After another dismal performance in the third ODI against South Africa, Pakistan’s bowling attack has fallen flat.
For a team that is supposed to be bowler side heavy, Pakistan’s pacers got hammered by a belligerent South African batting line-up that was undaunted by the 300+ total that Pakistan had put on the board in the first innings. Pakistan batted fiercely, even if it was on a batting-friendly surface, and got the results. South Africa batted better, even if the game was marred by rain and a D/L result at the end of it.
But what was worrying more than the loss was how Pakistan lost. It was not a batting collapse, far from it, it was a failed bowling excursion. With only two wickets down in the game, it seems that Pakistan’s once dependable field in cricket is faltering. Even in the first game that Pakistan won, the bowlers managed only to take two wickets and it was on the back of solid batting that the game was won.
Most emblematic of this current crisis is none other than Mohammad Amir. There were high hopes for him when he finally returned from his ban in 2015. Since then, there have been flashes of brilliance. Balls flying around in the West Indies, wickets hurling in the air after being rooted from the ground in London – but nothing seems to be sticking.
In Pakistan’s rain-hit loss, Amir went wicketless again, going for 36 runs in his few overs. Admittedly, he was not the only one not pulling his weight, but he has been in this rut for longer. With another wicketless campaign, Amir has now landed in the unenvious position of having had the longest wicketless sequence for any Pakistani fast bowler in 15 years. He has gone 6 matches without taking a scalp, and in doing so has had the longest dry spell of any Pakistani fast bowler in the past 20 years. The fate of those that had such runs in the past was not peachy.
Amir’s problems are not simply those of a rough patch. Earlier this month, Danyal Rasool argued in a piece for ESPNcricinfo that perhaps Amir would be better off as an overseas only bowler for Pakistan. He writes:
“He has played only four Tests out of the ten Pakistan have played in the UAE since his return, and perhaps there’s a good reason for it. One glance at Mohammad Amir’s record there suggests this isn’t the kind of bowler Pakistan need on pitches in that part of the world – their home, mind you. In those four Tests, against West Indies and Sri Lanka, Amir averages 56.42 for his seven wickets. Amir may have played in fewer than 13% of the Tests Pakistan have contested in the UAE since making it their home, but he has played in 37.5% of their defeats; Pakistan lost three of the four Tests in which the left-arm quick lined up for them.”
He has a point. And as he goes on to observe, the top brass of Pakistan cricket seems to be picking up on it too. And even overseas, “on day one in Cape Town, according to Cricviz, 61% of his deliveries were around the 120-132 kph mark. He has never bowled slower than that, and regular glances at the speed gun throughout the series would have told you he very rarely threatened so much as the vicinity of 140kph.”
Amir might just be going through a dry spell, but he also has the weight of his past and the expectations of a nation for things to be normal laying on his shoulders. Those are his demons, and at present, it looks like they’ve got him down and out for the count.