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'Tough test in store for Butt as Pakistan pull in different directions'

Mike Atherton - Michael Atherton Posted 5th August 2010 view comments

It will be remarkable if Mohammad Yousuf plays for Pakistan in the second Test, which begins on Friday at Edgbaston.

The 35-year-old is expected to arrive in England less than 24 hours before the start of the match and no-one within the tourists' camp seems to know if he's fit, in form or who has pushed for his inclusion.

Right behind him: Butt (right) is keen to show faith in his inexperienced players

Right behind him: Butt (right) is keen to show faith in his inexperienced players

It sums up the state of panic that Pakistan are in after the walloping they received in the first Test; this is a team that is not sure what direction it is heading in.

To that end Salman Butt, the captain, has my sympathy because the next few weeks will be a tremendous test for him and he will do well to come through them unscathed.

The 25-year-old has been quite impressive so far on this tour; he has remained calm and has spoken sensibly since Shahid Afridi's swift exit, despite all that is happening around him.

If the players feel the selectors are making decisions on the hoof without a great deal of thought, confidence can ebb away with disastrous results.

Michael Atherton
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In the aftermath of that 354-run loss at Trent Bridge, Butt said that he wanted to stick with the young group of players in his charge and build for the future.

Yousuf's recall would suggest that his wishes, and perhaps those of coach Waqar Younis too, have been over-ridden which puts them both in a difficult position.

As a captain you never want to give the impression to any player that you don't want him in your side - no matter how experienced or how tempted you might be to make a point to the selectors.

There were times when I was England captain when I was aware I wasn't the strongest voice in selection; in fact, towards the end of my time in charge I wasn't a selector at all.

In those circumstances you are given a team and simply get on with it.

If, on the other hand, you feel it's your job to pick and mould a team and then you get people forced upon you matters become more problematic and tension can build.

If the players feel the selectors are making decisions on the hoof without a great deal of thought, confidence can ebb away with disastrous results.

Butt already has to try to instil belief in a young batting line-up that on recent evidence looks very feeble. That task becomes doubly difficult when your own runs dry up as Butt's did at Trent Bridge, where he tallied nine in total.

But let's not write Pakistan off because cricket is still a game where individuals can determine a team's fate for the good and turn things around pretty quickly.

Butt could go out and get a hundred on the first morning or Mohammad Aamer might take a hat-trick and roll England over.

Spotlight

Indeed, England would do well to remember that things could have been less rosy at Trent Bridge had Pakistan taken the chances that came their way.

Although it was a comprehensive defeat in the end, I felt Butt was right when he said that things could have been very different.

Within the run of play there were times when Pakistan were in the game - England 118-4 in the first innings and 98-6 in the second most noticeably. It wasn't all one-way traffic and both sets of players would do well to dwell on those moments.

As is usual with England, the spotlight is on one or two players going into this Test, which I guess is the nature of being an international player in an age where there is so much media coverage.

For my own part, I'm more worried about the form of Alastair Cook than that of Kevin Pietersen who remains a top-class player and will come good soon enough.

Cook's problems are more fundamental - his footwork in particular looks suspect - but he has shown over time that he is a pretty tough customer who is capable of getting runs when he is not at the top of his game.

He's up against an attack that will pitch the ball up, particularly Mohammad Asif who bowls a very full length for a modern-day Test bowler. Aamer looks to pitch it up and swing it too and that's when Cook struggles.

Analysis

Nicks must be caught, of course, and that's where England excelled last week - complementing the fine bowling of Jimmy Anderson in particular.

The team is clearly benefitting from the work of fielding coach Richard Halsall, which is definitely having an impact.

In the past teams have put in plenty of practice but Halsall's approach has taken matters to a whole different level.

I've seen some of his analysis, which details every ball, miss-field, catch and dropped catch. The players are fully aware that someone is monitoring their every move in the field, which is a motivational tool in itself.

Up until now it has been hard to judge how good an individual's fielding actually is.

With batting and bowling, the facts are much clearer; the scoreboard shows if you are 70no or walking off with a duck to your name, if you have taken 5-10 or 0-100. The results of your hard work are very clear for all to see.

The focus is not so sharp on fielding. A player can take a brilliant catch but then go several games without getting near one. Could he be doing more to make something happen? Halsall's analysis will now help to tell us.

When you watch the players warm up you get a real sense of how much hard work they put into this aspect of the game and, for now at least, it certainly appears to be paying off.

Comments (9)

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Mike Desai says...

Two Comments: 1. I think Abdul Razzak should be recalled to the Test side. I know that he is more of a limited overs specialist. But having regard to the current state of Pakistan Cricket, I think his experience could be of use. 2. India is touring England next year. I am horribly sad about the fact that the Star Cricket commentary team will be covering the tour for Indian viewers. That''s tragic. I hope the deal falls through and we can hear the Sky Sports Commentary team next year!

Posted 13:49 14th August 2010

Laeeq ur rehman Laeeq says...

i want 2 say that now a days pak cricket team is not good team of test cricket,because we dont have a professional player or we have a good player but our board give chance 2 play.Our bowling side is very string but our batting side cant play on bouncy track,i wish that younus yousaf and yasir hameed must come back to pakistan cricket team.......

Posted 11:54 8th August 2010

Imran Malik says...

Well for the first time ever i am hoping for a Pakistan thrashing. That will be the only way all these useless players will be kicked out. They are not young apart from Umar Amin, the others are 25 plus, not including the talented Amir & raw inexperienced U Akmal. Farhat,Butt,Malik,K Akmal have been around for ages and Azhar Ali will block for a little while before being lbw or caught behind for 20/30 runs. What are they trying to do score 200 runs and rely on M Amir & Asif, it won''t be long before these two are injured due to overwork. The Butt/Malik/Akmal/Farhat gang kicked out the seniors and ensure no one else gets into the team through their behind the scenes backers. Until the PCB picks players on merit there is no point in watching Pakistan cricket. Salman Butt still doesn''t know how to field, run between wickets and get his partners run out. Wow you have good English Salman, why don''t you become professional, cut out your dirty politics and develop some principles you rat.

Posted 10:09 7th August 2010

Laurie Hollands says...

Mike Athurton said that wicket keepers today need to bat as well. That has ben the case at least from the days of L.E.G. Ames and Godfrey Evans two name but two. Knott and the Wesr Indies wicket keepers.

Posted 16:59 6th August 2010

Ishtiaq Khan says...

Cook seems to be playing with lead filled boots, obviously a man who is slightly low in confidence. But if he is to get to that next level he needs to improve his footwork. Only players like Majid Khan, Gower, Sehwag etc possesed extreme hand eye coordination which allowed them to combat difficult condions in an unorthodox fashion. Sometimes watching an innings of one of your cricket heroes can inspire you to play a tremendous match and boost your confidence levels. As for Pakistan, maybe now that Kamran has been dropped the team will feel that they only need to get ten English wickets rather than twenty.

Posted 22:41 5th August 2010

Andrew Barnes says...

In reponse to Robert M, you say if England avoid losing an early wicket Cook will be able to relax but at the moment he is the early wicket that falls a lot of the time. He has a fine test match record and i think that we should stick with him for this series and hope that he returns to form otherwise we may have a problem in the winter. His record against Australia isn''t great but he''s got the opportunity to put that right, stamp his authority and set the tempo as he opens the innings. I think the 2nd test will pretty much go the way of the 1st and England will win comfortably however i do hope that Pakistan''s batsman put up a little bit sterner resistance. Looking forward to a nice weekend of test match cricket ahead of the upcoming football season

Posted 16:25 5th August 2010

Robert M says...

Cook will come good, it is important I think that Strauss as captain and as his fellow opener, gives him as much time at the crease as possible. I think that lately Strauss has held the innings together for England, maybe not as well in the last test match but, I think if England can avoid losing an early wicket, Cook will be able to relax and play his game with an in form Strauss at the other end, holding it together and keping te scoreboard ticking as he has done since he ahs become Captain

Posted 12:44 5th August 2010

Robert M says...

Cook will come good, it is important I think that Strauss as captain and as his fellow opener, gives him as much time at the crease as possible. I think that lately Strauss has held the innings together for England, maybe not as well in the last test match but, I think if England can avoid losing an early wicket, Cook will be able to relax and play his game with an in form Strauss at the other end, holding it together and keping te scoreboard ticking as he has done since he ahs become Captain

Posted 12:42 5th August 2010

Matthew Spann says...

I am very impressed with Halsall''s advancement of England''s fielding. My point though is that I feel Cook will come good, he is a player of huge quality and has already been primed for the next England captain. I do not think Bell or Trott are better selections to open the batting as they play better in their preferred slots. So my question is if Cook''s form does not improve before the ashes who would open with Strauss?

Posted 11:35 5th August 2010

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