Shahzad from the two major tournaments due to bad form.
The World T20 is just a week away and any last-minute changes, especially replacement of senior players, will plunge the team into further turmoil. A major revamp in the team is inevitable,  but let it come into effect after the T20 World Cup. Who knows,  the unpredictability factor may yet play a positive role in Pakistan’s favour.

The writer tweets @Azharkh4