Strike. Spin. Swing. Repeat

K Shahid believes the results don't completely reflect the performance of the Women's national side in the ongoing World Cup

Strike. Spin. Swing. Repeat
The men’s sides Afghanistan and Ireland were given Test status last month. How well do we expect them to fare against the giants of Test cricket like Australia, South Africa or Pakistan? How does it compare to their chances in ODIs? What about T20s?

How would someone ranked outside the Top 100 hundred fare against Roger Federer at Wimbledon? What if it was a single set shootout?

Would an NCAA team have a greater chance of beating the Golden State Warriors in a full basketball game, or if it were just a single quarter?

The longer the game lasts, the greater the chances for the stronger team/athlete on paper of winning the contest. That’s why Pakistan have zero wins out of five in the ongoing Women’s ODI World Cup at the time of writing (before the West Indies game on Tuesday).

Diana Baig

The Pakistan side first came into the spotlight at the World T20 last year where they finished third in their pool, almost making it to the semifinals. The two wins in their group included a famous triumph against India, which truly brought the women’s team into the spotlight, overtaking their male counterparts who had struggled in the same tournament.

Pakistan’s upward surge as a T20 side underscores the fact that the athletes have the ability to take on the very best in the world. Their struggles in ODIs highlight the inability to maintain the same over 100 overs.

Consider this: while the women’s team has beaten India at two World T20s (2012 and 2016), they haven’t won a single ODI against their archrivals. And they were halfway there in the ongoing World Cup, before falling apart in the second half.

Ayesha Zafar

Having restricted India to 169 – their lowest ever score against Pakistan – the team’s batting went AWOL. In 2016 Pakistan crept to a 97-run target (winning on D/L) against India, and in 2012 had defended 98 in twenty overs, but scoring less than twice in more than double the allotted overs proved a step too far for Pakistan.

Even against mighty Australia, the favourites and defending champions, Pakistani pacers Diana Baig and Asmavia Iqbal had the top order on the ropes at 18-2 after 10 overs. Australia ended with 290 as Pakistan conceded 230 in the last thirty overs.

Similarly, against South Africa, after bringing the Proteas to the brink of defeat at 177-7 from 113-0, chasing 206, Pakistan couldn’t cling on in the final five of the 100 overs.

Even against New Zealand Pakistan were at a decent position at 35 for no loss in the eighth over. A batting clap ensued reducing Pakistan to 56-5, eventually ending with 144, which a record-breaking 93-run blitz by Sophie Devine brutally hunted down.

Sana Mir

Barring the contest against England, who piled on 377 against a wayward bowling display, Pakistan have been in the match – and even in front – in all of the games that they’ve lost so far in the World Cup. The difference being their inability to sustain that position for a long enough period for it to have a decisive impact on the result.

You need a basic ability to qualify as an international cricketer. But once there, what differentiates between world players and world-class players is the consistency with which you can perform at your best.

On paper Pakistan have the right ingredients to challenge the top sides – which is why they’ve done precisely that in the World Cup, albeit in bits and pieces.

Openers Ayesha Zafar and Nahida Khan have scored half-centuries against world class pace attacks. Nashra Sandhu and Sadia Yousuf, both left-arm spinners but posing contrasting threats, have been among the wickets, and were primarily responsible for Pakistan going ahead at half-time against India. Fast-bowlers Diana Baig and Asmavia Iqbal have also impressed with their pace and line and length.

Captain Sana Mir, meanwhile, has had to play a Misbah-esque role with the bat, scoring runs deep in the middle order in losing causes. She has also been among the wickets and has leadership oozing out of her in the field as well.
On paper Pakistan have the right ingredients to challenge the top sides. All they need is consistency

Of course, there still are glaring chunks in the squad, with Pakistan yet to find the right combination, with constant changes in the starting 11 – which is something one associates with a team on a losing streak. But even if the aforementioned strengths were brought to the fore on a slightly more regular basis, Pakistan might have mustered a couple of wins.

Consistency comes with regularly playing against the top sides, which is why the current format of the Women’s World Cup – resembling the 1992 men’s edition – is well suited, considering it means every side plays each other.

This level of exposure should take the national side to the next level, where one would start expecting them to compete for semifinal berths in the ODI edition as well, as they already are doing in T20s.