Many thanks to @Markhor for his hard-hitting review of Pakistan's disastrous home Test series against England which ended in a historic 0-3 whitewash in Pakistan.
By @Markhor (12 December 2022)
Excuses over introspection
For years Pakistani cricketers lamented being unable to play on home pitches in front of home fans. It became an easy excuse for our ills - a convenient way of avoiding serious introspection. Against Australia and now England, Pakistan were outfought and outthought on home pitches in front of home fans. The excuses have run out after Pakistan’s first ever home Test series whitewash in Pakistan.
The sorry state of Pakistan’s bowling and baffling selections
It’s hard to recall a weaker or more inexperienced Pakistani Test bowling attack. The 'Pindi Test saw the folly of gambling on three debutants. Without Shaheen Shah Afridi, Pakistan’s only world-class pacer, one wonders why a seasoned replacement wasn’t selected such as Mohammad Abbas who performed well in the QEA Trophy, taking 18 wickets at 24 apiece. Babar picking four specialist bowlers in the 1st and 3rd Test smacked of negativity, and when Faheem Ashraf bowled just of one over in England’s 1st innings in Karachi, he virtually reduced Pakistan to a three-man attack.
More baffling was Zahid Mehmood’s selection. A cursory glance at his FC career should’ve raised red flags with a career economy around 4 RPO, and an average of 45.76 in this season’s QEA Trophy. He’s not even Sindh’s first-choice spinner, so what possessed Pakistan to debut him against a Bazball-inspired England line-up ?
It was a question of “justice” according to Saqlain Mushtaq, claiming it would’ve been unfair to debut Abrar Ahmed, the leading FC wicket-taker this season, ahead of someone who’s waited longer to debut in Zahid. Such selection rationales are more befitting a *school playground* than an international cricket team!
Babar Azam’s captaincy and impact-less batting
For all of Babar’s prodigious batting talent, he’s shown no growth as a captain internationally or domestically. His Pakistan captaincy struggles come as no surprise to Karachi Kings fans who saw him lead the team to 9 defeats from 10 PSL matches this year. Despite repeated claims of “learning from mistakes” – Ben Stokes ran circles around Babar with intelligent field placings, smart bowling changes and above all, prizing victory over merely avoiding defeat.
Babar claimed he requested a turning track in Rawalpindi which begs the following questions:
a) Why did you then select only one specialist spinner?
b) When you’ve two of the quickest fast bowlers in world cricket in Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf, why not request a surface more supportive of seam bowling? Pakistan beat South Africa in 2021, with their intimidating pace battery, on sporting wickets.
When England blazed 500 on the opening day of the series, Babar had no Plan B. When England were on the ropes in Multan and Karachi, Pakistan failed to cheaply remove the tail and conceded pivotal 1st innings leads.
Meanwhile the stats will show Babar was the leading run-scorer for Pakistan. Babar undoubtedly carries a heavy burden, but too often failed to convert fifties into big hundreds. Poor dismissals in Multan and Karachi meant Pakistan squandered good positions and suffered dreadful collapses of 8-60, 7-142 and 7-52. Ultimately while Babar’s numbers look good, his runs didn’t impact the series outcome.
Mohammad Rizwan’s worrying form
Vice-captain Rizwan failed to even reach 50 in a series where his technique was again exposed against movement. After a dismal T20 World Cup and a lean run with the bat this year, Rizwan may soon find himself benched.
Some respite - The Positives from this series
Saud Shakeel looked the part as a quality batsman with four fifties in a misfiring batting line-up. However, he too was guilty of poor dismissals when set. Agha Salman scored two fifties but batted too low to provide much impact. Abrar Ahmed immediately proved the folly of Zahid’s selection with a 10-fer on debut, and was easily Pakistan’s most potent bowler.
The fish rots from the head
Ramiz Raja made brash claims upon becoming PCB Chairman about resetting Pakistan cricket’s GPS. After four consecutive home defeats, our Test cricket is now located in the dumps.
Ramiz also bears culpability for this debacle by granting Babar complete authority in a misguided effort to mould him into a 21st Century Imran Khan. Worse was failing to appoint internationally proven coaches to serve as a check, with Saqlain acting as a rubber-stamp. While Pakistan struggles to produce quality Test cricketers and our youngsters in dire need of red-ball exposure, Ramiz recently launched yet another T20 competition – the Pakistan Junior League. His public comments are also deeply unhelpful. Another defeat to New Zealand, and we may see a different chairman in addition to a new captain and coach.