Australia 2009-10 January 18, 2010

Few lessons learned, plenty of homework

Pakistan have been taught much over the last two tours, particularly by a professional Australian team, but they have learned little


Khurram Manzoor was the revelation of the series, which signifies the extent of Pakistan's failure. His attitude and application in a crisis were refreshing © Getty Images
 

Mohammad Yousuf wants to learn how to captain. Intikhab Alam wants his players, especially the seniors, to learn from their failures. Pakistan's emphasis on learning is admirable, but it is also baffling. A learning culture does not exist in the Pakistan team, an excuse culture does. In fact, the calls for learning sound like just another excuse to deflect criticism from the leadership and management of the Pakistan team.

Pakistan have been taught much over the last two tours, particularly by a professional Australian team, but they have learned little. The mistakes are the same and the captaincy no better. The same problems that existed before the New Zealand tour still exist today. No progress in the areas of concern.

Have Pakistan learned who should partner Salman Butt? No. Have Pakistan learned who is an alternative to Younis Khan at number 3? No. Have Pakistan learned the identity of their first choice to bat at number 6? No.

Have Pakistan's batsmen learned how to balance attack and defence in Test cricket, despite plenty of first-hand lessons from the Australian batsmen? No. Have Pakistan's tail-enders learned how to put a price on their wickets? No. Have Pakistan learned that Danish Kaneria can make the difference against the best teams? No.

Have Pakistan learned how to hold important catches, despite how much the drops have cost them? No. Has Yousuf learned anything of the art of captaincy and leadership, despite Ricky Ponting's masterclass in man-management and aggressive tactics? No.

Australia fully deserved their victory, although Pakistan handed it to them too easily. And that's the crux of the disappointment among supporters. The buildup to this tour generated great excitement, not because Pakistan fans expected their side to win. But because there was a real expectation, perhaps misplaced, that Pakistan were capable of putting up a fight and emerging stronger. Sadly, there was little fight, except from the bowlers until their wings were clipped by the defensive tactics.

The problems in Pakistan cricket run deep and some of them are beyond the control of the team management and the cricket establishment, but is this really the best we could have done? Ponting's Australia isn't yet a great team, even this confused Pakistan team almost stole a Test from them.

Despite the disappointment of a poor preformance, what positives can Pakistan take from this season of Test cricket? Here's my list, add yours:

1 Mohammad Aamer confirmed his ability and potential at Test level.

2 Mohammad Asif is back to his international best, but like Aamer he suffered from the negative field placings.

3 Mohammad Sami was a pleasant surprise and adds useful bench strength, provided he can maintain his Sydney form rather than returning to his bad old ways.

4 Umar Akmal is a star batsman in the making, but he isn't yet ready to shoulder the burden of the batting. He needs more guidance on how to build a Test innings, although who would he ask for help?

5 Sarfraz Ahmed is a better gloveman than Kamran Akmal, but he needs to quickly convince with his batting. At least Pakistan have a genuine alternative.

6 Salman Butt is the more secure of Pakistan's openers and deserves a decent run. He needs to work on the rest of his game. His failings are well known although undeserving of public abuse.

7 Khurram Manzoor was the revelation of the series, which signifies the extent of Pakistan's failure. His attitude and application in a crisis were refreshing. At one stage, he was prepared to take all the responsibility for saving the Hobart Test for Pakistan. He seemed to relish the challenge. A shame that he saved it until the final day, but it was a brave effort that deserves to be rewarded with more opportunities

The one-day series offers Pakistan a chance to regroup and finish on a high. Limited-overs cricket is less of a tactical challenge, although attack is again the best form of defence. The shorter game will suit Pakistan's players and hide their deficiencies. And returning players will give the team a different complexion and personality.

But the disappointment of the performances in this Test series will be hard to forget for Pakistan fans. Their team has not even stagnated, it has gone backwards in three important areas: batting, fielding, and captaincy. Pakistan's approach is a relic on the international stage, ill-suited and ill-prepared for the rigours of modern Test cricket.

Most disappointingly, few lessons have been learned over this season of Test cricket, and there is plenty of homework for Mohammad Yousuf and his men. But the first step is an honest appraisal of the state of the team and Pakistan cricket more broadly. Will the cricket board, coach and captain have the wisdom for such an assessment, and have the guts to do what's best for Pakistan cricket rather than themselves?

Follow me on Twitter during the Australia series: http://twitter.com/KamranAbbasi

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

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