By Afzal Javed, Weekly Pulse Magazine, September 23, 2013
Pakistan Cricket team shown the worst performance against weak Zimbabwe as Pakistan lost the second test against lowly-ranked African team asking many questions from the top mamagment of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) as this was the poor performance in last 15 years.
The green shirts poor performance has come under the scanner after the team’s disappointing loss in the second Test against Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe’s historic 24-run win in the second Test to level the series 1-1 made Pakistan drop from fourth to sixth place in the ICC Test rankings. Zimbabwe also returned to the rankings for the first time since May 2007 and are at ninth place, 24 rating points ahead of Bangladesh who are at the bottom of the table.
“Our batting was the culprit on a pitch which was good for batting,” Misbah said. “In both innings we couldn’t cross 250. We only crossed 300 once in the four innings on this tour. How can you win a Test match without scoring 300 runs?”
Pakistan were bowled out for 230 and 239 in this match and 249 in the first innings of the previous Test, in which they also piled on 419. But it was the inability to chase on a surface Misbah deemed “at its best” on the final two days which irked him most.
The demons in the mind far outweighed the almost non-existent demons in the surface, which was feared underprepared because the groundstaff only had two-and-a-half days to get it ready, but actually provided a good contest between bat and ball. “It’s all about the pressure,” Misbah said.
“There was nothing wrong with the pitch. We were playing shots and drives which were not there for the first three days because the ball was stopping. So it was all in the mind of the batsman. Chasing in the fourth innings, the pressure makes you make mistakes and panic. That’s what happened.”
More than careless strokeplay, Pakistan’s batsmen succumbed to frustration against an attack that kept them quiet and tired them with consistency. “They had a set plan in bowling and asked questions of the batsmen which we could not answer,” Misbah said. “To do well against bowlers who are good in their own conditions you need experience, patience, technique and a lot of hard work.”
Perhaps the only thing he was pleased about was his own leadership which was, once again, formed by example. But Misbah said his undefeated 79 gave him little joy. “It matters when your team performs. If your team is losing, you really hurt as a captain. You don’t want to lose or tie these sort of series. You win matches as a team, you can’t win matches as individuals. You really need to stand up as a team.”
Misbah-ul-Haq and Pakistan’s batting have come under severe criticism from the former players with the team’s loss in the second Test against Zimbabwe being termed as “embarrassing and shameful”. Pakistan dropped two places to sixth in the ICC Test rankings and became the first team other than Bangladesh to lose a Test against Zimbabwe in 12 years.
Ramiz Raja, who has been Misbah’s vocal supporter, said his captaincy was bereft of fresh ideas. “Misbah contributed to a change of environment and gave stability to the team,” he said. “He has given all he could to Pakistan cricket as captain but there is now a predictability and staleness in his captaincy and our brand of cricket.”
“He seems to have ran out of ideas, so we need someone with fresh ideas,” Raja said. “I think Misbah’s shelf-life is over and with these ideas we will stand nowhere before South Africa (in UAE). It seems excitement and aggression is at the lowest point in our cricket, we want to avoid defeat and this hot-and-cold, up-and-down performances must change.
“No one likes to back a losing side, we need to rethink our priorities and set a new direction or else people will stop following cricket. This is the right time now to have a new captain and introduce some new players. The defeat is embarrassing, frustrating and shameful.”
The month-long Zimbabwe tour was one of Pakistan’s easier assignments this year and was thought of as preparation ahead of the upcoming tour against South Africa in the UAE. But Pakistan lost the first ODI and in Tests, crossed 300 just once in four innings.
Shoaib Akhtar said that Pakistan have “hit rock bottom as a cricketing nation” and they must address “the batting woes as they were letting the team down”.”Misbah is leading the worst-ever Pakistan team,” he said. “We don’t have good bowlers, we don’t have good batsmen and if Misbah is prominent amongst the batsmen then it shows because, with due respect, Misbah is not world class.”
However, the interim chairman of the PCB, Najam Sethi, feels a part of the blame for the country’s cricket problems and the recent poor results lies with the courts, which have come in the way of cleaning the system.
The Islamabad High Court in its judgement in July restrained Sethi from exercising full authorities of the PCB chairman and directed him to hold fresh elections in 90-day time. “Why only blame the board or team. Aren’t the courts also responsible for this defeat? Ask them also. I want to do things but I can’t. I can’t appoint a chief selector, I can’t take major decisions. So what am I supposed to do? But if I get a chance I aim to set things right,” he said.
“I don’t want to get into this issue of former players but some of them only criticise for their own interests. Once they get plush jobs in the board they will keep quiet but let me say this is not going to happen. The media also plays down our team’s victories and blows up a defeat. Let them say what they want,” Sethi said.
The PCB chief made it clear he was not going to press the panic button for the coming South Africa series. “These things happen in cricket you win and lose. But yes they are some problems in our cricket set up and I want to clean up things and also bring about improvement. But how can I do this when my hands are tied by the courts,” he said.
On the other hand Moin Khan, the Pakistan team manager has defended the team saying that although they played badly in the two matches they lost, the overall performance was “satisfactory”. He added that the team didn’t need to apologise for the results as they had not lost the Test series.
“I don’t think our level is falling,” Moin said. “I think the conditions suited Zimbabwe team more than us. In both the matches that we lost (one-day and Test) we played badly. We didn’t bat well in the second Test, but overall I would say that our performance was satisfactory.
“No, no need to apologise. We didn’t lose the series. It was 1-1 and we won the T20 and one-day series”, he said.