LAHORE: Faced with the prospect of a humbling Twenty20 series whitewash at home, Pakistan are showing remarkable calm on the surface.
What must be going on in the minds though is an entirely different question, especially in the mind of the all-powerful chief head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq.
Misbah’s charges entered the series as the top T20 side in the world and go into the third and final match of the series on Wednesday 2-0 down against a Sri Lankan team shorn of their best players, who opted not to come to Pakistan for this landmark series.
If the 64-run thrashing in the first game at the Gaddafi Stadium came as a surprise, the 35-run defeat in the second on Monday was appalling.
Pakistan were second-best to the visitors in every department and Misbah admitted there was a lot of work to do in his news conference after the match.
“It is [an] eye-opener for us,” said Misbah. “Losing to a team which is playing without its major players is not good. We are facing deficiencies in all departments. There was a clear difference between the two teams. Despite being inexperienced, they were disciplined and did everything right, while we completely failed to implement our plan.”
Misbah’s dual role means he has to face the brunt of the criticism for the team’s poor show. However, he defended his decision of recalling the non-reliable duo of Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad.
Akmal was out for a golden duck in both matches while Shehzad made just 17 runs over two innings.
“They were given a chance due to their domestic performances, especially in the Pakistan Super League,” argued Misbah. “Shehzad’s performance in PSL was remarkable enough for a chance, while Akmal, whichever format he played, was among the good ones.
“It is unfortunate that in our circuit, there is no other batsman in T20s who had performed better than them. If they couldn’t perform, what can we do?”
The first two matches showed Pakistan’s heavy reliance on Babar Azam and Misbah said it was a cause for concern.
“It is strange to see that if Babar doesn’t perform, it exposes our entire batting strength,” he said. “Our top-order batsmen are also lacking technique against spin bowling.”
He was also unimpressed by Pakistan’s bowling attack. “The bowling hasn’t been up to the mark in the death overs,” he said.
Misbah, however, wasn’t shirking his responsibility and signaled a potential overhaul as he seeks a balanced combination for next year’s World Twenty20.
“Obviously I am answerable but to build a team you have to do some experiments and we need to show some patience, and you will see the changes in the next series” he said.
“We need more match-winners … more dependable batsmen, a power-hitter in the top and middle order, and bowlers who can take wickets from the top and be economical in the death.”
The former Pakistan captain though was hoping for a consolation win on Wednesday.
“We have one last game remaining and still there is a chance for the players to reunite and to rethink what went wrong and to develop a spirit and confidence to perform better,” he said.
Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2019