Pakistan's arrested development
A whitewash means nothing when the next match begins, and Pakistan proved it in the first one-day international of their series against England. From the moment Misbah-ul-Haq lost the toss, and his body language betrayed his disappointment, Pakistan were a beaten team. A successful climb to the summit of international cricket requires all challenges to be treated with equal ambivalence and resolution. Still, one defeat isn't enough to deflate the feel-good factor surrounding Pakistan's progress.
England produced some excellent individual performances in Abu Dhabi, their skipper Alastair Cook's century followed by a perfectly timed two-fingered salute to the selection committee from Steven Finn. Pakistan didn't have the skill to overcome those outstanding efforts and they fared little better against a more comfortable challenge from Samit Patel. When Pakistan suck they do it with insatiable lust.
Despite all the highs of last year, Pakistan's mixture isn't quite a heady cocktail. A dearth of quality openers and allrounders poses the most serious question of Pakistan's talent pool.
Pakistan have persisted with men of considerable experience but unflattering vital statistics.
Imran Farhat and Shoaib Malik are batsmen -- and it is hard to consider Malik anything more in these latter days of his career -- with averages below 35 in both Test and one-day cricket, the product of more than a decade of endeavour. Such numbers suggest the players are still struggling to properly establish themselves, fine in a fledgling career but an untimely two-fingered salute to selection logic after so many years of opportunities.
By all accounts, Misbah personally made the call for Malik's inclusion; Farhat's relative is acting head of the national selection panel. Pakistan cricket has made a noble effort to extricate itself from the clutches of spot-fixing, what it doesn't need now is to lose its renewed power because of faulty connections. Both Malik and Farhat, at various times in their careers, have carried the hopes of supporters but those days are long gone. All they carry now is the stench of a decrepit system; they have been damned in the court of public opinion.
Farhat only occasionally produces a useful innings, and the last time Malik scored anything of note it was the love of Sania Mirza. Malik and Farhat might do well in the remaining matches of the series but any short-term success only delays the development of this Pakistan cricket team. Their pasts tell us that a correcting failure wouldn't be too far away, whereas the future belongs to others. From this squad, Azhar Ali would benefit most from the rigours of one-day cricket and Hammad Azam is a better investment than Malik. Abdur Rehman is another tempting option.
Pakistan retain every chance of winning this one-day series against England, whether or not they change the team, but selection has an important role in developing young cricketers, and the presence of Shoaib Malik and Imran Farhat in the starting XI is suffocating that development.
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here