Pakistan v West Indies, Group B
Colin Croft - 16 May 1999
All eyes were on the young paceman, Shoaib Akhtar as he started his run somewhere in neighbouring Somerset, even though the game was being played in Bristol, Gloucestershire, to bowl to ``senior'' West Indian opener, Sherwin Campbell. The run is fluid, loose, organised, rapid and powerful all in one. This is no normal long-jump like acceleration of the normal fast bowler. This run is more like those ``Funny Cars'' which do drag racing in the USA; full power and top speed immediately.
There was a blur, and when the eyes focussed, the ball was actually flying over the third-man boundary for a six, Campbell being caught in ``no-man's-land'' in attempting a hook from a shortish delivery. The ball hit the bat before he could swivel and frankly, Campbell was as late as ever in playing that half hook. Not long afterwards, Shoaib put Campbell out of his misery, having made 9, with the perfect off-cutter, at about 92 mph. The off bail reached the wicket-keeper, about 25 yards back. For an opener who is supposed to be ``behind'' deliveries, Campbell seemed strangely to be at the side of the ball.
There is nothing greater in cricket than looking at a fast bowler in full flight. With his pedigree; Shoaib Akhtar is an almost splitting image of Waqar Younis in approach and delivery; Shoaib could very well be the first bowler to pass the ``official'' 100 miles per hour mark. While Jeff Thompson of Australia was timed at 101 miles per hour in 1978 when we did a bowl-off for World Series Cricket, the equipment used then could not nearly be as reliable as those these days.
One could only imagine what would happen to the world's batsmen if or when, Shoaib Akhtar, the presently injured Mohammed Zahid and non-selected Mohammed Akram, both almost as rapid as Shoaib, are placed in the same team of those old but very wily characters, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis.
Oh, one last footnote here. These Pakistani pacemen are not large or tall, as the West Indians or Australians normally are. Instead, they are all rather stocky, averaging about six feet tall, but they have great thighs and backsides, therefore they can generate power and speed. They also ``sling'' their deliveries more, not too unlike Thompson, hence the speed. It is like skimming rocks on a lake.
The game itself started strangely. Pakistan won the toss in murky conditions and elected to bat first, obviously taking on Brian Lara and his men. The West Indies themselves were strange, in selection of their team. They had opted for eight batsmen, including Ridley Jacobs and only three front line bowlers. That decision was to come back to haunt them. Frankly, this was really poor selection.
There is a saying in Guyana that ``what rain cannot fill, then dew cannot fill.'' When I played Test and One Day Internationals, there was the open opinion that ``if six batsmen cannot do the job, then seven will not either.'' That was so true here. What is strange is that the West Indies team is being managed by Clive Lloyd, who was one who believed in the adage of the six batsmen only situation. In a word, if you make 500 runs, who would get the opposition out? What happened to Hendy Brian, who bowled so well in the Caribbean is anyone's guess. Strange selections indeed.
Pakistan had wilted, if that could be achieved in 5 degree Centigrade weather, to 42-4, with the brilliant Walsh and Ambrose bowling beautifully. Both Saeed Anwar, perhaps the world's best opening batsman, and that refreshing upstart, Shahid Afridi, had gone quickly. Merve Dillon, the third and final full fledged bowler, took care of Abdul Razzaq and Inzamam-ul-Haq. Then the wheels fell out from the West Indies wagon. While Simmons held his own with 40 runs from his 10 overs, the 10 overs bowled by Adams, Arthurton and the luckless Powell cost 83 runs. Allowing for the injury to Arthurton, this was very poor planning. This happened in World Cup No. 2 in 1979, when Geoff Boycott, Wayne Larkins and Graham Gooch bowled 12 overs between them in the then 60 over game. They too were wallopped, by Viv Richards and Collis King, and England lost badly to the West Indies.
Ijaz Ahmed and Yousuf Youhana initially, then Azhar Mahmood and especially Wasim Akram, took advantage of the void in the West Indian attack. By the end, the Pakistanis had managed 229 and at least had a fighting total. Then came that flash, Shoaib.
Jacobs and Adams tried to rally, while Shiv Chanderpaul worked hard to gain some parity, but none of the rest of the ``batsmen'' helped the cause. Lara cameoed two fours before he fell, while Powell, Simmonds and even the injured Arthurton laboured for single figure scores. So much for the seven batsman theory. It makes no sense!! That the West Indies lost by only 27 runs was somewhat misleading. It was not that close.
The West Indies played fairly good cricket, but the initial fault was that the team selected was very poor in balance, especially when Pakistan could call on all-rounders Saqlain Mustaq, Azhar Mahmood and Abdul Razzaq. Pakistan knew their strengths and played to them. Indeed, I would even venture that if the West Indies had another bowler selected, the Pakistanis probably would have fielded first, having won the toss.
For the following games, the West Indies will have to buckle down and play very well indeed. While their out-fielding was good and even the bowling, in the circumstances, fair, the batting was poor. 229 is not one of those totals which normally wins one day games these days. Australia and New Zealand are also in this Group B and they have also won already. The West Indies must beat either of these to qualify, assuming that they could beat Bangladesh and Scotland. Of course, we all know what ``ass-u-me'' means.