One battle doesn’t win a war and Pakistan’s defeat at the hands of New Zealand in the ODI series confirmed that nothing is impossible in cricket. When the Kiwis arrived in the United Arab Emirates, they witnessed the Pakistan cricket team demolishing the Australians as if they were a school team playing against an international side. By the time the ODI series ended, that’s exactly how they must have felt after subduing the Pakistan cricket team first in Tests, later in T20s and finally downing them in the one-dayers.
Let’s talk about the Test series first — they say that luck favours the brave and Brendon McCullum emerged as the braver of the two captains in the series.
He stuck to the same squad after his side was thrashed in the first Test by the unstoppable Misbah Squad, then made a sporting declaration in the second innings of the second Test in an effort to get a result out of the game; and finally scored the fourth fastest double century of all times to set the tempo for a historic win against Pakistan. His team managed to succeed where Michael Clarke and his men had failed.
It had more to do with the way the New Zealand players played than the way the Pakistanis didn’t. Just like the first Test against Sri Lanka last year where they were set a target of 302 to win in 67 overs and they managed to score just 158 for 2 in 52 overs, the Pakistanis didn’t go for a win in the Dubai Test as well. Set 261 to win in 72 overs, Pakistan had all the time in the world to achieve the target and go 2-0 up in the series yet Misbah decided to go for a draw and enter the final Test with a 1-0 lead.
Call it karma but he won the toss, scored 281 runs on the opening day and all was going well until Brendon McCullum unleashed his batting prowess and nearly broke the world record of most sixes in a Test innings! He took the most advantage of Misbah’s complacency after becoming Pakistan’s most successful Test captain (15 victories — one more than both Javed Miandad and Imran Khan) and Pakistan team’s attachment to Phil Hughes and helped his side post their highest Test score ever.
With New Zealand’s mammoth score of 690, all that mattered was how long Pakistan will survive in their second innings, and sadly, they couldn’t last a day. This was not a match Pakistan could have won but they could have clinched the series in the match played earlier — the one they drew at Abu Dhabi. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that if Younis Khan’s century in the first Test against Australia started Pakistan’s golden run, Brendon McCullum’s declaration in the second Test brought an end to it.
The Pakistanis must learn something from the Kiwis here: they went for Daniel Vettori who wasn’t even in the Test squad and surprised Misbahul Haq and the team management who had no clue as to what hit them. What the decision did was expose Misbah’s weakness and instead of strengthening his side, he thought too much about Vettori’s inclusion who didn’t do much in the match (15 runs, 2 wickets). Pakistan too could have done something out-of-the-box by bringing in Imran Khan in place of Ehsan Adil since he was part of the winning squad but the captain and selectors went for Mohammad Talha who had a nightmarish comeback match. If Imran Khan was rested in the second match, wouldn’t it have been better had he been preferred since he had played three matches in the surroundings and done well rather than Mohammad Talha who was playing for a place in the side!
Then came the T20 series — the first match of which was won comprehensively by Pakistan. It was the second match which showed why New Zealand are a dangerous side since they bowled better, fielded better and above all, batted better than the Pakistanis who didn’t seem to have a plan at all. They played more dot balls in a format where playing less is better. Only three players had a strike rate of more than run-a-ball in that match and that poses serious questions ahead of the World Cup because in Australia, the runs will flow from the willow of those who will try, not from the bat of those who will not.
Finally, the stage was all set for the one-dayers; after four matches both teams had won two each and the last match came up as the decider for the tour since the Test and T20 series ended without a result. For a team that began the tour on a high, Pakistan took two steps back and went for old horses rather than change of guard.
Youngsters could have been tried in place of the tried and tested Nasir Jamshed, Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal, Sohail Tanvir, Wahab Riaz. The burly opener failed yet again, the highly talented middle order batsmen showed their class (pun intended) once more, Sohail Tanvir added one more match to his resume as ‘world class cricketer’ and Wahab Riaz supported them by being on the sidelines. As for Younis Khan, if he is really sincere about Pakistan cricket, he knows what to do and that doesn’t include shooting himself!
As for the PCB Chairman, sir… please send a 15-member squad that no one expects to win the World Cup; because for the past five World Cups, Pakistan has been sending squads that have the potential to win but came back empty handed, breaking hearts all over. Who knows a team with no expectations, a manager with no ulterior motives and a captain with just one mission that is to win can help Pakistan cricket move into the right direction.
The emergence of Haris Sohail must be taken as a case study; if one youngster can make a difference, just imagine how 11 youngsters would fare in Australia and New Zealand where the other teams will have no clue what hit them. Send the 15 from the list of 30 probables, include only those seniors who you think can help Pakistan win and then hope for the best. No one will mind if we lose with a young team, but if we come back empty handed with the same guys, Pakistan cricket will be the loser.