Misbah-ul-Haq’s farewell series turned from good to bad in a matter of days. After taming what many believe is a second-rate West Indian team in the first Test at Sabina Park in Kingston, the Pakistanis squandered a perfect chance to win their first Test series in the Caribbean when they failed to capitalise on a first innings lead in Bridgetown and then crumbled in a chase of 182. In the end, they lost the second Test played on a track that the West Indian coach coaching later described as a “Pakistani pitch” by 106 runs.
The defeat doesn’t augur well for Pakistan’s Test future considering that it came against a team that many reject as a below-par side especially in the longest format of the game. Pakistan lost the Test despite fielding a team that has lethal bowlers like Yasir Shah and Mohammad Amir. The team even had the luxury of enjoying the services of the two heavyweights – Misbah and Younis Khan – for one last series.
Despite the fact that West Indies have the home advantage, Pakistan should have won this series 3-0 comfortably. Now they are faced with the possibility of losing the three-Test contest considering that the hosts will have the momentum on their side in the third and final match in Dominica.
Pakistan cannot afford to lose the title decider that begins from May 10. There is simply too much at stake. It is their biggest chance yet to win a Test series in the Caribbean for the first time. But perhaps more importantly, it is their chance to give Misbah and Younis a perfect farewell. The senior duo is retiring after the series and it would be a shame if they don’t go out in a blaze of glory. A series-winning triumph in Dominica will be a perfect send-off for Misbah and Younis, two of the most important Pakistan cricketers not just of this generation but perhaps of all time. The former is the country’s most successful captain. He is the man who steered a seemingly sinking ship in the aftermath of the 2010 spot-fixing scandal. He is the man instrumental in taking Pakistan to the top of the ICC Test rankings.
The latter has played an equally important role. For years, Younis has served Pakistan cricket selflessly. At times, he didn’t receive the sort of praise that he so richly deserved. But at times he did. Back in 2009 he was hailed as a national hero and was compared with the great Imran Khan when he captained to the World Twenty20 crown in England. More recently, he earned a special place in the pantheon of Pakistan cricket greats when he became the first cricketer from his country to score 10,000 runs.
A defeat in next week’s Test – Younis and Misbah’s last Test – will not just be a setback for the duo but for the entire Pakistan team. Learning to live without Younis and Misbah will be a tough task and will become even tougher if they begin it in the aftermath of a series defeat against a lower-rated opposition. It’s not that the West Indians are a bad side. They have their plus points like the sort of fighting spirit that they displayed at the Kensington Oval last week. They also have some talented youngsters but the thing is that they are still not a quality Test team, at least not yet. I mean, they are no Australia, who whitewashed Pakistan at home not too long ago. They aren’t even the sort of side that New Zealand are at home these days.
They are hardly like England in England. Remember last summer? Pakistan came out with a highly commendable 2-2 draw against England.
The problem with Pakistan is that they do not appear to be the same side that floored England at Lord’s and The Oval last summer. It seems that they peaked last summer as it has mostly been downhill for Misbah and his men since then.
Two men are primarily responsible for this decline. One of them is head coach Mickey Arthur and the other one is chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) hired both men to put the national team back on track. So far, both seem to have failed.
Arthur was at the helm when Pakistan drew the Test series in England but as he himself admitted the South African just happened to be at the right place at the right time. The team was already peaking and Arthur was there to reap the rewards when Pakistan ascended to number one spot in Test late last summer.
After the series against England, Pakistan have played ten Tests and have just won three of them. All three of their wins came against the West Indies (2 in the UAE and one in Bridgetown). They were blanked 2-0 by New Zealand and 3-0 by Australia. That’s hardly the sort of results you would expect from a team that was ranked number one last year.
Arthur should be made answerable for this slump.
Inzamam, too, has to justify his fat salary as chief selector. As a former Pakistan captain who was at the helm of the national team till 2007, much is expected from him. But as chief selector he is yet to make his mark. I mean selecting the likes of Ahmed Shehzad and Shadab Khan in the Test squad are hardly wise decisions.