Regardless of captaincy changes, more exposure to Tests outside of Asia is needed. This will not only help lessen the chances of farcical second innings collapses, as happened in both Australia and New Zealand, but it will also provide the bowling attack with the necessary potency to avoid leaking runs and claim regular wickets.
Speaking at a press conference at Faisalabad on Wednesday, Misbah-ul-Haq has suggested that the answer to the Pakistan cricket team’s recent struggle lies not with a change of leadership, but with an overhaul of the nation’s entire cricketing structure, in particular the first-class system.
“Make anyone captain – Azhar or Sarfraz – but unless we solve our problem deep down, whoever comes in will face problems. We have to improve domestic cricket and groom talent.”
Less than a year after being number 1 in the world, Pakistan have slumped to sixth position in the ICC Test rankings. After losing five consecutive Tests in New Zealand and then Australia, many fans and experts have called for Misbah Ul Haq to retire from cricket and stand down from the Pakistani Test captaincy.
Misbah is insistent on going out on his own terms and on his own time, and has reminded the media of the fickleness of both the press and the fans:
“If you are talking about me – I retired one year ago, but at that time the whole nation said I should keep on touring. Now the whole nation is saying that I should be ashamed of myself and go. If you do such things, nobody will be ready to become captain. It’s not necessary, you win every series, it’s not necessary, you perform in every series. One can put in his best effort. Our views change if you don’t perform in four matches, despite performing for six years.”
Misbah also suggested that the key to playing well overseas is being invited for regular tours over there, rather than waiting for the end of each future tours program (FTP) to end before touring outside of Asia:
“We have to improve domestic cricket and groom talent. If we want to do well in England, Australia and South Africa, we have to give the players maximum experience of playing there. If a player keeps on playing here [in Asia] and all of a sudden does a tour of Australia or South Africa after six years, it will be difficult for him [to perform].”
Pakistan fared well with the bat in Australia. Initially, they were expected to shine with the ball in hand, in particular given the fact they had an attack boasting the likes of Mohammad Aamir, who has previously excelled on tours of Australia.
Youngster Babar Azam struggled in the long form of the game, but fellow top-order batsman Azhar Ali was the surprise star for the visitors. The opener struck 406 runs in three Tests at an average of 81.20. In the first innings of the Melbourne Test, he struck an unbeaten 205, just three runs short of Sir Vivian Richards record for the highest score by an overseas batsman on the hallowed turf of the MCG.
Babar topped the batting charts in the limited overs series, scoring 282 runs at 56.40 in the five one-day internationals. Sharjeel Khan was also impressive, with 250 runs at 50.
Although they did bowl marginally better in New Zealand than they had in Australia, breaking partnerships in foreign conditions is a serious concern for the Pakistanis. Spinner Yasir Shah was rendered almost useless. Known as one of the most enthusiastic bowlers in world cricket, his infectious smile was notably absent as his threat was nullified, with Misbah eventually resorting to a dull and defensive leg side field.
For Pakistan to find more success in foreign conditions, the words of Misbah should not fall on deaf ears. Regardless of captaincy changes, more exposure to Tests outside of Asia is needed. This will not only help lessen the chances of farcical second innings collapses, as happened in both Australia and New Zealand, but it will also provide the bowling attack with the necessary potency to avoid leaking runs and claim regular wickets.