HAVING slumped to their lowest from the beginning of this year, Pakistan, as was expected, has lost yet another series to bow down in their ranking at the Test level. Even before they embarked on this their latest tour of Australia with a disjointed and unbalanced team we were well aware of the outcome and with it the humiliation that would follow.

Not surprising, therefore, to see criticism and mortification from every quarter for their lack of discipline in play and in their pusillanimous approach all round, be it batting, bowling or fielding which made them look no less than ordinary.

That is where we hang our heads in shame and so should they for not being able to deliver or handle the aggression and the skills of their opposition, the Australians.

Of all the tours I have had to Australia with various teams including Pakistan when at their best, I had never had the pleasure watching Pakistan win a series Down Under. They won a Test occasionally and even at times at the receiving end of poor umpiring decisions.

But that is beside the point. The fact of the matter is that we never came back home boasting of a series win there.

Cricket in Australia is a different ball game, a lot more different than one experiences on a tour of India, Sri Lanka, New Zealand or for that matter in England. I can only compare South Africa nearer to it. The behaviour of the pitch, its lift and bounce and overall conditions do matter and unless a team is used to such conditions then success is a kind of unthinkable outcome.

Pakistan before taking up this tour had not done their homework properly to prepare themselves to play on bouncy tracks, instead they have had a brief one-day series against the visiting Sri Lankan team which too ended in their failure.

That indeed was not a good omen before leaving the country for such an important tour.

Having said this, I must emphasise too that at the moment we are not among the best. Recent performance does not reflect that and that only should have been a cause for concern for those who run the game in this country.

Changes at the highest level including the administration, the coaching staff, the captain and the selectors has no doubt its own fall back. The most disturbing of all was the changing of the captain Sarfraz Ahmad who we all knew was having a tough time with the bat but at least he had the experience to have taken Pakistan to some glorious moments.

He was no doubt under pressure for not being successful with the bat lately. It would have been sensible to ease his load of work to keep him as captain at least in the ODI’s and in T20.

To appoint Babar Azam as T20 captain was to ask too much from a young and a budding batsman or to appoint Azhar Ali to lead in the Tests. Both fine batsmen but leading a team is a different skill altogether.

Asad Shafiq or Shan Masood should have been given the reins of Test captaincy. That may not have changed the way Pakistan has performed lately but at least the pressure on Azhar Ali who had already been failing with the bat could have been eased.

What really worries me is the philosophy behind appointing Misbah-ul-Haq as a coach as well as the chairman of the selectors and batting adviser too. In my entire career as a journalist, I have not come across such decision anywhere.

Didn’t those who gave him this responsibility know that a person who had just left the international scene as one of the best captain of Pakistan should be left alone for a while before being given all that back pack. In a situation as such there always is conflict of interest and also with it the pressure of handling every aspect of the game.

Misbah is a nice and an honest man, he himself should have avoided that. He, I am sure must be regretting that now.

Also, I suppose that the whole selection of the team was mind-boggling, the touring team as well as the the teams that played in the matches on the day.

We can’t go on moaning about it now after the horse has bolted but didn’t the selector on tour see how poorly Haris Sohail was batting in the T20 in Australia and yet he was played in the first Test and what did the selectors on tour saw in Iftikhar Ahmad to play him Tests.

He ended up with only 44 runs in four innings and what was the point of playing Imran Khan in the first Test and why was he selected in the first place for the tour when Usman Shinwari and Tabish Khan were available.

What makes me sulk is the fact that a properly and technically adept batsman with full of skill, Abid Ali, with proven track record was made to sit out as a spectator during the Tests or what was the hurry to induct young Nasim Shah in the firing line.

Time now to stop picking a team on personal liking and disliking which is what we all know is being done. Fawad Alam, Sami Aslam, Tabish Khan have proven record at international and domestic level. It is high time they play for their country.

“The price of excellence is discipline, the cost of mediocrity is disappointment.”

That is exactly what we are faced with.

Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2019



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