From strike rate concerns to leaking pacers, Babar's men have a lot to ponder upon
While Asif averages 9.6 in his last 10 T20I innings, Fakhar averages 8.5 in the same period, including six single digit scores.
After opportunities to Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal following their rich vein of form in the domestic circuit did not yield anticipated results, Pakistan made wholesale changes to their T20I outfit. Sarfaraz Ahmed was both sacked as captain and dropped from the team. Babar Azam was crowned the new skipper.
The newly-appointed coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq also made several left-field decisions and did not shy away from thinking out of the box.
Mohammad Irfan, at 37 years of age, who had been away from international cricket for over three years was named in the side on account of extracting bounce on the Australian pitches, which he did. Just that the height and pace at which the balls came were substantially lesser as compared to the way in which they departed.
Muhammad Musa was also drafted in the T20I side along with Mohammad Hasnain to bring in a breath of fresh air. Usman Qadir was named the cover for leg-spinner Shadab Khan. Khushdil Shah was added in the squad based on his big-hitting ability and the team smelled of freshness and change.
However, all of that did not prove enough as Pakistan lost the one-sided T20I series by 2-0, a margin that could well have been worse had rain not interrupted in Sydney.
Trying to make do with ODI batsmen in T20Is
Babar Azam promoted himself to open the batting in the series and made back to back alf-centuries in the first two T20Is. However, that also meant that a void appeared in the middle order which wasn't filled in the series.
To begin with, Pakistan are going in with the one-day mindset in T20Is and that needs to change. Haris Sohail has a T20I strike rate of 102.94. Mohammed Rizwan strikes at 97.82 in T20Is. Imam-ul-Haq, who was added to the squad in the series, has played only 2 T20Is and strikes at 84.
Two of Pakistan's relatively hard-hitting batsmen Fakhar Zaman (SR: 136.70) and Asif Ali (128.29) have been going through a poor run of form. While Asif averages 9.6 in the last 10 T20I innings, Fakhar averages 8.5 in the same period, including six single digit scores.
Shadab Khan's poor form
Shadab Khan, who was one of the leading contributions during Pakistan's golden run in T20 cricket, is on a downward spiral. The last time he took three wickets in a T20I was back in November 2018 against New Zealand in Dubai.
Since then, he has only managed 4 wickets in 9 T20Is. Shadab, who came in handy for the team with a few useful runs, has not contributed in that department as well.
Experiments with pace bowlers didn't come off
Interestingly, neither of Usman Shinwari, Shaheen Shah Afridi or Junaid Khan have made it to the T20I squad. Misbah-ul-Haq instead, put all his eggs in the pace basket. He gave Mohammad Musa and Mohammad Hasnain opportunities, who are known to possess extra pace. Possibly, the thought that the quick and bouncy Australian pitches would assist them was the reason behind their selection.
But, as it has been seen time and again that young and quick pacers go haywire on Australian pitches and can hardly keep a check on their line and length. As a result, the quicker the ball comes, the farther it is deposited into the stands. Just the treatment that Aaron finch, David Warner and Steve Smith meted out to the Pakistani bowlers in the series.
Mohammad Irfan, who invoked excitement in several Pakistani fans, also failed to impress. With his age, his pace was certainly not threatening but the length he was bowling, it was playing into the Aussie hands with the batsmen waiting on the back foot all the time and taking full toll on any opportunity. Irfan got one more game post that but possibly the 26-run over to Aaron Finch will mark the end of his international cricketing career.
"Very disappointed that we lost to a team like this. But we have learnt a lot from this series and we'll take the positives and come back hard in the next series. I have learnt a lot, there is a lot to learn as well. Hopefully I'll apply it in the future. Musa and Hasnain were bowling quick. But Finch and Warner played really well. We played them so that they can use this experience in the future," a visibly disappointed Babar Azam said as Pakistan concluded their T20I series against Australia.
The skipper has his work cut out for sure leading up to the 2020 T20 World Cup and he would know that well.