Pakistan went into the Test series against the West Indies as clear favorites but the tables have turned. Now before the third and final Test between the two teams, the series is poised at 1-1 with the hosts looking favourites despite not having big names in their ranks. On the other hand, the match will be the last time former captain Younis Khan and current skipper Misbah ul Haq will represent Pakistan in international cricket, making it double emotional for the fans. Will the two giants be able to do what no one has done before – i.e. win a series in the Caribbean?
First of all, Misbah ul Haq will have to think out of the box if he wants to go out with a bang – Asad Shafiq bowled off-spin in the practice match before the Test series so why wasn’t he used when the hosts were scoring in the second Test. Ahmed Shahzad must make way for Shan Masood (out-of-squad Sami Aslam would have been a better choice) because after this match, Azhar Ali is likely to go back to number 3, Babar Azam to number 4 and Asad Shafiq at number 5 – in place of Misbah and Younis. We will either need a left-handed batsmen at number 6 (preferably Fawad Alam) or a world-class all-rounder (if the opening slot has genuine openers, not Ahmed Shehzad or Mohammad Hafeez). Tried-and-failed Wahab Riaz and too-early-for-Test-Cricket Shadab Khan shouldn’t be part of the playing XI and a third pacer should be included in the squad as a surprise factor.
This is the last time Younis and Misbah will be playing for Pakistan, so they will be under a lot of pressure – Pakistan must bat if they win the toss otherwise the curse of the 4th innings will help the hosts in maintaining an unbeaten record. Yes, Pakistan won the T20 and ODIs series but Test Cricket is a different ball game and Pakistan must master the art of winning Tests. There will be no Misbah and Younis to guide them in the longer format after this match so the younger ones have to take charge. The wicket was more Pakistani than Caribbean in the last match yet Pakistan lost the plot when they included a new leggie with another leggie who is doing well.
And finally, to the million dollar question – can Pakistan win the series? Yes it can but for that, everyone has to play for the team rather than for individual records. Azhar Ali and Ahmed Shahzad’s selfish batting caused Pakistan to go down in the second Test and they should have been reprimanded rather than praised for their effort. Coach Mickey Arthur’s job is also on the line because ever since he has taken over, he has been running the team as if it’s his personal thing – had he been sincere, Sohail Khan and Fawad Alam would have been in the team and Ahmed Shahzad would have been out for good. Best of luck for the aging duo!