Pak series loss has many lessons for players and PCB

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Salahuddin Haider

That for the first time in ten years, Pakistan lost a series in UAE is in itself important, and obviously must carry lessons for players and the management, which in this case is Pakistan Cricket Board. Questions os bound to arise about coaches, managers, selectors, but more importantly about the PCB, particularly the top hierarchy.
To say that fans were disappointed at home, would be gross under-statement. They appeared shell-shocked, speechless and knew nothing as to what had really happened to a team, full of potential and promise. It was outclassed, outplayed by an under-rated Sri Lankans, which, naturally, was the principal cause of worry.
A dispassionate, cool reflection, which also meant thorough soul-searching was required. Where did the fault lay.
Some simple answers were readily available, which were lack of planning, mainly at the level of PCB, poor selection for team, want of experience as Test captain in Sarfaraz, which he generously admitted to raise his public image, and above refusal by chairman Najam Sethi to be aware of the complexities of the game,called cricket.
Since young,Safaraz has displayed passion and fighting qualities as T-20 and ODI captain, the blame could not be placed entirely on him. True he made misjudgements, in picking the playing eleven, but his request for a 3-day practice match prior to the start of the 2-Test series, was brushed aside by the PCB chief, who needs to accept responsibility, and must make for some one more responsible, and capable of running the show.
At selection level, the choice of Sami Aslam, and Shan Masood,was surprising as both were given several chances, but failed to impress. The former scored just 718 runs in 23 innings of 12 Test matches, with an average of a poor 32.62, highest being 91.
He made debut against Bangla Desh in Khulna, but was a huge disappointment as an opener, looked vulnerable to moving deliveries, and invariably fell off snicks to close in fielders.
His partners, Shan Masood, reportedly, son of a PCB official, had a blot against his name from the beginning. In 24 innings of 12 Tests , he just had one century, and three 50s, aggregating 565 with horrendous average of 23.54. Records showed him scoring 126 against England, average 16.12, hapless 69 against New Zealand with an average of 17.25 in two Tests, 98 against South Africa,averaging 24 in two Tests, 242 against Sri Lanka with an average of 39.37 in 3 Tets, and just 30 in two innings of solitary Test against West Indies, with an average of 15.
A performance like that will offend even the village cricketer, and yet he was taken. If Board officials were involved in his selection, Inzimam, endowed with the spiritual power of being a maulana, should have resisted, and resigned if finding himself in difficult position. Secondly, preparation of pitches in UAE is the responsibility aof Pakistan Cricket Board.
Was at any stage Najam Sethi, who is so fond of visits abroad, involved or gave advice as to what kind of strips should have been prepared. If not why did he abstain from discharging the onerous duty?
The wickets for both the Test matches in Abdu Dhabi and Dubai were flattest and deadest, seen in recent years. Pakistan has always been winning there since 2007, beating England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, but this time, luck has deserted Sarfaraz.
He lost tosses on both occasions, and Sri Lanks, taking advantage of first use of the wicket, mounted piles of runs, crossing 400 marks in the first innings of the two Test, which proved fatal in the end for Pakistan.
But the touring selection team, comprising captain, coach and manager, failed to realize that on or after third day, the UAE wickets starts taking spin, and in fact begins to crumble. Playing fourth innings would be suicidal, which turned to be the fate for Pakistan.
On such wickets playing just spinner, and over reliance on pacers or medium fast bowlers, were mistake unpardonable. Lankans played three spinners and all of them reaped rick dividends for themselves and their team.
After exit of Misbahul Haq and Yunus, finishing capabilities were found missing from the Pakistan team. Credit must be given to Asad Shafiq and Sarfaraz for fighting 6th wicket partners, that faintly revived hopes for a series levelers, but the end was written on the wall and came sooner than anticipated.
The top order batting failed again, which is demands some soul searching from PCB bosses and selectors team headed by Inzimamul Haq. Injury to Amir was another factor contributing to Pakistan’s first series loss in UAE.
However responsibility rests on coach, selectors, and PCB management. They can not hide themselves behind lame excuses.