ISLAMABAD - Misbah’s poor captaincy, batsmen and bowlers’ inefficiency deprived green shirts of a golden opportunity to inflict defeat on Sri Lanka in the first drawn Test.
Batting collapse restricted Pakistan team first innings lead to 179, which could have been well above 300 runs as the national team lost last five wickets for only 54 runs, which was quite alarming for the team which had to start fly high after the five-match ODI series triumph.
Misbah completely failed in utilizing his bowlers accordingly because the same bowling line had destroyed Sri Lankan batting in the first innings. Had Misbah used commonsense and went all out for a kill, Lankan team could have been bowled out for less than 150 runs in the first innings. Sri Lanka had lost eight first innings wickets for just 124 runs, with only skipper Mathews was at the crease, but Misbah’s causal approach helped Sri Lanka post 204 runs in the first innings.
Younus Khan along with Misbah had laid the solid foundation for the green shirts to take huge first innings lead, despite the openers and ‘Mr Professor’ failed to score in the first innings, but the departure of Younus Khan prompted a collapse, as entire team was bowled out for 379 runs.
There is a big question mark on Pakistan team selection as Rahat Ali had hardly taken any international wickets in his short Test career and did not deliver as well so what was the purpose of having Pakistan’s fastest bowler available in shape of M Talha and keeping him out. Khurrum Manzoor doesn’t have the stamina and above all technique required at this level, but he was preferred over Azhar Ali, as Hafeez is shy of opening the innings. Had Misbah opted to go into the game with Azhar Ali and M Talha, the situation could have been far different.
The lead of 179 runs was by no means an easy one and despite getting rid of top Sri Lankan batsmen Kumar Sangakkara and Mahila Jayawardene in the second innings with the total at 186. Lankans had taken only seven-run lead with four wickets down. Pakistan could have restricted them to around 150 runs lead, but the first innings hero skipper Mathews along with Chandimal and wicketkeeper P Jayawardene took the game right under the noses of the green shirts and helped the team post a very formidable 480-5.
Mathews showed Misbah how to lead and how to bat in tough situations while Misbah failed miserably to utilize his bowlers accordingly. Junaid Khan bowled with tremendous fire and venom and he was almost unplayable, but he only got support from debutant Bilawal Bhatti, as premier bowler Saeed Ajmal also failed to contribute much with the leather, Rahat Ali looked wayward and did not pose any threat in both the innings and remained wicket-less in the match.
It was great opportunity to take 1-0 lead in the three-match Test series, which men in green failed to grab. They would not get second invitation from the Lankans, who had already showed tremendous comeback in the second innings. The team management needs to at least make two changes in the second Test. Khurrum Manzoor and Rahat Ali should make way for Azhar Ali and M Talha and if the selectors rely on things to go in their favour, Sri Lankan can take the second match.
Pakistan batting revolves around Younus, Misbah while Hafeez and Asad Shafique need to score big runs. There is no place for Adnan Akmal in the squad as he is not more than a liability for the team and is well below par wicketkeeper and very unreliable with the willow.
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) should look beyond Akmal brothers and Sarfraz Ahmed. M Rizwan is with the national team, but he is not given opportunity of showing his talent. Another brilliant wicketkeeper batsman, who has scored loads of runs in the domestic cricket, is Rehan Afrdi who belongs to Fata but play domestic cricket for Abbottabad. This lad has scored back-to-back tons and Pakistan team is in dire need of such a brilliant wicketkeeper batsman in the lower middle order as he can score runs and can fill the gap well just like other countries have the luxury of having world-class wicket keeping batsmen.
Another wicketkeeper, who had given a really rough ride, is Zulqarnain Hadier, who have long been suffering for his one mistake. Now he has suffered a lot and already paid a very heavy price for his mistake of leaving the team during the South African series so the PCB should now forgive him and give him a second chance, as the country should be above then personal grudges.
Pakistan cricket team badly needs a leader who may take timely decisions and must have guts of reading the situation accordingly and take bold and tough decisions. Though Misbah is a good player, yet he is naturally very cool-minded and lacks aggression, which is the need of the hour as far as winning the match is concerned. He should be kept in the team as a batsman and captaincy should be handed over to someone who has the aggression and above all the powers to take timely decisions.
The second Test will start from January 8 at Dubai Stadium and Pakistan has very little time to bounce back and get over the frustration of not winning the first Test. If the selectors do not use commonsense and rely on same playing XI, it will be very difficult to stop Sri Lanka taking 1-0 crucial lead in the series.