With all due appreciations to the Pakistan Cricket team in displaying a reasonable performance in limited-over formats, especially T20s, yet these triumphs are too short to disguise the dismal performance of the team in test Cricket in the calendar year 2013.
For decades test Cricket has been a format where temperament, talent and skills of a player is tested to determine his sustainability at the international level. Undoubtedly Pakistan produced excellent test greats like Inzamam-ul-Haq, Muhammad Yousuf, Javed Miandad in the years gone by, but what about the existing lot? With captain Misbah-ul-Haq and seasoned campaigner Yonuis Khan on a brink of retirement, who will next take up the reins? We really need the services of ‘Mr. Tuk Tuk’ more in tests, rather than ODIs and T20s.
Let’s have a glimpse of Pakistan’s performance in tests in 2013. The team played seven test matches last year, bagging victory in only two – one against South Africa in UAE and the other in Zimbabwe against the hosts. Ironically, Pakistan lost to Zimbabwe in the second test of two-match series in September last. Besides, South Africa whitewashed Pakistan in a 3-match test series on their home soil, though it was not unexpected. When Proteas arrived in the UAE for a 2-match test series in October, they managed to level it after a defeat in the first match.
One reason for Pakistan’s bleak performance in tests may be the captain’s or management’s reluctance in inducting ‘domestic greats’ like Haris Sohail and Sohaib Maqsood and bowling prodigy Zulfqar Babar who have exceptional records in the domestic cricket. The induction of Maqsood in the ODI format and subsequent stability he has brought into the middle order is quite evident. The reason of Babar, Maqsood and Sohail being sidelined in tests certainly raises doubts on intents of management and not least the captain Misbah-ul-Haq.
According to statistics of test matches for 2013, no Pakistani batsman is ranked among top 10 scorers of the game, though it’s only Misbah who is on 25th position with 570 runs to his credit. In bowling, Saeed Ajmal is ranked at number 9, taking 39 wickets at an economy of 2.63.
When it comes to performance in ODIs and T20s of the year, Pakistani players are nowhere behind. In ODIs, Pakistan played a total of 36 matches, securing victory in 17 and losing the remaining. To its credit, the team played 10 ODI series and won seven out it.
The top two positions in most wicket-taking bowlers of the year enlists Saeed Ajmal at no. 1 and Junaid Khan no.2, with 62 and 52 wickets, respectively. Mohammed Irfan is also ranked 8th with 38 wickets and that’s very impressive for a new promising fast bowler.
Disregarding quite a few faltering performances in ODIs, some patriots regard Misbah as the ideal captain for Pakistan team. He is undoubtedly a good middle-order player, but justifying his credentials as a captain just for the sake of arguments is unwise. Such explanations wholly revolve around a series victory that Pakistan secured in India against India, and beating South Africa on their home soil, and realistically it was a remarkable achievement and latter was a historical one. But, what about the disastrous show of the team in Champions Trophy (CT), a second big title next to World Cup. Dropping seasoned players like Younis Khan and Shahid Afridi in the mega event cost Pakistan an embarrassing defeat and we lost all the three league matches in CT, which was the last edition. We also lost a test match and an ODI against Zimbabwe. Alongside some remarkable triumphs, there are some embarrassing defeats as well, which should equally be seen rationally, rather than emotionally.
Having said that, Misbah ul Haq tops the list of most ODI run scorers of the year with 1373 runs, followed by Muhammad Hafeez on second position with 1301 runs. Well, that’s another debate that how much these performances added to the victories of Pakistan.
In a T20 format, Pakistan has improved substantially. The team played 13 matches, securing victories in eight, losing four and one game was washed out. Captain Muhammad Hafeez stands fourth in rankings of the year for most wicket-takers in T20s. He had 12 wickets while SO Ngoche of Kenya topped the list with 14 wickets. Similarly Hafeez is on second position in most run-scorers of the 20-over format. He scored 323 runs and Ahmed Shahzad is on top, scoring 347 runs in a calendar year. This is something we must be proud of.
But waning performance in the test Cricket is a serious worry for Pakistan as it can easily be gauged from the fact that none of Pakistani players were among top positions in bowling and batting. Bringing deserving domestic players into the side is an easy and practicable solution in sight that could yield productive results. Induction of players like Shan Masood and Khurram Manzoor should continue in the better interest of team, not the handful of individuals.