While Pakistan’s flawed selection policies have seen a near endless stream of players bursting onto cricketing consciousness only to slip into virtual anonymity, there is one aspect of their cricket that has stood the test of time. Their overseas Test record.
Not for no reason are they tagged poor travellers. In their 68-year history of playing the longest format, Pakistan hasn’t had much pride to take home from its overseas assignments.
While their overall win percentage in the longest format stands at 32.09 from 430 matches, the fourth-highest among all Test playing nations, the overall win/loss percentage in 219 overseas Tests is 0.678.
While they hold the best away Test record among the sub-continental giants, with India trailing at 0.396% from 251 matches and Sri Lanka at 0.362% from 116 matches, it doesn’t mask their recent abysmal overseas record in the longest format. They have featured in eight overseas Test tours between 2017 and this year, so far, winning only two. Their only wins came against the West Indies in 2016-’17 and Ireland in 2018.
So, as an inquest begins on yet another overseas loss, against England, the focus will inevitably shift to their coaching staff which has three stalwarts of Pakistan cricket. While the dust is yet to settle on the ongoing series in the Old Blighty, there is already a buzz back home on whether its coaching personnel have failed to justify their pay packets.
In all three matches of the recently concluded series, Pakistan have been found sorely wanting on all three fronts – batting, bowling and fielding.
Despite setting England a stiff target of 277 in the fourth innnings of the opening Test at Old Trafford, the Pakistan bowlers let the momentum slip away, quite literally, through their fingers. From 117/5, England romped home on the back of a match-winning stand by keeper Jos Buttler and all-rounder Chris Woakes. Many were left wondering why the bowlers didn’t employ variations of pace and show more desire to push for a win.
In the second Test, which was eventually lost to inclement weather and bad light, their batters, apart from opener Abid Ali, failed to come to the party. When it came to England’s turn with the willow, their bowlers failed to make hay on a day the sun finally broke through the clouds.
While there wasn’t much left in the truncated second Test for the Pakistan bowlers to run in for, the stakes were high going into the third as it was battle to spare themselves the embarrassment of losing another overseas Test series. Yet, both the bowlers and batters came up short. While the bowlers allowed England to amass 583/8 after havivg them in a pickle at 73/2, their batters failed to save the ignominy of being asked to follow on.
And, as things shake out in Pakistan after every lost series, the support staff, especially Pakistan coaches, is yet again in the firing line. Laying the blame squarely at the door of the coaching personnel, former Pakistan captain Aamer Sohail berated (head coach) Misbah ul Haq, (fast bowling coach) Waqar Younis, (batting coach) Younis Khan and (spin-bowling consultant) Mushtaq Ahmed, wondering if they have taken the ongoing tour as a pleasure trip.
Speaking on his private YouTube channel, Sohail said despite having big names around in the dressing room, the team looked hopelessly lost for ideas on the field.
On veteran leg-spinner Yasir Shah, who has been largely ineffective in the series, so far, Sohail said, “He concedes more than 150 runs whenever he bowls a long spell. If your top bowler concedes so many runs without much to show in the wickets column, then your chances (of winning) becomes that much less.”
Coming to 18-year-old tearaway Naseem Shah, Sohail said, “The follow through of his bowling arm is not consistent. It’s been while since our coaches have been on the job and I don’t see much improvement.”
On Shaheen Afridi, he said that the left-arm quick should have been a finished article by now but there’s been a sudden decline in his bowling.
Holding the Pakistan Coaches to account, the former Pakistan skipper said, “Whose job (fixing flaws of players) is it? What are coaches for? Are they on a pleasure trip? Let them be sent on a world tour.”
Former speedster Shoaib Akhtar has also had go at the Pakistan coaches for a lack of desire or intent by the team to make things happen.
While it’s agreed that the coaches aren’t there to do the heavy lifting on the field of play, they are expected to be hands-on, put a hand on a lad’s shoulder and tell him where he is going wrong and not let negativity creep into the dressing room. That’s where, perhaps, the big names in the coaching set-up haven’t delivered the goods for Pakistan.