Champions trophy winners Pakistan didn’t come to Asia Cup

Bangladeshi players gather to celebrate the dismissal of Pakistan's Babar Azam, left, during the one day international cricket match of Asia Cup between Pakistan and Bangladesh in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

It seems that the Pakistan team that won the Champions trophy last year never came to the Asia Cup, a fact even captain Sarfraz Ahmed admitted.

Pakistan’s failure to reach the final of the Asia Cup, their two abject surrenders to India whom they beat in the final at The Oval last year, confidence crisis as put by head coach Mickey Arthur and the overall decline in all three disciplines of the game are major worries.

But even bigger is the worry is that in the lead up to the World Cup — just eight months away — Pakistan will be playing some 20 one-day internationals and that too against strong teams like New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and England (all five-match series) and that could further jolt the team before the mega event.”Yes, that’s true to a great extent,” admitted Sarfraz.

How have all the standards declined so quickly? Pakistan’s batting is always suspect and in the absence of experience, it was expected to fall apart. It did. But it was surprising to see bowling doing so badly. Mohammad Amir went wicketless in the Asia Cup and his approach looked lethargic. Hasan Ali and Shadab Khan were completely out of sorts. Shadab was a shadow of the batsman who scored three fifties on the UK tour and never looked threatening as a bowler.

Fakhar Zaman seems to have scored all his runs in Zimbabwe. He lost his confidence. Twice he could have taken a review to avert an out decision but he did not do that. It seems that he had accepted his failure.

Among all the areas of concerns, the biggest is Sarfraz’s captaincy and his lack of runs. The other main concern is the rigidity in selection which does not allow the experience to blend with the youth. The axing of Azhar Ali and Mohammad Hafeez has left the team without experience and specialist batsman. Pakistan’s batting was badly exposed in the Asia Cup and their much-touted bowling and fielding were below standards.

Sarfarz clearly lacked imagination during the Asia Cup. He had no clue against a powerful Indian batting line-up in both the games but it could have been better. Pakistan badly erred in selection. When Amir was dropped for the Afghanistan game what good he had done to return for second India game two days later. Pakistan should have played Junaid Khan in that game. And when they played Junaid in the last Super Four stage, Junaid’s 4-19 in his nine overs proved that it was a costly mistake of not playing him.

But Junaid’s good work was spoiled by the lack of attack from Sarfraz. From 12-3 Bangladesh were allowed to run away to 156 as Mushfiqur Rahim and Mohammad Mithun was never attacked. Shockingly, Sarfraz replaced the bustling Junaid and Shaheen after just four overs each and introduced Hasan Ali and spinner Mohammad Nawaz. Even with these bowlers, there was no slip which allowed Mushfiq to effect edges through the cordon and play the reverse sweep.

Even the team management did not send a message. Mushfiq was the man in form, having smacked a brilliant match-saving hundred against Sri Lanka in the opening game. Once Mushfiq was settled he threw his bat at every delivery and helped Bangladesh to 239 which was gettable, but Pakistan’s batsmen again did hara-kiri and lost the plot.

Pakistan continued with Nawaz, who is neither a complete bowler nor a complete batsman. Asif Ali was also persisted with and he proved that he is only a slog over the batsman, only partly helping a stand of 71 with Imam in the Bangladesh game. That place should have gone to Hafeez.

Now as Sarfraz put it, there is no need to press the panic button but there is a need to address all the problems. Time is running out so we must act. Otherwise, the teams stand little chance in the World Cup.