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COMMENT: Serious, intelligent measures required for good performance in Tests

AFTER taking a hard look at the Pakistan cricket team, one can say that it is not the happiest bunch on the planet. But we must not forget that this is a team which was once on the verge of elimination for the ICC Champions Trophy in England but then stunned the world by winning it in style.

One minute down, the next minute up has been the hallmark of Pakistan teams throughout their cricketing history.

So whatever happened to them in South Africa, one may ask, as they were completely whitewashed by the hosts, hardly ever presenting a fight to them in the three-Test series? Why couldn’t they bounce back, keeping in view their famous unpredictability trait?

If we analyse minutely, the difference between 2017 and now is that while then they chose to fight till the last ball and there were some half a dozen match-winners, in the Tests in South Africa recently the team appeared to be clueless with none of the players putting their hand up or rising to the occasion, leading to the forfeiture.

The real question now is, where do we go from here? Do we once again go for a change in captaincy, though that has not resolved much going by our past experiences. Since the PCB has yet again erred here by not grooming a vice captain during this period. Sarfraz seems to be the best available choice.

The other option could be that Sarfraz is set some short term goals and if he is able to achieve them, he should be awarded an extension.

To be honest, Sarfraz has not been leading the team from the front as he used to. The string of low scores, his reckless dismissals, his thinking pattern in Tests where he is often seems to be thinking about the next 6 to 8 overs rather than 6 to 8 sessions, his lack of patience with the bowlers; all that needs to change.

Admittedly, batting has been Pakistan’s Achilles heel for ages and it was no surprise to see it crumble in South Africa. However, it was bowling that failed to measure up. We hardly saw any bouncers or yorkers or even slower balls hurled at the opposition in the South Africa Tests which was surprising indeed, especially when these tactics worked wonders for the home side bowlers.

The sort of flat bowling we witnessed from our bowlers throughout the Tests matches was just not acceptable.

The field placings, too, left a lot to be desired as there was no backward point at the boundary to lure the South African batsmen into playing a risky cut short which could go down the throat of third man or the fielder at the boundary.

As for the batsmen, who obviously need too improve in leaps and bounds, the one thing one can suggest rightaway is for them to play counter-attacking cricket and look for runs rather than just to survive without purpose, especially when their defensive technique is not up to the mark at all.

Our batsmen also need to restrict themselves from playing the cover drive until and unless it is an absolute half-volley.

As for the selection made for the tour, one really wonders why prolific and technically sound players like Abid Ali, Saad Ali, Khuram Manzoor and Fawad Alam were not given a chance for the challenging assignment. There is also an urgent need to attach a psychologist with the team whose presence in the dressing room could prop up the team’s confidence and self belief which is key to success on overseas tours.

Last but not the least, our domestic circuit needs a total revamp. No more flat, low bounce pitches please which have for so long spoiled the techniques of our players and they repeatedly fail to stand up to pace and bounce on away tours.

For long there has been talk of a reward and punishment system but that has never been really implemented.

If strict punishments are in place for defeats and poor performances, it is quite likely that the players will stop taking things for granted and will not repeat the horror shows which Pakistan cricket team is famous for on overseas tours.

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