x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Pakistan must have a fresh look at batting to secure cricket future

Showing faith in the youth and allowing them to mature is as much necessary as identifying which Pakistan batsman is a genuine talent.

Pakistan's Kamran Akmal turns to watch India's Virat Kohli catch him out on Saturday. Glyn Kirk / AFP
Pakistan's Kamran Akmal turns to watch India's Virat Kohli catch him out on Saturday. Glyn Kirk / AFP

One of the lessons that emerged from Pakistan's 2010 tour to England but went almost entirely unnoticed in the aftermath of Lord's, was about Pakistani batting. It was a horrendous tour for a young, untried middle order without Younis Khan and for much of it, Mohammad Yousuf.

Azhar Ali, Umar Amin and Umar Akmal struggled desperately through a swing-friendly summer; Pakistan were bowled out for under 100 thrice in four Tests against England; in 12 innings including two Tests against Australia they crossed 300 once.

But they mostly persisted and by the end of this ordeal they had in hand, in Azhar, a bona fide Test batsman, to add to the genuine but delicate talent of Akmal. They even managed to win two Tests with that batting.

The learning should have been obvious, particularly because it is one they have benefited from in the past. Give young batsmen time to adjust to international cricket, to different conditions and now, to different formats.

Like most other batsmen in the world, Pakistani ones also generally mature late. Persist with them and be rewarded eventually.

Predominantly, this is why the failures at the Champions Trophy are frustrating. Pakistan is not bubbling over with batting gold and a couple of eras apart, it never really has. But it is not as if, from even this limited pool, they do not have better options.

Better is subjective, so let us accept at least that there exist newer, less-failed, less-explored options. Imran Farhat, Shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal may or may not represent a deeper malaise, but what they definitely represent right now is inept management.

Selecting them is a collective indictment of a lack of vision and resolve of Iqbal Qasim's selection committee, Misbah-ul-Haq and Dav Whatmore.

To persist with this order, with men who have failed to establish themselves and have actually regressed over a decade is, essentially, cowardice and an example of the worst form of defensiveness that Misbah's sides are accused of.

If the batting is to fail, should it not do with fresher options?

Why should Pakistan not try to learn something new from Ahmed Shahzad's failures, or Umar Akmal's? Or Fawad Alam? Or, as the all-rounder they direly need, Hammad Azam? Or another wicketkeeper?

The think thank might argue these names have not yet made foolproof cases for themselves. In which case, they should be directed to the unarguable logic of history. Recall the last three great Pakistan batsmen, especially their early years.

Yousuf's Test average did not permanently go above 40 until his 27th Test, three years after debut. Yet in that early career uncertainty, he only missed two Tests. Younis's average did not rise above 40 permanently until his 34th Test, five years after debut and having played in three-quarters of Pakistan's Tests.

Inzamam-ul-Haq's average went above 40 in his 14th Test.

Talent in each was not in question, but equally it was not as if there were no doubts early on, or that other contenders or older options did not exist. The results only came once they had been persisted with for some time.

No one can say for sure that Shahzad, Nasir Jamshed, Azhar, Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal and Alam will be a great batting order.

But it is madness to not give them time to prove - or disprove - it, doubly so to imagine that Malik and Farhat are smarter options.


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