Shameful and cruel exposure

Pakistan were bowled out for 72 in their second innings against Australia on the fourth day at Perth. It was their fourth lowest total in Tests.

There is no place quite like Australia to confirm fears and to cruelly expose debilitating weaknesses. Before they left for Australia, there were doubts over Pakistan's batting and today, all those predictions materialized in the starkest manner. For Australia and Glenn McGrath, well-versed in exposing the paucity of Pakistan's batting resources throughout the '90s, Perth was little more than a stroll in the park.
This latest capitulation - Justin Langer alone outscored them in both innings - was the fourth time in the last 13 Tests between the two sides that Pakistan had been dismissed for under 100. They have passed 300 only three times in that period.

A little perspective is needed first; this Australian attack is among the best the game. Their performance against India's heavyweights, in India, and their demolition of New Zealand has confirmed that. Pakistan's batting line-up is among the weakest in recent memory, and with Inzamam-ul-Haq possibly the only batsman any other team would consider having, it is a gross mismatch, not just on paper, but in reality. But to succumb so meekly, so chaotically, to inflict so willingly so many wounds upon your own person, without so much as a whimper? That needs no perspective.

There is no need to mince words - Pakistan's batting was shameful. Bob Woolmer spoke to each player individually after the first innings. He might have forgiven Salman Butt because this is, after all, his second Test.

But what would he have said to Younis Khan, playing in his 30th Test? Does he need to explain to him that an ugly swipe from off-stump against Shane Warne, with his team at 108 for 4, is cricket that schoolboys would be ashamed of? What would he have said to Yousuf Youhana, playing in his 54th Test? That opening the face of your bat is not ideal in any environment, let alone at Perth? Or that his continuing failure to handle responsibility commensurate to his seniority, or his average, suggests that the phrase used most often to describe him - lazy elegance - is one word too long?

And what would his words to Abdul Razzaq, in his 31st Test, have been? That his hoick against Warne in the first innings was the 44th over of a Test match and not an ODI, and even then would not have been tolerated? Can they be taught such things at this stage in their careers?

It was also, in a sense, inevitable. The worries were not restricted to this particular Pakistan line-up. Over the last ten years, Australian bowlers from Craig McDermott to Glenn McGrath have thrived on a formula of repetition against them - pitch the ball within a foot of off-stump and just short of a length and wait, not too long, to reap cheap rewards. And sometimes, if you do nothing of the sort, you'll still be rewarded. Perth 2004/5 could've been Brisbane 1995/6, Rawalpindi 1998/9 or Sharjah 2002/3.

At least the problem had been recognized and acknowledged this time. They worked on leaving the ball during practices, but these weaknesses are embedded into players, they require a three-year degree, not a two-week crash course, to rectify.

Although conceding 742 runs for the loss of 15 wickets doesn't exactly constitute anything positive, Pakistan must eke out hope - or morsels of it - from the performances of Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami, and to a lesser extent Danish Kaneria. When not teaching their teammates how to bat, Sami and Shoaib rocked Australia during the opening session of the Test, and the belief that they can do so again must remain now throughout Melbourne and Sydney. They didn't get carried away with the bounce and pace, instead opting for a fuller line and a degree of accuracy and Inzamam will hope a similar amount of intelligence is employed throughout the tour. Mohammad Khalil was impressive in parts given that it was his debut, but Shabbir Ahmed's boots - particularly on this tour - will be big ones to fill.

Pakistan was shambolic here, something Australians are now used to. Realistically, the results from here are unlikely to change, but the hope is that their spirit must. This team has shown an appetite for a fight after setbacks over the last year. On those occasions, Inzamam has led from the front and with the bat. He was as culpable as any in this match and his leadership - insipid and disheartened here - and the character of the team he is building faces its sternest test at Melbourne. There was talk before this tour of the need for senior players to lead the way, and for Pakistan to achieve anything from this tour - even a defeat with honour - that will have to be the case. On the evidence of Perth, it might not be advisable to hold your breath for that to happen.

Osman Samiuddin is a freelance journalist based in Karachi.