Pakistan in Australia 2019 – A Review
On the eve of their first home Test match for over 10 years, Salim Parvez looks back on their recently concluded tour of Australia and asks some pretty searching questions on the future of Pakistan cricket as reflected by fans across the world.
The backlash to yet another dreadful tour of Australia by the Pakistan team is hardly surprising for they were completely wiped out in both T20Is and the Test series. The spineless performance in all three playing departments of the game, plus the captaincy, has left the Pakistan supporters, both in and outside the country, in a complete state of despair and quite frankly seriously concerned at the long-term future of the game in the country, so passionately followed to this day. With only four Test victories – Sydney (1977), Melbourne (1979), Melbourne (1981) and Sydney (1995) – and yet to win a Test series in Australia in almost 55 years, the present debacle has not come as a great surprise.
The run up to the most recent tour of Down Under was fairly positive and up beat as Pakistan arrived with four new men in key positions: Misbah-ul-Haq (head coach), Waqar Younis (bowling coach), Azhar Ali (Test captain) and Babar Azam (T20I captain). The two warm-up matches in Perth seemed to have gone pretty well and the touring management was ready to unleash two exciting pace talent in Naseem Shah and Mohammad Musa.
The fact that Pakistan has been whitewashed on the Australian soil in five consecutive series featuring 14 Test matches since 1999 is depressing statistics. The true hard surfaces at Adelaide, Brisbane, Hobart, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth representing near enough ideal condition to flourish with both bat and ball and show one’s worth have seen some woeful batting collapses that has nullified the efforts of Pakistan bowlers, leading to crushing defeats and fostering of an unwanted inferiority complex. The meagre gate money picked up by Cricket Australia in matches featuring Pakistan, is another indicator of the Asian team no longer consisting of either match-winners or crowd pullers. At this rate, Pakistan simply will not be guaranteed tour of Australia on a four-year cycle or a boxing day and new year Test matches.
On three occasions - Hobart (1999), Sydney (2010) and Brisbane (2016) - Pakistan had a sniff of overpowering their hosts, only for Australia to hold their nerves and bounce back to retain its proud record in its backyard. Pakistan, it is to be added, is not the only Test nation to struggle to compete in Australia but the painful fact is its lack of resilience and ‘over of my dead body’ resolve. Since 1999, all five Test captains – Wasim Akram, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammed Yousuf, Misbah-ul-Haq and now Azhar Ali – have failed in their attempt to lead by example or bring the best out of Pakistan players. Given the comprehensive thrashing that it took in both T20I and Test series, even the PCB hierarchy has not escaped the wrath of public outrage, particularly in the social media. Both Ehsan Mani (chairman) and Wasim Khan (now having switched over from MD to CEO), took offices of 2018 – both choices of PM Imran Khan, Patron-in-chief of PCB, will be asked to make some tough decisions. The recent structural revamping has seen Subhan Ahmed (long-term chief operating officer), Ali Zia (senior general manager- academies) and Mudassar Nazar (director-academies), either stepping down or not seeking extension and fuelling speculation of more changes to come.
Ramiz Raja, former captain turned commentator, failed to hide his disappointment in his podcast, at the end of second day of the Adelaide Test, ‘I am struggling to even comment on the pathetic display by Pakistan team, both with bat and ball. It is heart breaking to witness such one-sided matches and I can tell you the Australian fans were not impressed at all the way David Warner was allowed to score a triple hundred. Yasir Shah, despite 200 plus Test wickets, bowled with no plan and it was school boy stuff. He loses control in his attempt to flight the ball for in UAE, his fast leg-breaks have been successful. In Australia, a good spinner will use the breeze and air the ball more frequently. ’
‘Ian Chappell is absolutely right in referring to the massive mismatch whenever Pakistan play red/pink ball cricket in Australia. I am tired of backing the team that has been brutally exposed. Following their fight with the bat in Brisbane, in this make-or-break game, they have simply been outclassed. With the exception of Babar Azam with the bat and Shaheen Afridi with the ball, this squad has been a big let down and no wonder there has not been a single Pakistan flag amongst the crowd, both in Brisbane or Adelaide. The selectors will need to back the right talent to have any chance of reviving the great deeds of the past.’
Qasim Umar, former Test cricketer, reacted to Mohammad Wasim’s rather harsh comments on Yasir Shah’s hundred at Brisbane. ‘It's a shame on anyone commenting like that to score a century in any class of cricket is a big huge achievement plus if you score a century against Australia is incredible achievement specially when specialists batsmen can't even get to double figures how heart-breaking situation this will be for Yasir to hear such absurd comments
Syed Naseem Ahmed, former Urdu commentator, ‘‘Winning and losing is part and beauty of the game but what is most disturbing is that PCB lacks proper homework, both on and off the field. They went to Australia raw and unprepared, surely the whole lot of PCB management is responsible for the debacle. I know for certain that PM Imran Khan, is not interfering in day-to-day affairs of PCB and both these gentlemen have free hand in taking decisions. Most importantly you must understand that cricket is not only a game for 220 million Pakistanis but a passion and source of happiness. Everyone here on street and inside homes are sad and even the ministers are crying foul. Let's see who faces the axe!
Mohammed Hussain Baluch, a US-based critic, ‘Our cricket is at rock bottom - all those years of UAE pitches and no cricket in Pakistan. It'll be very hard to bring our cricket to an international level - similar to hockey, squash.’
‘I am afraid we've lost the system that made our cricketers reach the top of their potential. I refer to the likes of Mushtaq Mohammed, Asif Iqbal, Majid Khan, Zaheer Abbas, Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. - all became super, honing their skills in the English county cricket. Presently, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Yasir Shah, Babar Azam, Hasan Ali – have very little experience in those conditions and neither have had a chance to participate in Indian Premier League (IPL), the biggest stage to polish one’s skills.’
‘On the other hand, the Indian players - Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shami, etc. - all have become super because the world's best coaches, the best players play in the IPL – in the last 10 years at least! To become the best, you have to play side by side with the best cricketers, and with the best coaches guiding you - that's the only way.’
‘Whatever little overseas experience our cricketers have is probably because of Shoaib Malik- he plays in the Caribbean League - even as a captain - and he'd try to bring in a few Pak cricketers - I think including Babar Azam, Mohammed Hafeez, Tanveer. We should strengthen links with West Indies, South Africa & New Zealand - and send our cricketers there to play in their leagues. You can also see how the foreign players befriend the Indians in the IPL - by playing together with them for years, and by making money from the Indian programs. The Pakistanis are not so hot property for English counties and have been barred to participate in IPL, resulting in the very poor output at international level.’
Aijaz Baig, Uk-based former first-class cricketer, ‘I had the misfortune of watching Pakistan batting in the first innings and was most disappointed with the technique of the top order. There is lack of commitment and professionalism. As I Pakistani I am ashamed as how poorly the game I loved and even destroyed my academic life (so nearly) is now being played in my country? On the recent tour of Australia, Pakistanis did not seem to realize it was a five-day Test match and one needed to fight all the way for runs and wickets to give yourself a chance of winning.
Let us hope that the return of Test cricket in the country, for the first time in over ten years, with the whole nation waiting (and fans across the world) for the momentous occasion, that it will spark a similar positive response from their playing squad against Sri Lanka.
©Cricket World 2019