Haider bright amidst the gloom
Pakistan's replacements provided the only positives from the defeat at Edgbaston. Of the two, Zulqarnain Haider was the brighter. Yes, he dropped catches but you might excuse those as debut nerves. He also bagged a golden duck. Nerves again. But despite these setbacks he almost produced an incredible hundred and made himself a major player in a Test match where virtually nothing was expected of him.
It is too early to judge what impact Haider will have on international cricket. At the very least, he should have earned himself the big gloves for the rest of the Test series. This doesn't spell the end for Kamran Akmal. He should still be Pakistan's first choice in limited-overs cricket. And a break from Test cricket might help him resolve the technical problems that have dogged him for nearly five years. It is simply a relief to have choice.
Similarly, Saeed Ajmal made enough of an impact to dislodge Danish Kaneria this summer, which is a graver problem for Kaneria as he is superfluous in other formats. Ajmal has much to prove too but the character he showed at Edgbaston makes him the kind of personality that should be in a Pakistan squad. Unfortunately, Pakistan's ideal long-term solution would be a legspinner or slow left arm bowler to partner the pace attack.
As a consequence, the future looks bright for Raza Hasan but it would be tough to make him the sole spinner for The Oval. If Pakistan select Ajmal and Hasan, the tail will be too long or the fast bowlers too few. This is one of many thorny dilemmas for Pakistan's management, reminding us of the limitations of the touring party chosen by the selectors.
Based on the current squad, and with the Pakistan Cricket Board who knows who might be in the squad in a week's time, here are the questions facing Waqar Younis and Salman Butt:
1. Salman's form has disappeared since he accepted the captaincy. There is no sense in replacing the skipper but how does Salman get back into the groove? A Pakistan captain, epecially a young one, has to lead by example. The cricket board needs to help him here by backing him rather than undermining him. A captain needs to feel secure and in command to be properly effective. Yes, he might make mistakes in selection and strategy but that's the trade-off in choosing a younger man.
2. Despite being the better of the two openers in recent matches, Imran Farhat's form is a chronic issue rather than an acute one. England's opening bowlers have also settled into a perfect rhythm bowling at Pakistan's left-handed openers. Is it worth trying a left-hand and right-hand opening combination? Azhar Ali could do the job. Indeed he plays more like a determined opener than a number three.
3. Pakistan need experience at numbers three and four. Yasir Hameed is unfortunate to have been left on the bench while Pakistan's batting has failed miserably. It must now be time to give him an opportunity, and he could play at number three.
4. Mohammad Yousuf's recall has been controversial but what to do? By the time of the third Test, fatigue will no longer be an issue and although he will be little better prepared, he has to play. Otherwise there was no point in recalling him from retirement and sending him to England.
5. The question of Shoaib Malik's role is a vexed one. He has done little of note in this series but then neither has anybody else. Pakistan's best option has to be pack the team with as much middle-order experience as is available. Which means that whatever the politics, Malik should keep his place. He will also be required as second spinner.
6. Umar Akmal has dissapointed his many fans. The boy has class but he has displayed little temperament. We should not damn him on the basis of this summer. Inzamam-ul Haq had a poor first tour of England, and look how he ended up. Umar has serious talent, he needs some wise heads around him. Perhaps the biggest mistake was making him the elder statesman of the middle order too soon.
7. Azhar Ali and Umar Amin have both found this tour tough. Of the two, Azhar has been the more impressive. They might both have a bright future but this tour was the wrong baptism. Insufficient squad depth means that Azhar should keep his place although it is time for Amin to take a breather.
8. With Umar Gul's injury, Pakistan face a straight choice between Wahab Riaz and Tanvir Ahmed. That's a tough decision as neither has international pedigree. This is where Waqar's skills will be invaluable and he should know which of the two is the better bet. Tanvir also has a strong domestic record to back his case.
9. Almost as much as with their batting, Pakistan lost the match because of their fielding. In fairness they do practice hard, especially slip catching. Catching like batting is all about confidence, little wonder then that both disciplines have collapsed together. A fielding coach, and I don't mean Ijaz Ahmed, is desirable.
10. The solution to Pakistan's dismal form might be more practice or less practice, depending on which sage you ask. But international cricket is a mind game, and the self-inflicted wounds of the past weeks have scrambled the senses of Pakistan's cricketers. Perhaps that explains why the best performers at Edgbaston were untainted by the earlier defeats of the summer?
An ideal management approach is to create a coccooned environment for the players, which protects them from selection dramas while they complete their development as international cricketers. This is especially valid for young cricketers. But that isn't the way of Pakistan cricket. It is a bear pit where only the most combative and the most ruthless survive. The board and the management team need to raise their game otherwise this tour will only get worse.
The performances of Pakistan's cricketers have been ridiculed in the past few days. Their Test status questioned. We should remember that these players hail from a country crippled by conflict, burdended further by a natural disaster affecting 15 million people. Its cricket board is a basket case and has been for years. No international cricket is played within its borders, and the team had barely played a Test match for three years leading up to last winter.
Isn't it still something that we can still marvel at players like Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif, and sometimes Umar Akmal?
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Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here