Imad Wasim shapes Pakistan in his consistent image, and a new era begins

Osman Samiuddin writes with a resounding victory in the first T20 on Friday night in Dubai, paced by Imad Wasim's 5 for 14, Pakistan seemed to step toward the consistent ideal they seek.
Pakistan bowler Imad Wasim celebrates a wicket against West Indies on Friday night in Dubai. Francois Nel / Getty Images / September 23, 2016
Pakistan bowler Imad Wasim celebrates a wicket against West Indies on Friday night in Dubai. Francois Nel / Getty Images / September 23, 2016

“We have decided now, as a group, that we will be consistent.”

These were the words of Imad Wasim on Thursday, the day before his side took on West Indies in the first T20.

Consistency would not be quite such a perplexing ideal if it could be achieved simply by the decision of a group of men to become consistent. Otherwise we would not know of Shahid Afridi as we do now.

But at least on the very small sample of the last two T20s Pakistan have played – and remember, once, less than a decade ago, they were the format’s sharpest shooters – some iota of consistency can be glimpsed.

Their last T20 result was a resounding nine-wicket defeat of England at Old Trafford; to that they can add a nine-wicket win over the West Indies in Dubai on Friday night. The Afridi era, outdated and stale, is well and truly over. The era of Sarfraz Ahmed has begun.

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If it is too early to say so of the entire team, Wasim himself has definitely taken on the missive to be consistent. He has been a key figure in Pakistan’s limited overs performances recently, if a solitary one in the ODIs in England.

Since beginning the limited overs leg of the tour with five for 14 against Ireland, Wasim scored over 150 runs in the ODIs against England without being dismissed once and picked up four economical wickets.

In the sole T20, he set the tone for an unexpectedly energetic performance by opening the bowling and taking two for 17.

Given that form, it was only inevitable that he would star against the West Indies. Even then, five for 14, to become only the second Pakistani bowler to take five wickets in a T20 (Umar Gul has done so twice), felt a bit much.

He is a curious kind of bowler, one that could only have emerged with the growth of T20. He is not a spinner per se, but a slow left-arm in-dipper. He does not usually bowl with the conventional spinner’s grip and his stock ball is one that – and take your pick here – either just does not spin, or gently swings in.

At some point you wonder whether batsmen will clock on to this and start playing him as such, but they have not for now (and the nature of the format means he keeps succeeding). Opening the bowling, he took three wickets in his first two overs with this stock delivery.

Effectively that was the game right there. Consistency is something the West Indies could do with too: two T20s ago, they hit 245 against India. On Friday night, they were 48-8 at one stage.

They looked oddly adrift, or at least too much so for a world champion side. They have changed in personnel but crucially in spirit since that giddy April evening in Kolkata when they won their second World T20 title.

And more than most sides in this format, they are a tournament team, willing themselves on in games with meaning.

Only a common-sense innings from Dwayne Bravo helped them recover to the relative heights of 115. With Jerome Taylor he put on 66 for the ninth wicket, a T20 record for that wicket.

The total was not nearly enough, though at least it did allow the crowd to witness the kind of quality Babar Azam has to offer with bat; his stylish, unbeaten 55 saw Pakistan home with 34 balls to spare.

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Published: September 23, 2016 04:00 AM

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