In his latest blog for PakPassion.net, Yasir Arafat writes about the reasons for Pakistan's dismal showing in the Test series against Sri Lanka, why Mohammad Amir should not play county cricket, Hasan Ali's bright future, role of Sarfaraz Ahmed in his side's rise to the top in T20I rankings and Pakistan's chances in the 2019 World Cup.
By Yasir Arafat (3rd November, 2017)
Pakistan missed Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan in Tests
In order to fully understand the reasons for Pakistan’s recent dismal performance in Tests against Sri Lanka, we need take into account the huge vacuum left in our middle-order by the departure of two of our top batsmen in Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan. It would be easy to blame the bowlers for our defeats but the facts are that when it was time to score runs, our batting failed miserably.
In the first Test, we just had a target of 136 to score and a team like Pakistan should have achieved that target with the loss of a few wickets but that did not happen. Our Test batting line-up showed its inexperience and succumbed to the pressure. In the past, when chasing such a small target we still lost a few wickets but then the wiser heads of Misbah and Younis would walk on to the pitch, calm the situation down and lead the team to a victory. This kind of stability was missing in the middle-order and Pakistan lost pretty much both matches due to this reason.
Although we did have the somewhat experienced Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq in our batting line-up, they did not rise-up to the occasion and perhaps missed the helping hand and confidence that the two retired batsmen used to provide in the past, especially in pressure situations. Going forward, both Azhar and Asad will need to take on the challenge and bear the responsibility of holding the Pakistan innings together. They have the best technical skills in the team and the experience to make this happen but whether they have the will to do this is yet to be seen.
Mickey Arthur and Sarfaraz Ahmed chose the best Test bowling attack available
I have heard a lot of criticism about lack of spin options in the Pakistan Test team especially when playing in the UAE but here is the issue. At the end of the day, the coach and captain must feel comfortable with the bowling attack they feel has the capability to take 20 wickets for their team. The Test line-up for both games was based upon the team-management’s call and it’s not as if Pakistan have had no success in the past. The same management took decisions which won us the Champions Trophy so we should give them a little more credit in terms of their ability to make judgement calls about what team to play and so on.
We all know how good Yasir Shah is as a spinner and he did show his class during the Test series but the coach did not feel comfortable with the other spinners he had in the squad to risk them in the line-up for an important series. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but the fact is that selection decisions were taken with the best interest of the team and by competent people. Regardless of the merits of the selection of the bowling attack, the fact is that it wasn’t the bowling that let us down in this series but the failure of our batsmen to handle key pressure situations during the games and that is what we should focus on improving in the future.
PCB needs to take special care of work-load on Mohammad Amir
I have been saying this before and will repeat it again. If Mohammad Amir or any other bowler is to be used in Test matches, then the PCB will need to ensure that they do not play 4-day county cricket games. Amir's playing schedule needs to be managed better by the PCB. I understand that playing in the county circuit is an important part of a player’s progress but it is pretty severe in physical aspects in terms of number of games that a professional is asked to play in a season with limited time to recover in between.
Mohammad Amir performed brilliantly for Essex in the summer and helped them to a historic county title but that caused strain on his body and we saw the effects of that in his breakdown in the second Test in Dubai where his energy levels were nowhere near what was expected of a top-class bowler. He is not the young fast-bowler of many years ago and if he is to be an integral part of Pakistan’s Test squad in the future then he should not play the 4-day version in England.
Yes, he can continue to take part in the shorter formats of the game at all levels but the longer format should be limited to a few games and mostly to Tests for Pakistan. It is Amir’s good fortune that there are no Test matches until May next year so he has plenty of time to recover but he is quite fantastic in the shorter forms of the game as we saw in the series against Sri Lanka. He will also be a handful for the opposition when Pakistan tour New Zealand for the LOI series later on where the bowling conditions will suit him just fine.
Like Umar Akmal, only Ahmed Shehzad can help Ahmed Shehzad
I wrote something similar about Umar Akmal in the past and let me state the same for Ahmed Shehzad as well. Only Ahmed Shehzad can help Ahmed Shehzad. There is no one else to blame for the problems that Ahmed is facing at the moment with being dropped from the teams after being selected. It’s not that he is not capable of doing well as we saw in his fantastic performances against the World XI but his inability to improve and concentrate on fixing his problems is worrying. He has an unusually high proportion of dot-balls to his name and a low strike-rate which in the LOI format of the game is not good for the team and does not do any favours to his long-term future in the Pakistan side as well. You have to remember that when Ahmed started his career, he was considered an attacking player in all forms of the game. In fact it was quite pleasing watching him and Nasir Jamshed open in games for Pakistan. I cannot understand why his ability to score has diminished over time and this is something only he can answer and explain, and fix.
Hasan Ali has a bright future for Pakistan
There is something very special about Hasan Ali. He bowls with so much energy and plays with so much gusto that I am confident that he has a great and bright future ahead of him playing for Pakistan. The beauty about his bowling is that he is able to come in the middle-overs and take wickets for his side which is a very difficult thing to do. He seems to pick wickets at will and is a wonderful asset for Pakistan. I do hope and pray that he continues to look after himself and keeps on improving under the supervision of Azhar Mahmood. Incidentally, all of Pakistan’s regular fast-bowlers have improved considerably under Azhar’s guidance. It took a few series for those positive changes to show themselves but these things never happen overnight and Azhar’s hard work and persistence and guidance has brought great results for Pakistan's bowlers.
Pakistan’s remarkable rise to top the T20I Rankings owes a lot to Sarfaraz Ahmed
I am absolutely thrilled and overjoyed with Pakistan’s remarkable rise to the top position in ICC’s T20I Rankings. Without taking the credit away from other captains who have lead us in the shorter formats of the game, let me say that Sarfaraz Ahmed’s appearance on the scene has completely changed our outlook and he must be praised for where we stand today. He may be the politest person off the field but on the field, he is an aggressive captain. That attitude has rubbed off on the rest of the side as well so that even one run given away on the field brings about very strong reactions from the whole team. In short, they have become fighters and this combination of young and senior players along with the coaching staff is ideal for Pakistan.
Sarfaraz Ahmed must continue as the captain in all 3 forms of the game
He may have had a tough start to his Test captaincy but make no mistake, Sarfaraz must continue as captain in all 3 forms of the game. He has bided his time in domestic 4-day cricket and proven his credentials time and time again for Pakistan in Tests as well. As long as he is fit and willing to lead, he should be allowed to serve Pakistan as captain and we should not think of changing captains as this will destroy the balance and the chemistry of this young and energetic team.
Pakistan has the right side to win the World Cup in 2019
If we look at the core of the young team that played in the Champions Trophy and performed beyond expectations to win the tournament, then you will quickly come to the conclusion that they will be around for Pakistan’s campaign to win the World Cup in 2019. We all know that regardless of what a team’s form has been prior to that, each ICC tournament is a very difficult competition to play in. If we can maintain the right combination of juniors and seniors in the team, then the pressure of playing the World Cup will become easier to handle. On top of that, I am really impressed by our bench-strength which consists of players who are hungry for success. Whenever, any back-up players get a chance he steps forward and performs really well. We saw that in the Champions Trophy when Rumman Raees came to the fore in Amir’s absence and we saw that again when Usman Khan Shinwari did the same during the series against Sri Lanka. If Sarfaraz can continue to lead his team and maintain the bond that he has created within his side then I see no problems in Pakistan taking on and beating the best in the world. I am convinced that we have a great combination and the right set of players to win the World Cup in 2019.