Pakistan and England may be busy in the 4th Test at The Oval, but the inevitable has happened in the first three — the visiting batsmen succumbed to swing when it mattered the most.
Pakistani skipper Misbah-ul-Haq did mention the batsmen’s lack of playing swing but wasn’t it a ‘done deal’ when the team left for England?
The selectors didn’t see it as a threat; the captain didn’t consider it a bad thing but anyone who saw England’s performance against Sri Lanka knew what was to happen.
Pakistani batsmen can’t play quality swing — whose fault is that? The batsmen are to be blamed for the fiasco as much as the selectors who gave them a chance for such an important tour. Why was Mohammad Hafeez selected for the tour when he wasn’t fit in the first place? Why wasn’t Junaid Khan given a chance knowing that he might do well in English conditions due to his experience? Wasn’t Fawad Alam a better choice in the middle-order considering he is familiar with the conditions, is a left-handed batsman and can rotate strike to confuse the bowlers? These questions need to be answered but who will answer them? Most of the PCB is holidaying in England!
Inzamam-ul-Haq’s elevation to chief selector was always going to be a bad decision. You can’t select a batsman because of his bowling; a bowler because of batting and a Chief Selector for his performance as a Head Coach!
But this is Pakistan where anything is possible! Only in Pakistan could Rameez Raja play Test cricket for a decade for his performance in ODIs; Shoaib Malik be selected as an all-rounder and not bowl at all; where Abdur Razzaq get dropped because the incompetent captain Mohammad Hafeez didn’t like him.
As for the batsmen’s incapability to face swing and the bowlers’ inability to control it, the Board is to blame. Yes, the Boot Camp was necessary for the unfit players but so was ‘more side matches’ ahead of the series.
Previously, Pakistan played well in England because players had all the time in the world to practise in alien conditions. While some didn’t do well, the more competent ones adjusted in time and scored when the Test matches were played.
There were enough matches between Tests to let the visitors try new combinations but did the PCB think about it when sending a team in 2016? No. Did they have a backup plan for improving the selection if something went wrong during the series? No. Will the Board and its selectors accept their mistake if Pakistan lost the Test as well as ODI series and T20I? Of course not!
Instead of sending a formidable team with the Coach’s input, they sent a team with a new coach.
Instead of sending in a right-arm-left-arm quickie combination to attack the English batsmen, they went for an all-left-arm pace attack.
Instead of strengthening the ODI squad with the inclusion of Junaid Khan who remains a prospect for the future they selected an over-the-hill Umar Gul who might be dropped once the series is over.