PACE and bounce, Pakistani batsmen’s Achilles heel on tours abroad for decades now, have come back to haunt them in the recent Test series against South Africa, which they conceded quite timidly, to the utter dismay of this cricket-crazy nation.
Sarfraz Ahmed’s men appeared clueless in tackling the hostile Proteas pacers, spearheaded by Dale Steyn, who brilliantly exploited the seam-friendly conditions at home to quell any challenge whatsoever from Pakistan.
Almost all of the visitors’ top- and middle-order batsmen struggled and fell prey to their fierce short deliveries. Nonetheless, the fate of the national squad in South Africa might have already been sealed, given the lack of planning that has marred the tour from its inception.
With just one practice match in the team’s itinerary leading up to this challenging series, it smacks of an absence of any forethought from either the Pakistan Cricket Board or the team’s management.
A series of practice games on tours abroad ought to be a given to help visiting batsmen acclimatise themselves better to the playing conditions of an unfamiliar pitch.
The team composition for the series also left a lot to be desired, since Pakistan insisted on carrying a few injured players on the tour, which stymied the team’s plans of taking the field at full strength in Tests.
The injudicious inclusion of spinner Yasir Shah in the two Tests also deprived Pakistan of a fourth seamer like Fahim Ashraf, who could have been a handful for the opposition on the bouncy tracks. The flurry of defeats have suddenly brought Pakistan cricket at a crossroads.
Obviously disappointed at the losses and the manner in which senior players like Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq and Fakhar Zaman were dismissed, fans and critics alike have raised doubts about Sarfraz’s ability to inspire the team and called for axing batting coach Grant Flower.
With the Johannesburg Test starting on Friday, Pakistan will have to quickly regroup and take the fight to the hosts to avoid a 3-0 whitewash.
Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2019