Pakistan’s Middle Order – What’s wrong and how to fix it?

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BY KAUKAB AZHAR

Pakistan’s middle-order has been badly exposed in the past few weeks against the weak Zimbabwean bowling and second-strength South African attack. Many poor performances went unnoticed because of the exceptional form of Rizwan and Babar.

Earlier, Hafeez was in the form of his life which hid many weaknesses of middle-order but his form has dipped recently and that has increased the pressure on others. However, the problems in the middle order started to emerge once Shoaib Malik was dropped from the side against Australia.

What went wrong?

Malik and Hafeez both were not selected for the Australian tour to make way for “youngsters”.

Iftikhar Ahmed grabbed the opportunity with both hands as he was one of the best performers of a side that was whitewashed. However, he could not continue his form afterward. Subsequently, he was also dropped from the side, probably the only batsman who deserved a few more games as he had scored at an average of 42 with a strike rate of over 130.

However, other batsmen did not deserve to get so many chances despite consistent failures.

Khushdil Shah played 9 games, managing to score 20+ in only one inning. Known for his power-hitting abilities, Khushdil struggled to get going which is reflected by his strike rate of 109.

Haider Ali announced himself in grand style but has not been able to get going in the middle order. He has scored 102 runs in the last 11 matches; moreover, the manner of his dismissals shows that he is unwilling to learn.

Asif Ali was immediately dropped after a poor show in Australia but he mysteriously made a comeback against South Africa recently. He has again failed to impress with scoring only 13 runs in three innings.

Danish Aziz made his debut in Zimbabwe and so far it is not going to plan but it’s too early to discard him.

Why Shoaib Malik deserves another comeback?

Misbah got it wrong to drop Malik and the decision has completely backfired. Not only was he a consistent performer but he also had the experience and patience to finish off games. Since, his comeback in 2015 he scored 1,338 runs in 50 matches, averaging over 40. Only Hafeez and Babar Azam have scored more runs during the same period. He is a better fielder and has maintained high fitness standards than most of the “youngsters”. He has always enjoyed playing in India and should definitely be a member of the world cup squad.

Who else is in contention?

Azam Khan is probably the best power hitter in Pakistan but his fitness is an issue. He has been working hard in the training camp and PSL performances could determine if he would be a part of the international team or not.

Sohaib Maqsood made a strong case in the last domestic season but he seems to struggle at the top level. He will bring a lot of stability to the inexperienced batting line-up.

Sarfaraz Ahmed has been part of the squad but Rizwan’s exceptional form has kept him out of the playing XI. However, he can easily come into the line-up in the middle order. He could also relieve Rizwan of wicket-keeping duties. Sarfaraz is a decent player of spin bowling and can bring the X factor to the fielding unit.

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