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Pakistan escaped with a drawn Test and drawn series. When rain intervened in Napier, Mohammad Yousuf's side were looking ragged, their captain nervous. The bowling line of attack and the field placings didn't inspire confidence. Yousuf and his team weren't responding well to the pressure of defending a lowish total on a placid wicket. For me, this was the most fascinating and revealing passage of play in a rivetingTest series. Pity then that New Zealand fans stayed away, an extraordinary failure of marketing or sporting culture.
Indeed, the whole contest was tightly fought and utterly enthralling, in large part thanks to the inconsistencies and poor performances exhibited by both teams. But there was also heroism, from Bond, O'Brien, and Vettori for New Zealand. While Pakistan were grateful to their 'A' list: the Akmals, Asif, and Aamer. Danish Kaneria promised better days too, but he had a rather poor final day like all of Pakistan's bowlers.
Importantly, Yousuf displayed a new determination to struggle and grind out an innings when in the past he would have wafted his wicket away. His captaincy and tactics, though, did raise some concerns. Generally, Yousuf was a defensive captain, risk averse, safety first. His bowling changes seemed sensible but the field placings seldom did. In his defence, although it is a lame one, Yousuf is an inexperienced captain and with Pakistan's recent record a drawn series is a small triumph.
Australia, of course, will be a much tougher challenge, despite their own rebuilding process. Nonetheless, Pakistan's ambitions will be built on their bowling attack, which is good enough to surprise Australia. But whichever way you look at it, the batting line-up is threadbare. When your batting mostly relies on a nineteen-year-old in his first Test series, you know you have cracks too deep to paper over.
Pakistan supporters will stay loyal to their team and will continue to enjoy watching their progress but the bafflement with Pakistan's decision-makers grows on a daily basis. What happens in Pakistan cricket happens for reasons unknown, without logic or consistency, and here are three examples:
1 The return of Mohammad Sami. In the wilderness, out of sight out of mind, no recent international preparation to speak of, Pakistan's once-great hope returns for another chance to ride into the Test arena. Why has Sami been recalled? On what basis? What happened to the pace bowlers on the fringe of international selection in recent months? All discarded at a stroke, a selection strategy abandoned. Good luck to Sami but the logic applied for his recall could easily be applied to include Yasir Hameed, for example, to strengthen the batting.
2 The absence of Younis Khan. The story goes that Younis has gone underground. Rather than hiding out in an underground tunnel in Waziristan or on a fishing boat in the Indian Ocean, Younis emerges at a cricket coaching course in Lahore. It's obvious to most sentient beings that Pakistan's batting is too fragile and lacks experience. Why so quickly rule out an experienced and successful Test player, who also happens to be your current national captain? The rush to exclude Younis was indecent and a direct contradiction to what Mr Butt and Younis were both insisting on only days before.
3 The lottery of selection. I saw a television interview with Iqbal Qasim, Pakistan's occasionally successful spin bowler and now chairman of selectors. Qasim was asked why he wasn't attending the Test series as he was supposed to do. His reply was that he was only part-time and that watching a full five days on his own wasn't a good use of his time. The selection system was revamped to attract professionals. It seems to attract people who have better things to do. How hard can it be to find a former senior Pakistan cricketer willing to do everything they can do to get the selection right, including even watching a match?
Why this angst? This is a chance to beat Australia if destiny's kind, yet Pakistan appear reluctant to take it--for reasons unknown.
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Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets hereFeeds: Kamran Abbasi
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Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. @KamranAbbasi