The recently-concluded five-match One-Day International (ODI) series between Pakistan and Sri Lanka — in which the hosts came out trumps 3-1 after one match was rained off — has brought several problems plaguing the national team to the fore. The series loss against an opponent that Pakistan had dominated in the recent past is a worrying sign. Even more worrying is the fact that two departments, which have long been considered our weak links — batting and fielding — have shown little improvement, despite the appointment of a coach of the calibre of Dav Whatmore.
The stunning batting collapses during the series exposed the extreme lack of form of some of our leading batsmen. This was best exemplified by the dismal show put up by Younus Khan and Mohammad Hafeez, who averaged 3.3 and 11.4 respectively. In addition, the ham-handed fielding proved especially costly during close encounters. The role of the fielding coach needs to be evaluated here although it must be said that however hard a coach works on the players, the responsibility for rectifying their mistakes lies with the players themselves.
The lack of clear thinking on the part of the team management when it came to selecting the playing-eleven also contributed to the series loss as Pakistan were left ruing the decision of dropping their best bowler, Saeed Ajmal, from the final match. However, even more upsetting than this loss, were the reports of friction and groupings within the team. Pakistan possess the talent to recover from this below-par show, but recovering from any infighting within the dressing-room may turn out to be a tall order. As Pakistan take the field for the first Test on June 22 without captain Misbahul Haq, who will be serving a one-match suspension because of the team’s slow over-rate during the final ODI, one hopes that better results will be in the offing in the five-day format where the national side has enjoyed an admirable run of late.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2012.