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Australia show Pakistan are mediocre rather than mercurial

December 2, 2019
Australia show Pakistan are mediocre rather than mercurial

Photo Courtesy: ICC

Pakistan have been whitewashed in Australia once again, losing both games by more than innings.

It was never much in doubt. It couldn’t have been. It was Australia, against Pakistan, at home, at Brisbane and at Adelaide. It was inevitable.

Steve Smith, star of the Ashes and as close a Don Bradman incarnate as we will get in our times, was not even needed much. By his own admission, he allowed himself to be a little casual due to the ridiculously dominant position Australia found themselves in by the time he arrived on the crease in both games.

The second wicket fell with the score at 351 in the first Test and it was 369 in the second when Smith came out to bat. Australia didn’t even have to unleash their biggest weapon to humiliate Pakistan, needing nothing more than second gear to dominate and overwhelm.

That is not to say David Warner wasn’t out to prove a point or that he doesn’t deserve every plaudit he is getting for scoring 489 runs in the series, including a 335 not out that eclipsed not only the highest-ever score of Smith but also of the Don himself. It was about sending a message and Pakistan were just the poor souls caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But if one batsman manages to make more runs in one innings than any batsman in your side made in the entire series across four innings then the gulf in quality can no longer be ignored or swept under the carpet as yet another bad day at the office for players who you are told are filled with talent yet somehow keep forgetting where they have put it.

Head coach and selector Misbah-ul-Haq will face a lot of flak for this, as he should, but problems have been allowed to fester for a long time. He isn’t the first coach or selector to ignore the likes of Fawad Alam and Sadaf Hussain while picking the likes of Imam-ul-Haq and Shan Masood, and he certainly won’t be the last, but he seems to be way out of his depths here.

The decision to go with a bowling attack featuring a 16-year-old and a 19-year-old who have 14 first class matches and no Test experience between them was always going to be judged on hindsight, and hindsight hasn’t been kind on it.

Imran Khan’s inclusion in the side after nearly three years out seems foolish now too, and if Muhammad Abbas is suddenly so woeful that a 16-year-old is preferred to him in the first Test then why was he included in the second?

However, Misbah hasn’t been in power for even six months yet and Pakistan have lost 14 consecutive Tests in Australia; a run that stretches back 24 years.

The former Test captain surely can’t be blamed for the dramatic dip in form for current skipper Azhar Ali, who has made 85 runs in four Tests this year at an average of 10.62. Neither can he be at fault for 19-year-old Shaheen Shah Afridi looking like the only bowler in all of Pakistan worth his salt.

It wouldn’t be Pakistan though without a large helping of the absolutely bizarre and it came in the form of a leg-spinner fancying himself as a batsman in Australia. Yasir was Pakistan’s best batsman after Babar Azam; he scored the second highest number of runs, had the second best average, survived more deliveries than any other player in the side and of course scored an unforgettable century that delighted, amused and frustrated in equal measure.

Pakistan’s flaws have been laid bare and few have come out of this series with their reputations intact. The selector didn’t select the right players, the coach didn’t have the right plan, the bowling coach didn’t give his young charges the help they so clearly needed, the bowlers claimed one wicket in the first 100 overs of the first Test and two in the first 100 of the second, and almost all of the batsmen seemed like they need technique tips from Yasir.

All of this is neither shocking nor surprising though. This has happened before and this will happen again. The painful truth seems to be that this isn’t some mercurially unpredictable side — it’s just a plain mediocre one.

 
 
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