By Yasir Arafat (7th March, 2016)
Masters Champions League
I've recently been playing in the Masters Champions League tournament in Dubai and I must say it was a very enjoyable experience. It was a new tournament so I didn't know exactly what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised. It was well-organised, the players were paid on time, we were well looked-after and I think overall it was a success.
The players that took part were of course a combination of current players like myself and Michael Lumb, as well as legends of the game like Brian Lara and Mohammad Yousuf and I think that concept worked well. The cricket was competitive and of a decent standard and the coaching was also of a very good standard.
If given the opportunity I would definitely play in the Masters Champions League in future. At the end of the day it's cricket and it helps with the all-year conditioning also as well as offering some financial security.
Pakistan Super League (PSL)
Despite not being selected by any of the teams for the PSL, as a Pakistani, I was very proud of the tournament and am delighted that it was a success. It's very important for Pakistan cricket and the development of Pakistan's players that the PSL continues to improve and grow. It's a very good thing that Pakistan cricket has this identity now in the twenty over leagues around the world and all of the players who I have spoken to about the league have been very complimentary about it. One of the most important things is that the PSL gives exposure to our players of playing in front of big crowds and in front of huge television audiences and that can only be beneficial to their development. The only disappointment though is that the players who performed well in the PSL and were picked for the Asia Cup on that basis didn't do all that well in that tournament.
The Asia Cup
We've not been playing very well in the limited overs formats in recent times and I wasn't totally surprised at the below par displays at the Asia Cup. Our batting just keeps collapsing and once we've lost some early wickets there doesn't seem to be a way back.
On the positive side, I thought our pace bowling attack looked wonderfully balanced with four experienced pace bowlers who can bowl at 90mph or more. However it's impossible for Pakistan's bowlers to keep winning matches for them and it's about time the batsmen performed consistently. When you have a pace bowling attack like Pakistan has at the moment, then all you need is for the batting to perform adequately and the bowlers will do the rest. I feel that if the Pakistan batsmen even perform averagely and not brilliantly, even then we can beat any team in the world.
The matches that Pakistan lost at the Asia Cup were lost after six overs of Pakistan's batting. The matches were over, done and dusted. In twenty over cricket if you start well with the bat in the first six overs then you can build on that momentum. Any team that has no momentum after the first six overs and has lost wickets early will more often than not lose. Why has the batting struggled? That is down simply to some poor selection and also uncertainty and constant changes in the batting order. Look at the very successful Indian team in twenty over cricket, they have a settled combination and players know their role. However with Pakistan, in every game the batting order is changed and shuffled around. Even when players do well for Pakistan in a certain batting position, they are still moved around in their next innings.
The constant changes in the batting order do not help the team as a whole or in terms of individuals as it creates confusion and hampers confidence.
Yes you can never write a Pakistan team off going into any major tournament. Look at 1992 when Pakistan was hindered by injuries and also in 2009 when the form was not great and again there were injuries. However in both of those tournaments the leadership and man-management was superb and that was absolutely vital. Imran Khan and Younis Khan lead the teams very well and those squads were pulling in the same direction. Shahid Afridi faces a tough task for that to happen but needs to make sure that happens. Whether a captain has a good team, bad team or a strong team, he can make a difference, so it's down to Afridi to make that difference. But if Pakistan continues to play the brand of cricket they have been playing recently the they will perform even worse at the World Twenty20 than they did at the Asia Cup. Pakistan has a very tough pool and there will be no easy matches at all for them and they will have to be at their best to come through that group. There were some good signs though in the match against Sri Lanka and the batting order in that match looked much more solid. Pakistan should stick with that at the World Twenty20.