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Time to get tough

We are touching rock bottom in all three formats and it’s time we gave newbies a chance over experience

Time to get tough
Pakistan cricket team has finished yet another tour of Australia where they won less and lost more. Not since 1997 when Pakistan won the tri-series, including hosts Australia and the West Indies, have we returned content from a tour Down Under and this time it wasn’t much different. The Test series was hapless and the ODIs hopeless with occasional bouts of memory loss where the team performed well (they won just one One-day International and ‘nearly’ won a Test match) and prompted former Australian captain Ian Chappell to ridicule the visitors for their lack of trying to win.

Ian Chappell may have been wrong in his analysis but instead of trying to prove him wrong, the Green-shirts fared badly in the limited overs series, especially in the fielding department that reminded one of the slapstick comedies of yesteryears. The only person who was steady with his fielding was wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan, who disappointed big time when he was in front of the wicket. For a person who debuted in New Zealand a month back as a specialist batsman, he couldn’t do much in the ODIs as a batsman and finished with 51 runs in 5 matches, with the best of 21.

But Rizwan wasn’t the only one to disappoint as recalled all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez (123 runs, including a match winning 73, no wicket in 5 matches) proved to be a failure as did captain Azhar Ali (37 runs in three outings).

The one and only Umar Akmal (131 runs in 5 matches despite many chances) should have considered his recall as the final one; yet after slow starts and disturbing his partner — mostly Babar Azam — with his wild batting, Umar Akmal succumbed before scoring a 50 in all matches.

We as Pakistanis must now be ashamed of once comparing this batsman to Virat Kohli because the Indian batsmen is doing his country proud and Umar Akmal is letting the nation down despite repeated chances.

The two positives that can be taken out from the Australian tour are now household names in Pakistan — Babar Azam and Sharjeel Khan. While Sharjeel displayed his talent by taking the Aussies head on and scoring as many as three consecutive half centuries against the hosts, Babar became the first batsman in 36 years to cross the triple figure mark in an ODI against the Aussies, in Australia.

Babar’s 282 runs at 56.4 and Sharjeel’s 250 runs at 50 were the only highlight of the tournament for the visitors.

The fans of the game were disappointed by the ‘performance’ of Asad Shafiq who was in good form in whites but was dropped after 2 failures in coloured clothing.

Then there was Wahab Riaz who ended the series with 1 wicket for 104 runs and was excluded from three of the five matches due to obvious reasons; many were, however, glad that Rahat Ali didn’t play because everyone knows what happened when he donned Green and played in Australia the last time. It was due to the element of surprise that Pakistan managed to win the second ODI because the Green-shirts recalled Junaid Khan for whom the hosts weren’t prepared and who ended with five wickets in four matches, bowling well on many occasions, especially in tandem with Mohammad Amir, who ended with eight wickets in five matches.

Imad Wasim troubled the Aussies in the first three matches and took four wickets in as many matches; when he was rested due to injury in the final match, Nawaz should have been picked but sadly, the management went for tried and tested Wahab and the result is in front of everyone.

The pick of the bowlers for the visitors was Hasan Ali who took 12 wickets in five matches, three more than Australian attack’s spearhead Mitchell Starc.

Yes, bad captaincy and lacklustre bowling in the final ODI saw Hasan go for 100 runs in an innings but the lad has a future and if an experienced bowling coach (not Azhar Mahmood, please!) works with him, he might prove to be an asset for a team that nonsensically loves to play just left-arm seamers.

The team also missed Yasir Shah, who could have been used the way Abdul Qadir, Mushtaq Ahmed and Saqlain Mushtaq were used Down Under but for that, you need good selectors and an aggressive captain like Imran Khan or Wasim Akram, something Azhar Ali and Mohammad Hafeez weren’t.

It’s time for Pakistan Cricket Board to go tough on its cricketers. Former captain Rameez Raja’s comments on TV were epic when he said that one shirt fits all the unfit cricketers in the Pakistani dressing room. Fitness was the reason why the fielders were unable to hold on to catches; fitness was the reason why they didn’t stay at the wicket for long and fitness was the reason why they were taken for granted when the Australians were running between the wickets without worrying about a direct throw or even a good one. One hopes that PCB appoints Sarfraz Ahmed as the captain of the ODI side and advise selectors (possibly those who are serious about the cause, not Inzamam ul Haq and clan) to not select Azhar Ali, Mohammad Hafeez, Umar Akmal, Rahat Ali and Wahab Riaz in the future and go for youngsters as it was young blood that did well in Australia. Losing matches with youngsters is acceptable than losing matches with players that are mistakenly considered the best in the country.

There are many waiting for a chance and trust me, they are the ones who could make the difference if selection is done on merit. We are touching rock bottom in all three formats and it’s time we gave newbies a chance over experience. Desperate times do call for desperate measures!

Omair Alavi

omair alavi
The author is a freelance journalist. He may be contacted at [email protected]

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