IT was not the end Pakistan had expected despite yet another batting capitulation, certainly not against a side rated as the minnows in international cricket. With due respects to Zimbabwe, who highly deserved one of their rare successful days in the sun, most had predicted a series victory for Misbah-ul-Haq’s men.
But the latest tale of woes only served to deny under pressure head coach Dav Whatmore his elusive maiden Test series triumph in a Pakistan blazer.
That questions will fly in from all directions is a given in Pakistan cricket. Former players — who Misbah had unwisely described as ‘dirty people’ — would have a field day on every available media service until the lingering issue dies a natural death.
The shock defeat against a side that has played very little Test cricket in the past four years and has been struggling to cope with problems relating to non-payment of players’ wages, would have far-reaching repercussions as Pakistan faces the world’s top Test team, South Africa, in its next series in the United Arab Emirates.
Of course, Zimbabwe had won Tests against Pakistan before, but those sides comprised far more classy performers than the ones under Brendan Taylor’s command.
In the 1995 Harare Test which Pakistan lost by an innings and 64 runs, Zimbabwe had world class players such as Andy and Grant Flower, Heath Streak and Guy Whittall who all contributed substantially to that victory.
Similarly, Neil Johnson, Henry Olonga, Streak, Pommie Mbangwa and Murray Goodwin were the architects of their country’s solitary series win over Pakistan when a disjointed Aamir Sohail-led Pakistan side was handed a seven-wicket defeat in the Peshawar Test in November 1998.
It is a harsh fact but after Saturday’s humiliation at Harare, the future looks bleak for Pakistan cricket. Playing away from home for so long has definitely played its part in aggravating the situation, but it is actually the defensive mindset that has been the real cause for concern. With an overly cautious skipper like Misbah-ul-Haq at the helm of affairs, one can’t hope for a dramatic change on that front in near future.
All through the Zimbabwe trip, it was quite noticeable that there was no planning in the Pakistan camp and it was obvious that the tourists had taken things for granted.
Despite losing both the Twenty20 matches, Zimbabwe emerged with enhanced credibility as the margins indicated a close fight. The hosts used that advantage to good effect when they clinched a noteworthy victory in the first One-day International, their first against Pakistan in almost 15 years. A number of Pakistanis were competing in the Test series on borrowed time as the think tank chose not to risk young players who had been steadily knocking on the doors of international cricket.
Against the previously unranked Zimbabweans — who now move above 10th-placed Bangladesh while Pakistan have dropped two places to sixth in the ICC Test rankings — the visitors squandered an ideal opportunity to try out a few youngsters in the series.
Given the placid attitude of those who matter most in the cricket board, it won’t be a major surprise that the same lot of players is persisted with for the South Africa series, a move which could be a recipe for disaster, one fears.
Why can’t we follow the examples of other teams who have already launched their preparations for the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand? A new-look India blanked Zimbabwe 5-0 in the one-day series that preceded the Pakistan tour on the back of several individuals who in normal circumstances are not first choice players in their national side.
Blaming the whole system is no solution to the problems confronting Pakistan cricket. Hard decisions have to be taken with immediate effect and the whole attitude of the team and the officials needs to be changed overnight.
For God’s sake Misbah get proactive as captain, or move over.