This morning, while warming up, Yasir Shah could barely bend over, let alone bowl. Nobody was sure what was wrong with him. Somebody said his back was out, which has happened a couple of times in his international career already (it would emerge later that he was feeling his hamstring a little).
Then he came out on the field at the start of play and for a while it seemed his role was to be the team's designated moper; a picture of his face captioned "Mood" would have made for a pretty tweet to sum up Pakistan's. Where usually he whizzes around at point, an uncontrollable, flying squat block of energy, here he moped around at long leg. At the change of ends, he would go and mope around at mid-on. Then, he would go back and mope around at long leg again. It was first-class moping, let's give him that. On the odd occasion that the ball came to him, he would bend down, but in episodes. He picked the ball up gingerly and threw it back underarm.
If there has been a more defeated human being on this planet, then she could only have gone by the name of Hillary Clinton. Up above, the skies were big and blue, but over Yasir, there must have been a solitary dark cloud, stalking and mocking him.
Then, he came on to bowl in the 11th over of the morning, which, given he had earlier moved as if an errant drop of rain on his head might shatter his entire body, was a little weird. His field was mopey: a slip, a short leg, and the rest didn't matter. The first ball was short, wide and lucky. Point prevented a boundary. Thereafter, he didn't bowl badly, or, if you allow a little Trump, goodly (but don't let him take credit for inventing it - it's already a word). A ten-over spell to lunch, for 35 runs, five boundaries, no maidens, and, as is becoming customary, no wickets. There was a missed stumping, Sarfraz Ahmed surprised equally by the bounce as the fact that the ball actually turned.
Mostly, he just bowled, without hope, expectation, vision, guidance or feeling. It wasn't a great day to be a bowler, admittedly, but this was late-career Danish Kaneria levels - a going through of the motions, of bowling as fatalism because what else is there? The problem is that Danish Kaneria was no early-career Yasir Shah, and so this little spell, and Yasir's mood and general bearing, have become a big problem.
This has been a chastening tour for Yasir, in a way in which even Abdul Qadir's solitary trip wasn't in 1983-84. Qadir at least bagged a YouTube video out of it, as well as a burnishing of the legend of his wrong 'uns. Yasir? There might be an instructional YouTube video of how not to take wickets as a legspinner in Australia. Otherwise, he has picked up a Test average of over 30, having arrived here averaging 27.89 per wicket. And, if all catches had been held off Azhar Ali's bowling, he would have only two wickets less than Yasir for the series so far. Even Shane Warne has cooled on him.
Lately, Yasir has begun to look not angry, but resigned. More than better fields and a better plan, he has looked like he needs a hug. Somebody to tell him it's fine, that it happens to the best spinners when they come here.
Of course, the fields have been ridiculous, and nice try for claiming them as his own idea - to think that Misbah-ul-Haq may not have had significant input in setting the fields for a spinner, for any spinner, is fantasy. But those fields have come from a captain not entirely sure how much to trust his leggie, a captain who often plants his lead spinner like a flag at one end as a mark of permanence.
But also, everything that was a potential point of worry before the tour has come to be. Yasir has bowled in monochrome, with tiny variations on one theme. He has been unable to generate the overspin that helps in this country. The topspinner hasn't worked. The googly remains mysteriously absent. Is he unable to bowl it at all, or is he not confident with it anymore? And how his captain would love for there to be a solid wrong 'un. He hasn't been able to slow down his speeds - his captain worries he is unable to do that without losing control over his lengths. The truer bounce of surfaces here has muted him. Here, in Sydney, where there has been more for him, he has been better, but nothing like what Pakistan might have wanted - the series is gone, with it the will.
What Sydney and Melbourne, in particular, have done is add to a frightening-looking portfolio of performances outside the UAE since after the Lord's Test, when he became the No. 1 bowler in the world. He averages over 77 for 16 wickets in those seven Tests, conceding nearly four runs per over. That cannot be easily washed away as a few bad days or Tests; those figures come from deeper in the makeup of a bowler and the man, and maybe begin to put in place the first limits of how far he can go. Sure, he has missed Mushtaq Ahmed's presence in Australia, but two things: Mushtaq was with him for the middle horror Tests in England when the sheen first dimmed, and two, a little independent thinking and self-help never hurt anyone, least of all leggies.
"He has [had a very difficult tour]," Mickey Arthur admitted. "He will learn from it. He has played a lot of cricket in subcontinent conditions. He is a gun there, he dominates.
"This is his second tour outside of those sort of conditions. He's struggled here. I remember when I was coach of Australia, R Ashwin saying this was the hardest place for him to bowl. It is a tough place for spinners to learn their craft. Australia played him very, very well. As soon as Yasir comes on, they take him down and they've done it consistently. It has been very tough for him, he'll grow from it, he will be better. He is still our diamond."
He may well be, but that shine isn't the same shine anymore.