Shoaib Mohammad's Pakistan CWC ratings

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The tournament had both highs and lows for Pakistan.

As the World Cup drew to a close, I was asked to write my opinion regarding the individual performances of the Pakistan players.

Now that Australia have finished as deserving winners, people have somewhat got over their World Cup fever and, the dust having settled, I feel it is the right time to assess the Pakistani players.

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In short, I feel that the team did well overall in absence of key players such as Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan and Mohammad Irfan. If New Zealand had been without Brendon McCullum, Corey Anderson, Trent Boult and Daniel Vettori or Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Johnson had missed Australia’s campaign then they would have struggled as well, which is why I feel Pakistan did not underachieve.

Having said that, team management did misuse the resources at their disposal by leaving out the likes of Sarfaraz Ahmed, Younis Khan and Yasir Shah when they were most needed. Another fault I saw from the management was their failure to evoke the passion required at such a big event. It seemed like it was only evident in Pakistan’s thrilling win over South Africa in the group stages.

Pakistan’s average score in the World Cup was below the 250-run mark in a tournament where the par score was easily 300 so you cannot expect miracles on a regular basis when such totals can be achieved in the T20 format as well.

Sarfaraz Ahmed – 8 (out of 10)

Sarfaraz was definitely the star of the tournament for Pakistan with two man of the match awards in three outings speaking volume for what he brings to the Pakistan side. He was the missing fuel and bravery that the side needed from the off.

The whole of Pakistan was championing Sarfaraz’s inclusion but had to wait for his chance in the side. The street-smart Sarfaraz did Pakistan proud with the gutsy performances that make him my highest ranked player.

Pakistan have got a real world-class player of their hand and in my opinion he was the best captaincy candidate to take over from Misbah-ul-Haq but board instead backed Azhar Ali. Sarfraz will act as vice captain with the plan to install him into the post later on but I feel he is ready now.

Misbah-ul-Haq – 7

The skipper Misbah was once again the constant in the Pakistani batting lineup, as he has been for the last five years. When everyone was back in the hut, he was fighting like a lone survivor and kept the scoreboard ticking over.

Overall, his captaincy was good and Misbah made his presence felt on the field.

MIsbah was denied finishing his ODI career on a stronger note by Pakistan’s missing stars and had they been better in the field.

Wahab Riaz – 7

It came as a surprise to see Riaz – known for being wayward and inconsistent – finally realizing his potential on the sport’s grandest stage as he delivered on a consistent basis.

He certainly brought back the lost respect of Pakistani fast bowlers, bowling with venom and aggression. Shane Watson and Australia felt the Riaz heat in one of the finest spells of bowling in World Cup history but I feel he will struggle to repeat that in the remainder of his career.

Hopefully, he will prove me wrong and be able to continue his superb World Cup form after the tournament.

Mohammad Irfan – 6

Gentle giant Irfan was finding his feet towards the end of the group stages when he bowled superbly against Zimbabwe and South Africa and it was a shame that injury ended his World Cup campaign.

He had found that cutting edge and the result against Australia could have been different had Irfan been on the field. Irfan did deliver what was expected from him but he himself would be gutted not to play in last-eight match.

Haris Sohail – 6

Being a newcomer to the team, Haris had a fair outing in Australia and New Zealand but was denied the chance to make an even greater impact due to his absence in the early stages.

He batted with a solid method and good technique but was unable to convert the starts he made. Haris’ mindset is good but he needs to get over his shortcomings quickly if he wants to enter the league of match-winners, which his talent undoubtedly suggests.

Sohaib Maqsood – 5

A lot was expected of Sohaib because the conditions in Australia and New Zealand favour his style of play as he likes to cut and pull the ball with a horizontal bat.

He should have stamped his mark on the World Cup as it was a tailor-made situation for him but he was not able to deliver the potential he possesses.

Ahmed Shahzad – 5

In all honesty, the flamboyant Ahmed Shahzad did not meet his own standards and he could have done a lot better. For Shahzad, it is his mindset which needs changing.

Shahid Afridi – 5

Star all-rounder Afridi failed to make his mark in his last hurrah in ODIs and it is a sad end for him.

He did bowl well throughout but failed to take the number of wickets he has in previous World Cups. Afridi’s ability to take crucial wickets was missing this time around.

Younis Khan – 5

As mentioned above, Younis was misused by Pakistan. Having played a vital 37-run knock against South Africa to help put up a decent total, he found himself dropped for the following matches.

Younis’ experience was vital against the Proteas but his performance was only rewarded with a spell on the sidelines. With the kind of form he was in leading up to the World Cup, it was a chance missed for both Younis and Pakistan.

Rahat Ali – 5

Rahat Ali bowled well up until the quarter-final loss to Australia where he just could not cope with the pressure, missing the chance to grab Watson and, who knows, maybe even the World Cup.

However, he was the only Pakistan bowler who had the command and skill to move the ball both ways.

Sohail Khan – 5

Despite looking like a body builder, Khan gave his all on the cricket pitch and used his previous experience in death overs to good effect, bar the game against the West Indies when Andre Russell took him to cleaners.

With better fitness levels, he could have been integral to Pakistan success.

Ehsan Adil – 4

The slim seamer was far too inexperienced for such a big event and his performances have largely gone unnoticed.

He has got the potential but he needs to get stronger. If nurtured properly, Eshan could prove to be a very good player in future.

Yasir Shah – 3

Yasir’s case was another not dealt with properly by management or captain.

Leg-spinners cannot perform well without confidence and overs in their arm and that is exactly what happened to Yasir after being given a sole outing against arch-rivals India.

Umar Akmal – 4

For all the potential, timing and strength Umar Akmal has, he remains a contradiction of himself and his talent.

He needs tuning in his weakest attribute, which tends to be his brain.

Nasir Jamshed – 2

Most people would give Jamshed a zero but I give him two marks – one for being called up for a World Cup and one for failing in three matches.

He struggled with his mental attitude, form and fitness. His failure was no surprise because he was out of touch and this was the very reason I was staunchly against his selection.

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#CWC15: Left armers right for Australia

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High noon: The Australia team during a public felicitation in Melbourne yesterday.

The debate on whether this was the best-ever World Cup will continue to rage for a considerable time in the future, but one thing is for certain – the ICC will have to make a few more changes to the playing conditions to make it more of a contest between the bat and the ball.

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For the 2015 edition, which ended with yet another one-sided final, won by Australia by seven wickets in Melbourne on Sunday night, the game’s governing body had the right ideas. But just because someone likes sweet, you cannot make it sickly sweet. It’s all right for the first couple of bites, but thereafter, the remaining portion will surely get rejected. Overkill never helps.

And that’s what has happened with this World Cup. Obviously, a case can be made that the ball dominated the bat in the final and it did not turn out to be the most competitive match of the tournament, but that was also because New Zealand were not competitive in the match.

A great stat in this case is the number of centuries made this year, and when the tournament was played in Australia in 1992. Only eight centuries were scored and the strike rate was 66.5 then. In this edition, there were 36 tons and two doubles, and the strike rate improved by nearly 50 per cent to 89.3.

Both Martin Guptill (237* v West Indies) and Chris Gayle (215 v Zimbabwe) played blinding knocks with the highest quality of strokemaking, and yet the most unforgettable moment of the 49 matches was when Pakistan’s Wahab Riaz tested Australia’s Shane Watson with one of the most lethal spells of fast bowling in recent times. And that is what is needed as ICC moves forward to and plans for the 2019 event.

The ICC has to rein in the size of the modern-day cricket bat, and they need to allow one more fielder outside the circle. Australia were the most deserving champions, but the story of this tournament will forever be the emergence of New Zealand as one of the most feared limited over sides in the world.

They have been showing glimpses of developing into a ruthless side this past few months, and that transformation is finally complete under the ultra-aggressive leadership of Brendon McCullum.

The champions owed it to their left-arm fast bowlers, the variety that proved to be the trump card for the two most successful teams in the tournament. If New Zealand had Trent Boult, Australia had Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson and James Faulkner. In between them, the Aussies removed 37 opposition wickets.Mitchell Starc was named Player of the Tournament for Australia.

India had a fantastic run in the tournament, but their mental block against Steve Smith and Australia was clearly evident in the semi-final loss. After an amazing sequence of seven matches, in which their bowling unit took all 70 wickets, they struggled against the team that had walloped them in all formats in the four-month long tour.

A couple of highlights of the tournament for me were the ever-improving standard of fielding – there were some unbelievable catches and run-outs – and the fact that spinners still managed to hold sway in a batsman-dominated tournament. Daniel Vettori, Imran Tahir and Ravichandran Ashwin were just outstanding throughout the tournament.

The World Cup once again proved to be the right stage for legends of the game to bid adieu – at least in the 50-over format. Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Misbah-ul Haq and Shahid Afridi’s decisions were well known, but Michael Clarke’s was a surprise.

Brendon Taylor is quitting ODI for a very different reason, while Vettori and Aussie wicketkeeper Brad Haddin are expected to make their own announcements very soon.

And one final word about the Associates members… except for Ireland, they may not have tested the Test-playing nations to the hilt, but they do add a unique flavor to the tournament and they do deserve the opportunity to play with the bigger teams.

It’s ICC’s responsibility to make the World Cup event bigger – and that includes trying to increase the number of nations participating in it. Hopefully, they will make the right decision in this regard.

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Azhar Ali appointed Pakistan ODI captain despite two-year absence

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Clean hit: Azhar has not been part of Pakistan’s ODI setup for two years but the board felt the need for a 'clean' candidate.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has appointed middle-order batsman Azhar Ali as the new ODI captain of Pakistan after Misbahul Haq retired from the format after Pakistan exited the World Cup following loss to eventual winners Australia in quarter-finals.

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Azhar has not been part of Pakistan’s ODI setup for two years but yet the PCB believes in his ability to take the team forward.

He has been become integral part of Pakistani batting in Test format and enjoyed a spectacular outing against Australia and New Zealand last year.

The 30-year-old was also consideration to be included as third opener in Pakistan’s World Cup squad but Sarfaraz Ahmed was later given preference.

“We’ve decided to appoint Azhar Ali as the ODI captain of Pakistan because he is a clean gentleman and doesn’t involve himself in any controversy,” PCB Chairman Shaharyar Khan said in a press conference.

“The board feels that he is the right candidate and thus we’ve set no time frame for his captaincy. The cricket culture in Pakistan does not allow us to name younger captains like Steve Smith or Graeme Smith which is why Azhar was named. Outstanding performer Sarfaraz will be his deputy while he will also be the vice-captain in T20 format because we want to groom him.”

Shaharyar further added that Azhar will be Misbahul Haq’s deputy in Test format.

The board also sacked Moin Khan led selection committee and instead appointed former Test cricketer Haroon Rashid as the new chief selector.

Haroon was previously serving as board’s Director Game Development but was asked to resign from his previous post before his new job.

“We’ve appointed Haroon as the new chief selector while members will be Saleem Jaffar, Kabir Khan and Azhar Khan,” Shaharyar added.

Azhar keen to prove himself as leader

Meanwhile, Azhar said that he will try to prove his capabilities as a leader after being given the responsibility by the PCB.

“It’s a new challenge for me and I would like to thank PCB which gave me the opportunity to lead Pakistan in one-dayers. I will try to prove myself as the captain with performances and results,” Azhar said.

“There are very good youngsters in the side and hopefully all will support me in this new challenge. I would like to salute Misbah because he has done a wonderful job as a captain and definitely it will not be easy to replicate what he has done. The important thing is that he will be playing in Tests otherwise there could have been a big gap to fill.”

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