Grooming batsmen for all conditions
The PCB must groom our players to play in all formats of cricket, not just ODIs.
Our think-tank in the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) should analyse the needs of the different formats of the game. The Pakistan cricket team shouldn't just be a side that can play a good T20 match or an ODI - they should be prepared to play all the different versions of cricket, and the PCB should prepare them accordingly.
I am glad that under Misbahul Haq the team is finally learning the essentials of Test cricket. They are spending time in the middle and accumulating runs rather than treating it like a one-day match. The results are obvious; the team has started to perform consistently, and the batting in particular, which used to be notoriously unpredictable and brittle, is showing solid performances frequently. Misbah, Younus, Azhar Ali, and Taufiq Umar all have a commendable Test match temperament, and supported by reasonably correct batting technique, they are making a huge difference to the team. Nonetheless, what is missing is PCB’s own input in producing solid Test match players and technically correct batsmen in particular.
We must realise that the playing conditions in the sub-continent do not provide good practice to play seaming, swinging, and short-pitched deliveries. The wickets and the climate are the obvious reason for these conditions. Hence, the PCB has to make a plan to overcome the weaknesses in talented batsmen in playing under difficult batting conditions. Even the most accomplished batting line up in the world, the Indians had to face embarrassment at the hands of English bowlers this summer; the swinging and seaming deliveries proved too hot to handle even for geniuses such as Sehwag, Tendulkar, Raina, Laxman, and Gambhir.
I would suggest that the PCB pick up the most gifted batsmen from the domestic circuit and provide them with exposure to these different playing conditions, in England and Australia in particular, through getting them placed in the domestic teams of Australia and England.
If we look at our domestic cricket circuit, there are immensely talented players such as Owais Zia, Sharjeel Khan, and many others who would benefit immensely from having such exposure before they play for the national team.
Owais Zia, for example, is a great player of short-pitch bowling, and was instrumental in Pakistan’s recent success in the Hong Kong Super Sixes. I feel, however, that he would struggle against seaming and swinging deliveries - a rare talent in Pakistan. We have seldom been gifted with batsmen who have been able to play the short-pitched deliveries well. Wasim Raja and Majid Khan were amongst those exceptions. It would be a huge service to Pakistan cricket if the PCB can get him placed in the English cricket league even at the grade II level so that he develops as a complete batsman.
Umar Ameen, again a very talented batsman, failed to perform in England last year as he was exposed to an alien environment and he hadn't done any homework. This can be helpful for the bowlers also; Junaid Khan became an increasingly dangerous bowler after his recent stint with Lancashire.
So the crux of my argument is that the exposure to different playing conditions is crucial in building a formidable unit. The PCB’s think tank should be proactive and prepare teams, particularly the batting line-ups, that can perform in England, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa as comfortably as they do in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, and now Abu Dhabi.
Unless we groom batsmen who can perform in the Test countries mentioned above, and these constitute almost half of the Test playing nations, we will not be able to become true champions in cricket. We will continue to face multiple embarrassments akin to those we had faced due to our poor batting performances in our last series in Australia and then England.