It’s been a problem for ages now. The careers of Umer Akmal and Shahid Afridi were prolonged because of this reason. Asif Ali had a run in the side to fill this specific role. Pakistan lack a late order hitter. Through the late 90s and 2000s, we took it for granted that if a platform was laid, we have the late order hitting prowess to give the bowlers an extra 20 runs. Abdul Razzaq was the prime example. However, on various occasions Moin Khan, Wasim Akram, Azhar Mahmood, Shoiab Malik and even Mohammad Sami used the long handle. Inzimam ul Haq and Mohammad Yousuf could finish the innings of themselves.
However, as ODI totals started to go upwards, Pakistani batting regressed. For a period under Misbah ul Haq, we played cricket like it was 1980s. Most if not all victories came due to the magic of the spin trio. We lacked proper all-rounders, belligerent openers and late order hitters. Sarfraz and Micky Arthur came in and found a few answers. In Fakhar Zaman, they found a modern opener. In Shadab Khan, Fakhar Zaman and Imad Wasim, they found all-rounder ability. Performances have been patchy especially of the latter two but the options are there. Aamir Yamin and Hussain Talat waits in the wings, for a chance.
But one area they haven’t been able to find a solution for is the late order hitter. Captain Sarfraz, who tends to bat at 6 is anything but a hitter. Shadab Khan for all his ability with the bat isn’t a power hitter either. While Imad and Faheem have been usually reliable with the ball, batting cameos have been rare. Against teams which bank on spinners and medium pacers, Shoiab Malik can be effective. But in South Africa and even in England (Venue of World Cup 2019), when fast bowlers throw missiles, his powers are limited.
Which is why dropping Asif Ali was a bit peculiar. He was selected for a particular role and failed. But they have not name a replacement yet. Perhaps the faster wickets of South Africa might have suited him. It was a risk perhaps worth taking. While, it was only one game in the Mzansi Super League, Asif Ali did show his ability.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if Fakhar Zaman can get Pakistan to off a brisk start and then we struggle in the death overs finishing in the range of 230-260. Perhaps it is time to give Fakhar Zaman more time with the bat. He hasn’t shown that he is ready, and Mickey Arthur believes he is not there just yet. But his raw ability and power can potentially be more damaging than the strike rotation of others in the order.
This squad is crying out for a batsman who can hit boundaries at will. A certain Umer Akmal comes to mind. A new franchise provides a fresh start. Time shall if he has fought out those mental demons. Umer Akmal might not want Pakistan that much but Pakistan certainly needs him.