What’s right with the Pakistan Test team, is what’s wrong with the ODI team
A good Test player won’t necessarily be a good ODI player. Some examples of this theory are Justin Langer, Alistair Cook and Younus Khan. Similarly, a good Test Captain may not be as good as an ODI Captain; for example Alistair Cook, Michael Vaughan and Misbahul Haq.
Yes, you read that right. Misbahul Haq is a champion – a champion Test captain testified by the number one Test ranking that now rests with Pakistan. But, what he brought to the ODI team is still on display, even during the last two years (when Azhar Ali became the skipper).
The defensive culture, safety first approach, grit, ‘tuk tuk’ and the lack of experimentation – these are surely the attributes of a very good Test team, but grit is not an attribute that one would associate with ODI cricket nowadays. These days, ODI cricket has become much more dynamic, exuberant, aggressive and innovative.
Last year, the World Cup ended with two teams reaching the absolute nadir. One of them just smashed a world record of 444 in an ODI against the other. England was wise to get rid of ODI players that used the defensive approach, like Ian Bell and Garry Balance, and added fast bowlers like Mark Wood, Liam Plunkett and Chris Woakes as they have a raw pace. This used to be a Pakistani commodity in a not-so-distant past.
Moreover, they groomed all-rounders like Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Jos Buttler and Adil Rashid. Again, having a plethora of all-rounders used to be a Pakistani thing, but recently Pakistan has been getting it all wrong. Instead of appointing a dynamic and aggressive captain in place of the overly defensive Misbah, Pakistan brought in Azhar Ali. A mini Misbah clone (mini because even Misbah had those flashes of aggressive six-hitting moments that Azhar lacks) and filled the team with some subpar cricketers.
That being said, our team overly depends on Muhammad Hafeez, and has kept the deserving players on the sidelines – that is a problem! Pakistan’s weakness also lies in not being able to make Hammad Azam an all-rounder, even after he made a strong impression during the U-19 World Cup. And that’s not the end of it, Sohaib Maqsood and Asad Shafiq have not been given the chance to prove themselves, just to keep Hafeez in the team – hence we are left with medium fast bowlers instead of pacers.
As of today, we have a team that requires two all-rounders (one batting and one bowling), two fast bowlers, two openers, and two middle order batsmen. Babar Azam deserves his place along with Muhammad Amir and Sarfraz Ahmed as the senior pros. I hope Sami Aslam and Sharjeel Khan are given the chance to prove themselves and retain their position on the team.
Azhar Ali should be thrown out of the ODI team and, two places in the middle order must be given to Haris Sohail (let’s hope he comes back after his injury) and Asad Shafiq. Sarfraz should be placed at six, the batting all-rounder at seven, followed by the bowling all-rounder at eight; either Imad Wasim, Hammad Azam, or Muhammad Nawaz – followed by Muhammad Amir. Muhammad Irfan can spice things up at number 11, as he has the pace that is required. Thus, that leaves us space for one fast bowler, Wahab Riaz – even though his reputation during a match against Australia precedes him. We need an impact bowler like Mark Wood, and a batting all-rounder who is also an aggressive batsman.
If we try to prevent these problems then we may just have a chance to win. It will take time and effort but we need to take baby steps to attain our goal. As the first step, like I have mentioned above, we need to remove Azhar Ali from the captaincy – he is docile, timid and insipid as a captain.
It upsets me to see Pakistan ODI cricket regressing by the day. We are still stuck in the same rut of ‘tuk tuk-ing’ and soaking up deliveries. As a result, we have caused more damage to ourselves than the opposition.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.