Once a preeminent force in the gentlemen’s game, Pakistan cricket has been on a slippery slope in the recent past.
A run of abject defeats to cricketing powerhouses in all formats, insipid batting and bowling and failure to address concerns around their domestic cricket have dragged Pakistan cricket from its halcyon highs down to the dumps.
Having produced batting stars through generations, from the likes of Zaheer Abbas, Majid Khan, Javed Miandad and Wasim Raza to Saeed Anwar, Aamer Sohail, Saleem Malik and Inzamam ul Haq, Pakistan are now at pains to produce batters who can compare with the world’s best.
Apart from young Babar Azam, who has drawn comparisons with the Kohlis of contemporary cricket with his strong cricketing sense and languid stroke play, Pakistan has struggled to blood a batsman of note.
Talent promising but inconsistent
Often at the receiving end of criticism from pundits over selections that they claimed made little sense, the Pakistani selectors have taken a honest stab at lifting the batting standards from the depths of mediocrity by trialing promising talents.
While showing plenty of flair with the willow, none, however, managed to summon the temperament and discipline to meet the demands of international cricket.
To cite a case in point, Fakhar Zaman started his international cricket in a flurry, with his maiden century, 114 off 106, coming in the final of the 2017 Champions Trophy. Riding on his ton, Pakistan upset India to lift their first major ICC tournament since the 1992 World Cup.
However, as has been symptomatic of many a Pakistani batsman who came in with a lot of promise before fading into obscurity, Zaman has struggled to produce his best form since.
Though experienced, the likes of captain Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq have largely failed to live up to expectations against top teams and on overseas tours.
Young Imam ul Haq, who the detractors say owes his place in the national side to his uncle Inzamam, is yet to prove his mettle in international cricket despite numerous chances. While Abid Ali is being touted as the next big star, his batting is yet to be tested by world class bowling line-ups as that of India, Australia and England.
Pakistan tour of England real test
The upcoming tour of England will provide the real test for this largely young and inexperienced batting line-up.
As far as their bowling goes, Pakistan is relatively better placed with a clutch of exciting young quick bowlers in Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah, Musa Khan and Usman Shinwari, coupled with the experience of Mohammad Abbas and veteran leg-spinner Yasir Shah.
While there’s no denying the bowling talent in the Pakistan squad, most have tended to disappoint on overseas tours. The likes of Shah, Khan and Shinwari literally haven’t had much taste of overseas cricket and are still raw at this level.
So, expect this attack to face a stern test against the likes of Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler when the England series gets going.
However, with Pakistan’s coaching reins now with former captains Misbah ul Haq, Waqar Younis and batting great Younis Khan, there’s hope of better returns in England than the 2-0 drubbing against Australia in their last overseas assignment Down Under.
Now the bowling coach, Waqar has a tough job on his hands managing a young and inexperienced Pakistan attack. Naseem is still in his teens and his workload has to be watched. Musa could be erratic with his line and length, as he showed in the Australia series and Shinwari hasn’t had much overseas cricket under his belt. The onus is on Younis and Misbah to bring the best out of the batters.
Pakistan’s hopes of a revival in the longest form and moving up the ICC Test Championship points table hinge on how they show up against England. And, here’s hoping they will put their best foot forward.