Were you surprised with Pakistan’s performance in Hamilton Test exactly a month ago where they collapsed while losing nine wickets in the final session of the game to hand New Zealand a 2-0 series victory?
I certainly wasn’t. Yes, you heard me right. Rather, I was surprised at how they almost came close after hosts set a colossal target at Gabba, in December 2016, and also how they notched up consecutive 400 plus totals when they declared at 443 for 9 in the Ist innings of the Boxing Day Test. I was surprised, to say the least.
In Sydney, Pakistan might provide another performance which results in a loss in a session or two of the game. It is because the truth is that they have glaring problems across all departments – from defensive leadership and bizarre on-field tactics to a questionable selection policy that will keep exposing them time and time again, especially when they are playing away from their adopted home in UAE.
The selectors are enacting youth policy in the Pakistan side which somehow is good to rebuild things for the future in the longer format.
Pakistan’s Test cricket story in Australia is like the performance of a stand-up comedian who fails at times to impress his audiences with witty one-liners.
Their batting has been like the Bollywood movie which loses the plot in the sudden outburst only a bit more dramatic.
Pakistan has a formula to their unabashed success in UAE, aided by a glut of tons by Younis Khan in particular as their basic plan has been to put runs on the board and then leave it to leg-spinner Yasir Shah and Co. to rattle the opposition.
There were many shortcomings which were often overlooked and when they set foot on foreign soil. Those issues pop up one after another only to make a long list of their misery.
The quality of a team lays in its ability to perform well away from home and definitely Pakistan did that, but Australia has remained an overall question mark even after ruling the ICC Test Ranking table for some time.
The four Tests that Pakistan side has played down under so far raised some pertinent questions that highlight their selection, approach and much more.
- Is Sami Aslam and Azhar Ali the right opening combination?
When Australia made drastic changes to the Test squad after the Hobart drubbing, Matt Renshaw was selected to complement Davy Warner’s aggressive manner of play and shore up the top order.
Having elevated Azhar Ali to opener’s slot, Sami Aslam’s role should have been that of a more expressive opener playing perfect foil to Azhar Ali’s cautious approach. But, what do we see him doing? Block, block and get into a shell and then give it all away.
While seeing Sami Aslam in domestic cricket, he came across to me as someone who had two sides to his game; a good defence and a capability to score freely. Although he has exhibited the former trait with his sound judgment in and around the off stump, but unfortunately he hasn’t really been able to score freely since they picked him for England.
The young Aslam has the talent and needs to rectify his mistakes to suit Pakistan’s requirements. Otherwise, a certain Salman Butt is banging hard on selectors’ door.
- Should Babar Azam migrate to No. 6 before eventually moving to top order?
Yes, Babar Azam is the one from whom Pakistan has set hopes high.
So, were they right in giving him the all-important No. 3 slot on the back of just one Test where he batted at 6? Are they rushing him into things and take a risk that he perishes? Don’t they remember the talented Umar Akmal?
In my opinion, Babar should have batted at 6 through this tour and absorbed the pressure of Test cricket before working his way up the order to bat at four. That’s what Steve Smith, Virat Kohli and Joe Root had done.
In the last decade Pakistan has not been able to produce many batsmen, but when they do, they squander potential by not utilising them well. One can only hope a better sense prevails and they manage Babar well. They have lost a great talent in form of Umar Akmal. Will Babar suffer the same fate?
- Is the bowling attack below-par or a victim of defensive mindset of leadership?
There is so much hype surrounding Pakistan’s bowling attack. They have bowlers who can swing the ball, bowl Yorkers, bowl fast, and they have a world class spinner at the helm.
They have definitely bowled well but failed to justify the hype associated with them. Are they not too good then? Or is there more to it than the bowling itself? What about the tactics?
In Brisbane as well as MCG, Yasir Shah bowled leg stump line to left-handers with a 6-3 leg-side field. Bizzare! What was the point? How do you plan to get Warner out with this line and with this field on these pitches? Or, are you trying to contain the batsman? For example in Australia’s first innings at MCG the hosts were at 34-0 in ten overs they haven’t taken the game away from you. Use Yasir as a wicket-taking option and the rest will take care of itself.
There are issues with the third seamer. Why isn’t someone’s permanent spot yet? What happened to Junaid Khan? He bowled so well in Bangladesh Premier League (BPL). He is more deserving of the spot than lethargic Sohail Khan and any other bowler who has played for Pakistan since 2014.
We have heard so much of a tall fast bowler with an incredible first class record. Yes, his name is Sadaf Hussain. Why don’t selectors consider him? Where is an allrounder you so dearly need in your team? There was Hammad Azam once upon a time. Why didn’t he get enough chance to develop and perform? For a T20 game in England, you picked a certain Amad Butt in the squad. He didn’t play. Why is he missing since?
- Should Misbah-Ul-Haq and Younis Khan make way for Youngsters?
To some of their fans right now, I might sound blasphemous. But the truth is that all great things come to an end one fine day. The time for Misbah-Ul-Haq and Younis Khan is over now.
Younis does not have very good numbers playing outside of the subcontinent. In 8 Tests outside UAE this year, Younis has just scored one century (218) at The Oval which is more in sync with Asian pitches.
As for Misbah, he too hasn’t impressed much since his century in the first Test in England. He doesn’t seem to have the kind of belief in his batting now as he had a couple of years ago.
The time has come that these two veterans bid adieu to cricket. There are several players in waiting in form of Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail and others in line who can do well on the international circuit.
In fact, I wouldn’t mind having Umar Akmal in Test team as well. He is someone who could change the complexion of the game in a matter of few overs. It’s the time for Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq to take more responsibilities on their shoulders. I just want Younis and Misbah to help Pakistan Cricket in some other capacity.
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