The outcome of the first two Test matches of the series is indicative of the fact that the green caps have become too hot to handle for the Englishmen, particularly the spin twins — Saeed Ajmal and Abdul Rehman. But while Saeed and Rahman’s tremendous impact must be acknowledged wholeheartedly, we should not take the credit away from Asad Shafiq and Azhar Ali who have displayed stoicism and guts at the right moment to help achieve the Abu Dhabi Test win for Pakistan.
Historically, our spinners have been dominating the England batting for nearly two decades now and the story was no different this time. Between Abdul Qadir, Mushtaq Ahmed, Saqlain Mushtaq, Danish Kaneria and Saeed Ajmal, the spinners have all posed stiff challenge to the English batsmen and have brought about some fantastic victories over the years.
However, more often than not, it has been our batting that let us down and this time too, a majority of our batsmen performed below par when they were expected to do a much better job on the placid tracks in the UAE. In this backdrop, the resilience and technique shown by Asad and Azhar during crises times augurs well for Pakistan.
Pakistan still has a long way to go before being rated among the top three outfits in the game and, therefore, a few vital things must be sorted out at this rebuilding stage of the team.
The fact that England has failed to live up to their number one status is mainly due to their inability to adjust to the low-bounce tracks in this region.
To become the best, a team has to perform in all sorts of conditions. There is no doubt that after pounding England, Pakistan has gained big-time recognition internationally. But maintaining this success is the real thing to do.
This Pakistan outfit, I feel, will be tested to the full on seaming pitches in England and the bouncy tracks in Australia and South Africa where only a solid batting technique can see the players through.
Also, this is the time to look for injecting more young blood into the team, simply because by 2015 World Cup, some of our top players may not be around. Also, to build a fighting unit for the mega event, Pakistan should announce a new one-day captain who could take the team forward with a definite plan and energy.
This should be the foremost responsibility of the selectors to scout young talent and put them through a hectic training regimen at the National Cricket Academy where top-class coaches should be hired to polish their skills.
Before the start of the series, the expectations from this Pakistan team were generally not very high. But I, for one, have been backing them because of the confidence and self-belief the players have shown during the preceding contests.
The key to this consistency is the calm atmosphere in the dressing room, where everybody seems relaxed and eager to contribute to the ultimate cause. The credit goes to the captain, manger, coach and other staff who have pulled a team from abyss and transformed it into a threatening unit. There would be no harm in giving the management staff a longer run because they are producing results due to their superb handling of the present bunch of players.
To their credit, Mohsin Khan and his team of support staff have been able to keep the players calm and motivated by not over-imposing themselves since the team has been clicking in a big way.
Mohsin definitely deserves praise on two accounts. Firstly, he has remained unfazed by the fierce coach-row back home and secondly, has helped the team absorb the tremendous pressure of playing against England after the infamous spot-fixing saga at Lord’s which was infesting the players’ minds at the start of the series.
The writer is a former Pakistan captain