Kirsten’s Stark Warning to Pakistan’s Senior Players: Adapt or Fall Behind

Gary Kirsten's warning to Pakistan's senior players

“Up to them to decide how they’re going to take their games forward,” says the coach after India defeat.

Gary Kirsten has delivered a stern message to his players, urging them to adapt to the evolving demands of modern cricket or risk being left behind, following Pakistan’s two consecutive losses in the T20 World Cup 2024.

Pakistan narrowly lost to India in New York on Sunday, failing to chase a target of 120. Coupled with a surprising Super Over loss to the USA in their opening game in Dallas last week, Pakistan’s chances of advancing to the Super 8s are now out of their hands. Kirsten, who assumed the role of Pakistan’s white-ball coach just a week before the tournament, faces a challenging start.

In a post-match interview, Kirsten acknowledged the pressure on the team. “You are pretty much spot-on,” he said. “These guys are all international players and they’re aware that when they’re not performing at their best, there’s going to be pressure. They need to decide how they will advance their games.”

Without naming specific players, Kirsten highlighted the consistency of Pakistan’s T20 core over the last three World Cup campaigns. Seven of the eleven who played against India were part of the team that lost the semi-final to Australia in November 2021, and six were in the squad that lost to England in the final a year later.

The spotlight is on captain Babar Azam and his opening partner Mohammad Rizwan, whose performances, despite top-scoring, have drawn criticism for their strike rate and lack of intent. Kirsten noted concerns about structuring their innings effectively.

Other key players like Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, and Haris Rauf have also been part of previous campaigns. While the bowling has generally performed well, the decline in Shadab’s leg-spin has been detrimental.

Kirsten emphasized the need for players to evolve. “I’ve only been here a few days and I’m assessing the environment. These players are fantastic and passionate about playing for their country, but they must keep growing and developing to meet the demands of international competition. The game changes every year, and those not improving will be left behind.”

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Former captain Wasim Akram, commentating on the game, called for significant changes, suggesting a complete team overhaul. “Enough is enough. We need changes now. Bring in new players and back them through losses to develop as a team. It’s time for the PCB chairman to take bold steps.”

Shahid Afridi, another former captain, echoed similar sentiments in his ICC column, critiquing the batting lineup’s lack of power hitting. Afridi proposed changes, including promoting Fakhar Zaman to open alongside Rizwan and moving Babar to number three. He also suggested bringing in Salman Ali Agha and Abrar Ahmed to replace Usman Khan and Shadab Khan, respectively.

Afridi concluded on a hopeful note, reminding fans that Pakistan still has a chance to turn things around: “There are tough conversations ahead, but Pakistan are not out of the tournament yet.”

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