WITH Pakistan’s catastrophic New Zealand tour, cricket in the country is yet again at a crossroads. The challenging tour, where the tourists received a thorough drubbing in the T20s as well as the Test series, laid bare the team’s many weaknesses. The batting was abysmal, the bowling lacked incisiveness and the fielding was an embarrassment as usual. There was a huge gap between the playing standards of the two sides, especially in the Test series where Pakistan failed to show a spirit of competition. The overall performance, in fact, was an aberration from the tall pre-tour claims made by head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and bowling coach Waqar Younis. The selection, too, left a lot to be desired. The experienced team management, regretfully, could not come out with any definitive strategy to counter the hosts’ onslaught. Even though armed with an unprecedentedly large squad of 35, Misbah & Co showed no flair or courage to make the right changes at the right time. Faltering top-order batsmen such as Shan Masood and Haris Sohail retained their places after the first Test debacle; the toothless bowling combination, too, got the management’s nod for the second Test with only debutant Zafar Gohar coming in for leggie Yasir Shah, a move that backfired. Talented fast bowlers Haris Rauf, Mohammad Hasnain, Sohail Khan and a few other remained on the sidelines as Pakistan’s lacklustre bowling attack collapsed.

The PCB’s cricket committee is set to review the team’s performance in a crucial meeting today and both Misbah and Waqar have been asked to attend. Not known to take many far-sighted decisions, the PCB regime is unlikely to deviate from its policy of ‘playing safe’. But with the South Africa series at home all set to commence in a week’s time, the defensive approach adopted by Pakistan cricket will not be a wise thing. The PCB and the team would be well advised to play positive, aggressive cricket in the series and induct some new faces which could save them from embarrassment.

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2021

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