A tour of Australia for the Pakistan cricket team is one giant paradox — it is as easy as it is difficult.
Sure, the balls jump higher than the kangaroos in Australia and Pakistani batsmen evaporate in the blink of an eye but that is precisely what makes the assignment simple as well.
The touring party has already lost the first Test by a blowout innings defeat and even if the second one also ends in a one-side 10-wicket pummeling, no one would still bat an eye. I mean some would but rest assured that axes will not be wielded, knives will remain in their sheaths and heads will not roll.
Because who doesn’t fail in Australia. The absolute greatest of greatests have failed Down Under so what’s another batch? Unless we think of Azhar Ali and his team as a real-life Avengers ensemble, no one has any business expecting that they would do any less than embarrass themselves. At this point, in fact, it is pretty much their right to lose as badly as they want.
The entire touring party gets a pass on the tour. The entire party except one — the one with twin hyphens in his name and just as many jobs: Misbah-ul-Haq.
Never mind the team result; if Test captain Azhar Ali fails on an individual level too, he would still have his reputation in tact because a) he just got the job, and b) he averages 80-something in Australia and smashed a double ton there on the last tour.
Asad Shafiq carries the weight of the middle-order unit. Following the 'Mis-You' era, Shafiq has become too important a player to be affected by a single Australian failure.
The newbies and teenage pacers have their age working for them, while the new wicketkeeper is safe because who else would you go back to? Sarfraz?
But there is one man who still stands to lose from the tour Down Under. Misbah, the most respected of the recent cricketers with the most pristine reputation, has made so many questionable calls already that his honeymoon period is already over just a few months and two series into the job.
As explained, a tour Down Under is the most inconsequential and harmless assignment on Pakistani cricket calendar. Yet, because of the way in which Misbah has turned pretty much everyone against him, questions will still be asked of him when, rather than if, this team returns home with no wins from their Australian expedition.
It is one thing to not be a fan of Misbah’s style of play or leadership, but fans have grown so disillusioned over the last two months, some would rather have the team fail so that pressure builds up on the man calling the shots.
Misbah has done himself no favours; egged on by the media and pundits to be more aggressive and adventurous, the Man from Mianwali has taken a few too many risks and unpopular decisions in his short reign — be it the sacking of Sarfraz, the Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal recalls, or some plain out bizarre team selections.
It’s too early to say that the clock is already ticking on Misbah, but if he doesn’t roll back on his newfound tearaway side, alarms will soon go off.
A word of advice for the man: do more of the obvious and less of the reckless because what the team needs right now is a bit more of the old Misbah and a bit less of the new him.