The outcome of the three-match Pakistan-England T20 series in the UAE has been nothing short of a nightmare for the Pakistani team, which had actually been enjoying a good spell just before the series kicked off.
Pakistan not only lost the series 3-0, but also had to forgo its significant number 2 standing in the international T20 rankings. The team now stands at number 6 — that’s certainly nothing to be proud of. The defeat has prompted ex-cricketers to fire broadsides at the team and there are also rumblings about the team’s poor preparations for the upcoming World T20 in India next March.
The defeat exposed the weakness of the Pakistanis, despite the inclusion of seasoned faces like Wahab Riaz, Sohaib Maqsood, skipper Shahid Afridi, Muhammad Hafeez and Umar Akmal. On the other hand, the English team was not only young and inexperienced, but didn’t even feature many of its top players including James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
It seems strange that between them, captain Afridi, coach Waqar Younis and the team management couldn’t settle on an effective opening pair. Pakistan launched 39-year-old Rafatullah Mohmand who averages a mere 25.41 in domestic T20s. The questions raised in cricketing circles were mainly concerned with his age and only a few inquired about his domestic record on the basis of which he was given preference over other players like Haris Sohail, who has an average of 38.11 in the format.
Besides the selection of openers, this series should have been treated with utmost importance to prepare for all three departments — batting, bowling and fielding. But it didn’t seem that way.
Moreover, confusion still persists whether the Pakistan team will feature Sarfaraz Ahmed or Muhammad Rizwan as wicket keeper in the plan for the world T20.
In the third T20 against England, Pakistan had almost got through with 2 runs needed off one ball. But Sohail Tanveer fluffed the shot and somehow managed to extract a single on a bye. It was also Tanveer who dropped three easy catches in one match each, raising questions over his fielding and fitness.
The team management should recognize obvious failures, as Pakistan’s spin bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed did after the team lost the second T20. He didn’t shy away from admitting the poor fitness level of players, even though he left himself open to criticism for not addressing the fitness issue earlier.
Since Pakistan will be playing the World T20 in Asian conditions, it has a chance to do wonders and make history. Our team still boasts some firecrackers of T20 cricket like Sohaib Maqsood, Emad Wasim, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Wahab Riaz and Muhammad Hafeez. Let’s not rule out pace prodigy Muhammad Amir, who has completed his sentence for spot-fixing charges. Making a return after five years, Amir is now giving roaring performances in domestic and foreign T20 leagues that must not be disregarded.
Pakistan is set to participate in the World T20 in India early next year. This series will probably mark the last appearance of veteran Shahid Afridi in international cricket. Afridi adds valuable experience to the side. It was under Afridi’s leadership that Pakistan made it to the semi-finals in the 2011 World Cup. New players cannot do wonders on their own in a big event. Afridi is required to lead his team from the front — like he did in the World T20 in 2009. For now, selectors need to shun the the experimentation mode and pick the best eleven for the upcoming mega event.
The writer tweets @Azharkh4