Following Pakistan cricket team’s tour to England I had written an article to explain why, despite the dismal performance in the limited over games the boys in green seemed to be on the right path and why they should be able to perform better against the Windies. As it turned out Team Green was able to white wash the Caribbean side both in the T20s as well as in the One Day Internationals (ODIs).
While Pakistan has beaten the West Indies comprehensively in the second Test Match, thus securing the series, the upcoming tours to New Zealand and Australia leave me somewhat worried.
I understand that the expectations are high and the masses seem extremely happy with the national team’s progress over the last few weeks. Still, in this article I choose to highlight 3 grey areas that need immediate attention and if neglected can prove to be fatal against superior opponents.
1. The Need to Penetrate
Pakistan won both its Test matches on the fifth day. The fact that a young and an inexperienced team from West Indies in the UAE conditions was able to stretch the games so far should worry the team management.
The pitch for both games was batting friendly. Yet, I see no reason why the bowling line up of the number 2 ranked team should not have taken 20 wickets against a number 8 ranked opponent with in three and a half days of the game.
Pakistan’s strategy of waiting for things to happen and making use of the strike bowlers as stock bowlers can lead towards a disaster. Particularly, in Australia (where the grounds are much bigger as compared to anywhere else) the fitness of the Pakistani boys would be challenged. I have no doubt in mind that the Pakistani boys will not be able to meet the fitness standards of the Aussies especially, if their workload is not managed efficiently. Therefore, when they come to bowl it would be imperative for them to devise an effective strategy that ensures minimum stay on the field.
In short, Pakistan must not allow the Kiwi and the Aussie batsmen to settle down and will need to attack throughout the series to ensure positive results.
2. 100s from the Middle Order
New Zealand and Australia are known to put the opposition’s openers under pressure. Therefore, the possibility of a top order collapse every now and then during the twin tours cannot be ruled out. To counter such scenarios it is then imperative to have batsmen in the middle order who have in them the ability to score daddy 100s.
It is disappointing to note that against a weak looking bowling line-up of the West Indies no middle order batsman other than Younis Khan has managed to post a 100 plus score. Shafiq, Misbah and Sarfaraz did score 50s but I doubt if half centuries would suffice in a scenario where two or three wickets go down early.
Similarly, Nawaz has had limited opportunity so far. If he is to be selected for future tours then it is important for the Pakistani think tank to give him a decent chance in the middle so that he has the confidence of runs before the next tour begins.
3. Dropping Catches
Pakistani fielders have certainly dropped quite a few chances against the Windies so far. Nobody seems to be talking about them because they haven’t been costly. However, if the trend continues against better teams down under, I fear the likes of Williamson, Taylor, Warner and Smith etc. would make the boys in green pay heavy.
To prove their credibility as a top Test side Pakistan has to start winning outside of the Asian conditions. Therefore, the upcoming tours provide an ideal opportunity to the national side to enhance their reputation. However, it is only possible if the Pakistani team is able to improve its performance in all three facets of the game. With another Test against the Windies to go, let’s see if the boys will be able to step up and raise their standards!