In his latest blog for PakPassion.net former Pakistan pace bowler Mohammad Zahid writes about Pakistan's resurgence in Limited-Overs cricket, Mickey Arthur's start as Pakistan Head Coach, Azhar Ali's captaincy, the decline of West Indies cricket and looks ahead to the Pakistan versus West Indies Test series.
Pakistan Limited-Overs Team
I've been impressed with the performances of the Pakistan Limited-Overs teams recently. The young legs have really made a huge difference. These young guys have come into the team and have shown a real energy and improved the fitness levels of the team. The fitness levels of the players have been a major problem in Pakistan cricket and exposed us in many a match. In a short space of time there have been a lot of changes in attitude, in aggression and approach and it's very heartening to see. In addition the boys are gelling and playing as a team and that also helps as in recent times that has not always been the case.
Azhar Ali as One-Day captain
I was delighted to see Azhar Ali shut his critics up by scoring the century in the third One-Day international against West Indies. He was put under a lot of pressure and it showed the character of the man after all the questions that were being asked of him by some fans and parts of the media. His captaincy and leadership has improved and people need to remember that it takes time to flourish and improve as a captain. I think Azhar's leadership of the team is improving and I think he is an invaluable player at the top of the order. He needs to be given time and support and I am sure he together with Mickey Arthur will lead the Pakistan One-Day team up the rankings.
Mickey Arthur's influence
Coaching the Pakistan team is a thankless task and Mickey must have known that when he accepted the role. It is one of the toughest jobs in sport especially with the divisions and groupings in Pakistan cricket and within the dressing room and beyond. There is so much interference from outside cricket and from the PCB hierarchy which makes the job a very tough one and credit goes to Mickey for the excellent start he has made. He is an intelligent man and someone who is battle-hardened when it comes to coaching international teams.
Umar Akmal warming the bench in the ODI series
Sometimes the actions of a coach can be a wake-up call to not only one player but the whole squad. Umar Akmal was called-up to the Pakistan One-Day squad and then he warmed the bench for all three matches. That's a message from Mickey to say that nobody is bigger than the team and players will not be picked to appease fans or people outside of cricket. It's also a message to those doing well that you will not be dropped just to make everyone happy and for the sake of it. Mickey conveyed a message that he will not pick players just for the sake of it and that is a message not only for Umar Akmal but all of the players, which is great to see.
Dream start for Babar Azam
I've heard a lot of good things about this young man from many people within Pakistan cricket. His reputation is excellent. The people who have worked with him say he's a very level-headed and quiet man who is not afraid of working hard. He has a good technique and it seems to me he has a good cricketing brain and wants to do well. The problem which I don't think will affect Babar is that once Pakistani cricketers start becoming famous and making money, it goes to their head and they forget their goals and priorities. What Babar needs to do is to follow the examples of Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq and see how they have carried themselves and see why they are still around playing international cricket despite their age. Babar needs to remember you don't become a superstar after a few good innings, he needs to maintain his focus and then I am sure he will continue to do well.
Shahid Afridi farewell match
He's served Pakistan cricket for so long and in so many matches. I think the Pakistan Cricket Board should give him the farewell match he is craving for. The PCB and Pakistani cricketers don't handle farewells all that well, but let's see, hopefully the player and the Board can come to some sort of agreement.
Decline of West Indies cricket
It breaks my heart to see the state of the current West Indies teams. When I was growing up and wanting to be a fast bowler, the West Indies greats of that time inspired me to become a pace bowler and now look at the team. I have to say that whilst people blame the West Indies Cricket Board, the players are not entirely blameless. They were for many years an unbeatable team with legends but that all seems a distant memory now. I get the impression that their players are just focussed on playing twenty over cricket around the world and playing for their country is secondary. The focus is so much on twenty over cricket and as a result they have become a laughing stock in the other formats.
Test Series against West Indies
The only thing that can stop Pakistan winning the series 3-0 is complacency and over-confidence. Pakistan's Test team is settled and established and the West Indies team seems to be struggling with confidence and conditions will also be in favour of Pakistan. It would be a huge surprise if it's not a Test series whitewash and 9-0 in the whole series.