Let’s be honest. When Pakistan boarded the Australia-bound plane late last month, no one was thinking that they would beat their hosts.
The so-called most unpredictable side of world cricket is actually becoming pretty predictable — especially when expected to lose against far stronger oppositions — and so everyone knew that they would lose pretty much everything.
And exactly as expected, Australia wiped the floor with Babar Azam’s men, beating them in two lopsided affairs, which would have been three had rain not played the saviour in the series opener.
So, the developments have pretty much followed the script. The only problem is that while winning wasn’t on the agenda at all, stock-taking certainly was.
The three-match T20I series, which came roughly 11 months before the World T20 is to be played on the same land, was supposed to show the management where everyone stood.
Surely, winning something is out of question Down Under but promising players can still offer glimpses of their talent at individual level. Or at the very least, the bad eggs can get exposed. This way, despite not gaining anything at a superficial level, Pakistan were supposed to expand their horizons and learn things about the team members.
Much to the team’s dismay, the rotten T20I series did not even do that.
The twin failures did not tell us that Fakhar Zaman had been horrible this year. We had long known that, even if head coach Misbah-ul-Haq hadn’t. Asif Ali failed, too, but again there was nothing new there. He, too, has an entire calendar year’s worth of failures to his name, so two more in Australia don’t add anything to his CV, or should we say, rap sheet.
The 37-year-old Mohammad Irfan had one horrendous outing and one decent one. The sample size of the six overs he bowled is too limited to assess whether he should be given more chances.
The teenage Mohammad Hasnain and Mohammad Musa Khan were expected to be wayward, and they were in the only match they played. Haris Sohail and Imad Wasim did not deliver but then who does in Australia.
The only clarity we got were on two issues: new captain Azam proved that the leadership will prove no burden on his batting, even if the jury is out on his leadership skills alone. After quite some time, Pakistan have a top performing skipper instead of a non-performing one. It practically opens up an extra slot when compared to Sarfraz Ahmed’s time.
As far as leadership is concerned, let’s give Azam a fair crack of the whip. The start to his reign has been disastrous but it hasn’t been his fault. There is no reason he cannot became a half decent captain, which is all we would want from him if he keeps on piling up runs.
Some would point out that Iftikhar Ahmed has also emerged as a stud but then his ability was evident from the series against Sri Lanka.
We knew Mohammad Rizwan was more safe than extravagant, and the series proved that exactly. With Shadab Khan doing the bare minimum to keep his place in all three matches, newcomer Usman Qadir did what so many before him have done: do nothing on a foreign tour except carry the water bottles.
It’s perhaps fitting that Pakistan get to end their T20I assignments of 2019 on the lowest of notes. This has been an absolute nightmare of a year for the world’s top-ranked side in the format, with just one win all year.
With the Test matches approaching, they will and should be overtaken by a side that did not lose once the entire year. Pakistan, meanwhile, still need to figure out which players to keep and who to ditch.