By Syed Intikhab Ali
Pakistan’s balanced performance in the test matches against England maintained its status as number three. Due to some weaknesses Pakistan could not win the series. Pakistan could have won this series 2-1.
Pakistan’s poor fielding, poor opening, repeated failures of the middle order, and a few below par bowling performances prevented it from winning the series convincingly.
Fielding coach Steve Rixon, a former Australian wicketkeeper, could not improve the abilities of our fielders as they dropped around a dozen catches in four tests. Players like Younis Khan, Azhar Ali, Hafeez and wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed dropped some important catches during critical situations due to which England managed to build huge scores and won two tests. Otherwise Pakistan had a clear edge in the series.
Steve Rixon joined Pakistan team only recently and has not passed much time with it, but how Pakistani players dropped the catches cannot be digested easily. Someone has to take this responsibility.
It was the responsibility of Steve Rixon to address the issue which was exposed in the very first test when Younis, Azhar, and Hafeez dropped catches.
Good performance of Pakistan in test matches does not guarantee that it will play well in ODIs against England as well. The latter is very strong in this format and has a specialist squad for ODIs.
The main thing to see is how Azhar leads his team against an strong English team on its own soil. It is the question of Azhar’s leadership. He has to prove his worth soon because Pakistan does not have much time for experimenting as it has to qualify for the World Cup 2019.
The series will show if he is able to handle difficult situations with a poor batting line up.
One thing is clear: Mohammad Hafiz is not an extraordinary batsman, especially outside Asia.
Younis responded well and silenced all his critics and consolidated his position for a long period.
PCB has announced the national ODI squad, including veteran medium pacer Umar Gul, Shoaib Malik, Hasan Ali, Sharjeel Khan, Babar Azam and Muhammad Nawaz.
Babar, Sharjeel, Hasan and Nawaz were part of Pakistan A team touring England at the same time when the seniors were playing tests. So they are in ideal position to face the English team.
Hafeez’s batting technique has been severely exposed on English wickets in tests. It looked as if he was giving catching practice to England’s slip fielders.
Since he cannot bowl because he is yet to correct his actions his position in Pakistan’s ODI squad will be very weak. If Hafeez does not bowl in the ODIs, there is no room for his selection as specialist batsman.
It would be better for Pakistan to include Asad in place of Hafeez. Otherwise Pakistan’s middle order batting would be severely exposed along with the opening batting.
England has announced its specialized ODI squad. It will exploit Pakistan’s weak batting line up in the absence of Misbah, Younis and Asad.
When this report appears, the fate of the series will be known and it will be easy to estimate whether Pakistan can directly qualify for World Cup 2019. After that Pakistan will have to play ODIs against Australia, New Zealand and West Indies, till September 2017, which is the deadline to improve its ODI ranking and reach at least the eighth position. Currently it is ranked ninth.
The PCB should realize that it should not have forced Misbah to retire from ODIs. He should be included till the improvement of Pakistan’s ranking in the ODIs before the deadline.
He is the only batsman in Pakistani team whom we can depend upon whether for staying on the crease or scoring fast. He showed his hitting ability when he leveled the great Viv Richards’ 56 balls test century record.
It will be difficult for Pakistan to complete 50 overs in the absence of Misbah, Younis and Asad. PCB should plan right now what to do if Pakistan loses against England due to batting failure.
Misbah is 42 years old, but PCB should rethink about him at least to secure Pakistan’s qualification.
His inclusion would resolve the poor batting problem of Pakistan to a great extent.