Pakistan in West Indies 2011 May 16, 2011

Batting, a case of chronic neglect

When Pakistan reflect on their defeat in the first Test, they should examine why their batsmen have developed a habit of falling to some of the world's least celebrated bowlers

When Pakistan reflect on their defeat in the first Test, courtesy of the occasionally decent bowling of Darren Sammy, they should examine why their batsmen have developed a habit of falling to some of the world's least celebrated bowlers? They might struggle. Batsmanship has become an unfathomable art in Pakistan cricket, lost with the ancients. By default, Pakistan teams can bowl and can't field. The batting, meanwhile, has been spasmodic.

Misbah-ul Haq had an incredible opportunity to carve his name in history by leading a first Pakistan victory in a Caribbean Test series. Those dreams are dust. Misbah might curse his misfortune that West Indies were stiffer opponents than expected, but his frustration would be better directed at the chronic neglect of fundamental batting skills at the highest level of Pakistan cricket.

Pakistan have always struggled for batting, certainly in comparison with their neighbours to the East, yet you would not have described it as a poverty of batting resources. How could you when you could call upon Zaheer Abbas, Majid Khan, Hanif Mohammad, and even Asif Iqbal and Mushtaq Mohammad. Up to the 1980s Pakistan teams might have batted with unreliable spirit, but there would be flashes of genius to inspire hope.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Imran Khan and Javed Miandad added some spine to Pakistan's performances. Too often it was only their backs to the wall, but their leadership did enough to coerce greater responsibility from their fellows on enough occasions to make Pakistan genuine challengers to West Indies. Fear of Imran's wrath aside, English county cricket played a part in honing and strengthening techniques.

Imran and Javed, Pakistan's contrary heroes, left a legacy of batting promise. Saeed Anwar, Inzamam-ul Haq, Salim Malik, and Ijaz Ahmed were in place to shepherd Pakistan through the 1990s and into the new millennium. Pakistan's batting remained strong if increasingly unpredictable, and underperformance began to become a frustrating norm after the 1999 World Cup.

Following a glut of inevitable departures in the early 2000s, Inzamam remained the champion of Pakistan's middle order with increasing support from Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf. Yet Pakistan's problems began to unravel as the opening slot became a position of crisis, and has been as such for a decade; Pakistan haven't had a world-class opening batsman since Saeed Anwar's last Test match in 2001.

The batting disaster has many complex explanations. Cricketing isolation and an inadequate domestic structure are major factors but that doesn't excuse the inadequacies of the approach taken in recent years by Pakistan's cricket board

It is no coincidence that the last spur of Pakistan's batting strength, and the peak of performance from Inzamam, Younis, and Yousuf, came under the guidance of Bob Woolmer. Those very instabilities that surround Pakistan cricket, and the unusually young age of players when they are blooded, means that Pakistan's international batsmen still require much work on the technical basics of their craft. Even world-class performers can benefit from a wise word or subtle pointer when form has deserted them.

Since Bob Woolmer's death, Pakistan's international batsmen haven't had that essential tutelage. It is too much to ask Waqar Younis and Aaqib Javed to fill those important gaps. Until the Pakistan Cricket Board reconfigures the national team's coaching structure to properly develop and improve its international cricketers, Pakistan will continue to miss golden opportunities to win series by the same country mile that Saeed Ajmal missed the final Darren Sammy delivery in the Guyana Test.

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

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