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February 22, 2012

Pakistan v England 2012

Opportunity in lifeless surrender

Kamran Abbasi
Misbah-ul-Haq was caught for 1, Misbah-ul-Haq, caught at slip, Pakistan v England, 3rd ODI, Dubai, February, 18, 2012
Misbah ul Haq read correctly that Pakistan were in a selection muddle; Shoaib Malik wasn't the answer.  © AFP
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Pakistan's splendid over-achievement in the Test series preceded lifeless surrender in the one-day sequel. In the equation of whitewashes, Tests carry more gloss but Pakistan's crash back to earth is a reminder that the recent dominance of Misbah-ul-Haq's team in the UAE will be a mirage unless deep foundations are laid by the Pakistan Cricket Board.

Good teams fail intermittently but Pakistan were consistently woeful in this one-day series, a shockingly poor performance considering form in an environment that suits them. Pakistan failed to muster even one decent effort. The emptiness that England's supporters experienced only a week or ago was transferred to Pakistan's.

The most dismal moment was the selection for the final match. Misbah and Mohsin Khan opted for a lone fast bowler, one who had been kicking his heels most of the tour, to go with the potential of five spinners. One among the spin quintet was Shoaib Malik, a shadow of his former self since he was forced to modify his action. The poverty of logic in Pakistan's camp was confirmed by a decision not to select budding allrounder Hammad Azam or a second fast bowler. Even dropping Imran Farhat, scourge of supporters, offered little solace.

The series started badly and never recovered. The first alarm bell was Misbah's decision to use his influence over the selection of Malik, a captain's autocracy that invariably leads to unhappiness except for when it was once exercised by Imran Khan. To his credit, Misbah read correctly that Pakistan were in a selection muddle; the selected squad was inadequate and needed bolstering. Malik wasn't the answer.

In defeat, the focus inevitably fixes on the captain, and Misbah did little else to help his cause. His voice and body language after losing the toss in the first two matches were of a man defeated by circumstance. Pakistan's generally inhibited and defensive approach to the series bore his hallmark; a winning strategy for the Test arena isn't usually appropriate for limited-overs cricket. It was a surprise to see a Pakistan team apply such little pressure on the opposition with bat or ball.

Misbah's tactics have brought success in this format, although he has been rescued too frequently by the individual performances of Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Hafeez and Saeed Ajmal. Afridi and Hafeez were below par in this series. Their failure exposed Pakistan's strategy to the extent that there didn't seem to be much of one. Personnel were shifted with little purpose and the management team were slow to react to events and form.

Pakistan seemed little bothered to perform let alone win, a mindset that can prevail when a one-day series follows Tests. But that is no excuse. A defeat would have been acceptable had it helped the future development of this Pakistan team. That was not the case here. Pakistan need to plan with the 2015 World Cup in mind, decide who of the current group will remain a core player in three years, and nurture younger players to fill the obvious gaps in this team.

That process might lead to thoughts of a different captain, even though Misbah should certainly remain at the helm of the Test team, but it does require urgent attention to other areas. Azhar Ali might be the answer to the one-day opening slot but that leaves holes in the middle order alongside the emerging talent of Asad Shafiq and the frustrating talent of Umar Akmal. Hammad Azam needs to be tested in Abdul Razzaq's old role of batting allrounder, and the management team must decide who partners Umar Gul with new and old ball out of Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz. This leaves the wicket-keeping slot where a trilogy of Akmals has failed to convince for differing reasons.

One failure should not overshadow the many unexpected successes of the past 18 months, but it serves an important purpose since the flaws in the current squad and tactics can no longer be ignored. The PCB must take a longer view and build a new team for the 2015 World Cup, and the new regime's response to this series will help us measure the extent of its capabilities and ambitions.

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

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Posted by Ali on (March 27, 2012, 3:44 GMT)

Waiting on an article on Asia cup over all.

Posted by Asif on (February 28, 2012, 7:31 GMT)

Mizbah will not resign on his own.Very soon he will be shown the door like ponting.He could have easily promoted afridi & azam b4 him & pak would have won the match comfortably but the greed of leading pak to victory on his own let him down badly.Pak continue to make the same mistake of holding back afridi which is the main reason behind the defeats.If mizbah is going to lead in the asia cup than he should use afridi wisely who scored back to back centuries in the previous asia cup batting @ # 6.

Posted by muzz on (February 27, 2012, 19:36 GMT)

hand on the heart luck favoured us in Tests and misbah was cool - but he went too cool to freeze where his brain stopped working - I think he needs to be out of 20-20 and 50-50 he is too slow. Shoib Malik wasted chance and shahid still needs to act according to situation he is too rash in his shots.

Posted by SaLEEM Nasir Qazi on (February 27, 2012, 17:54 GMT)

In none of the T 20 matches has Pakistan succseeded in putting up a decent total within the first six overs . We urgently need to develop opening pair for the team .

Posted by SN Qazi on (February 27, 2012, 11:34 GMT)

Misbah and Mohsin need to know that that Pakistan's success in Tests against England was ntirely due to the brilliance of Ajmal and in some matches support from Gul and Hafeez . As for batting there is very noticeable weaknesses in Tests , ODIs and T 20 matches . Leave alone the new players old timers such as Misbah and Younus continue to show lack of consistency in all forms of the game . These are overdue from retirement from ODIs and T 20s . Fielding of Pakistan is its lowest point and worse as compared to any Team in the world . The bowlers other than Ajmal need to be trained to bowl to their set field . The running between the wickets of all the players is poor . They need to be trained to ground their bats when they duck . As for running between the wickets our players need to know that when they dive towards the wickets they need to ground their bats . What has Mohsin been doing as a Coach ?The sooner whatmore joins as Coach the better it will be for Pakistan cricket .

Posted by Dr. Nadeem on (February 26, 2012, 13:16 GMT)

Misbah should resign from T20 and one dayers gracefully.....

Posted by maindad on (February 26, 2012, 6:54 GMT)

why is misbah so negative and cowardly, he did not give hammad a single over, he is a very good pace bowler.....such a negative captain.....

Posted by Imran Khan on (February 26, 2012, 6:53 GMT)

KIND ATTN PCB SELECTORS, GET RID OF FARHAT, MISBAH, YUNIS, PLEASE BRING IN NASIR JAMSHEED, AHMAD SHEHZAD, RAMIZ RAJA Jr, AND SOME EXPRESS PACE BOWLER LIKE RAHAT ALI AND M. TALHA FOR ASIA CUP.....THANKS

Posted by waterbuffalo on (February 26, 2012, 2:12 GMT)

I only have one question; would you rather Pakistan beat Australia in Australia, SA in SA, India in India and England at home in a Test Series or would you rather win the World cup or some meaningless ODI series in any of those countries? I would go for beating Australia in Australia. The only ODI series that matters is the World Cup, and Pakistan is not too bad in it.

Posted by SN Qazi on (February 25, 2012, 14:19 GMT)

In the recent past the Pakitan Team has done well specially in Tests . However , selection of some players has been a big mistake - take the case of Imran Farhat , Shoaib Malik in all forms of the game . Performing in one match after dismally failing in ten is not good enough . Also , time and again it has become clear that both Younus and Msbah are not good enough for ODIs or for T 20s . The PCB should take a decision on these matters if they want to build up a credible Team for the next World Cup.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamran Abbasi
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

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