The sooner Azhar Ali is sacked as a captain, the better it will be for Pakistan cricket
akistan lost the three-match Test series to England only by 1-0, but interestingly they did well in the match that they lost and looked clueless in the two matches that ended in draw. Rain intervened on both the occasions. Pakistan never looked comfortable after ‘gifting’ the first match to the hosts after pinning them down to a position where other teams would have lost hope. But Joe Root’s England is a fighting side and they kept fighting till the opposition tried everything and failed. Usually teams learn something from defeats and improve, but in Pakistan, it is the job of the followers of the game to learn lessons, so the next time their players are in action, they can make a calculated decision and either play neutral or switch off their TV.
Azhar Ali is not captaincy material
He may have scored a triple century in Tests, scored centuries in both innings of a Test match and won matches with his batting, but Azhar Ali is not a good captain. A few years back, he lost an ODI series to Bangladesh, he was sacked after a fast bowler refused to listen to him and returned only after he struck form with the bat. His captaincy lacked imagination although he had played county cricket in England; his field placing was worse than a school kid and the act of letting two new batsmen score easily in the first Test was stupid, if not criminal. The sooner he is sacked as a captain, the better for Pakistan cricket.
A calm Rizwan can solve Pakistan’s many issues
It seems Pakistan’s search for a Test wicketkeeper who can bat, keep wickets and raise the morale of his teammates is over. Mohammad Rizwan proved to be a good addition to the young side, and didn’t let the fans miss Sarfraz Ahmed. While the former captain was unceremoniously sacked for no fault of his, and his fans want him to make a comeback, it would have been unjust had he been replaced by someone worse; Rizwan was as good as Sarfraz if not better than him as he managed to score two fifties in England and earned praised from all quarters for the way he handled the job of the custodian of the wicket.
Attacking cricket is the new cricket!
The defensive mindset with which Pakistan entered all three matches was the main reason why the visitors failed to win the series. The way Chris Woakes and Joss Buttler batted in the first Test after England had lost five wickets was commendable because they knew that attacking was the only way forward. They let Pakistan believe that they were in the driving seat and by the time the visitors realised that they had been played, England were closer to victory and Pakistan were far from it. Had Pakistan learned something from that defeat and changed their strategy in the next two matches, they might have levelled the series but when individual performances are preferred over team work, no matter how many stars you have in the team, the team that plays together, ends up winning.
Selection is a science!
Gone are the days when the selection committee used to pick the best XI to represent Pakistan; in modern day cricket, the selection committee must also keep an eye on the opposition and who they might select for the match. England selected their squads for the three Tests quite intelligently but sadly, the same can’t be said for Pakistan. Even a layman knew that selecting two leg spinners - Shadab Khan and Yasir Shah - who might be able to bat together was a mistake but Misbah ul Haq went ahead; if Fawad Alam could take two wickets in the third Test, why couldn’t he have been selected in all three matches; if Asad Shafiq wasn’t doing well down the order and Azhar Ali was failing at the top, why weren’t their batting orders switched; and above all, why were two rookie pacers retained after the first Test, especially when Sohail Khan was in good form and in the squad. These are the questions the selection committee must be asked, because if Pakistan couldn’t win in Ben Stokes’ absence, they might find it difficult to beat England after his return.
Omair Alavi ([email protected]) is a freelance broadcast journalist