LAHORE: The Asia Cup exit understandably has had its ramifications and the aftershocks being felt in the statements coming out of the Pakistani camp. It isn’t particularly encouraging when the captain comes out and says that he hadn’t slept for days during the Asia Cup, which is what Sarfraz Ahmed said after the loss against Bangladesh, citing the pressure he is under.
Even so, the good news for Pakistan cricket is that they have a chance to bounce back immediately, albeit in a different format. The Test series against Australia will begin on October 7, with Pakistan having announced a 17-man squad for the three-match series.
Pakistan squad: Sarfraz Ahmed (captain), Azhar Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Usman Salahuddin, Yasir Shah, Shadab Khan, Bilal Asif, Mohammad Abbas, Hasan Ali, Wahab Riaz, Faheem Ashraf, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan
The most prominent omission in the squad is Mohammed Amir, who despite a string of underwhelming performances was persisted within the squad owing to his reputation. Truth be told, Amir hasn’t exactly set the world afire following his return from the five-year ban.
Then there is also the argument that even before the ban he wasn’t as devastating as he was made out to be, with numbers suggesting that a lot of his pedigree was built during that summer in England, where he and Mohammed Asif were prominent wicket-takers against both Australia and the hosts.
Of course, when you aren’t taking wickets there will always be question marks, and once the dry spell continues people will wonder whether you were worth the hype to begin with. It was up to Amir to answer his critics on multiple platforms, which he has failed to do. This doesn’t make him a bad bowler overnight, but he needs to be prepared to work harder and deliver the numbers and not just feed on his reputation – which has now been shaken – in the future.
Meanwhile, the return of Wahab Riaz might be the right move as well given the pitches in the UAE, where extra pace would always help. However, the biggest boost for Pakistan would be Yasir Shah, who will be critical for Pakistan’s chances against Australia.
Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq have brought back the experience to the batting lineup as well, but it’s important to remember that neither of these has done much in the aftermath of the retirement of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan in May last year.
The onus of Pakistan’s showing with the bat will, however, remain with these two, who absolutely need to get back among the runs for Pakistan to do well in the Test series against Australia and then New Zealand.
Pakistan whitewashed Australia in the UAE four years ago, and despite the latter’s struggles, they’d be hoping to turn things around given the Asia Cup setback for the ‘hosts’. What the Aussies will also recall is the fact that last year a significantly weakened Sri Lankan side whitewashed Pakistan in the UAE in what was Pakistan’s first ever complete series defeat in the Emirates.
Pakistan did well in England and earned an appreciable 1-1 draw against a formidable side. But they need to make UAE a fortress for themselves again like it was under Misbah. And for that, the first thing they need to do is completely throw memories and baggage of the Asia Cup out of the window.