The way forward for Pakistan cricket
For how long can we persist with spinners as our main weapon? Who will be a wicket keeper in different formats?
All the rumours of sacking Misbah as captain have been laid to rest after Pakistan's victory in the Asia Cup. The fear of Pakistan going downhill after the ODI series lost against England is no more there. Pakistan cricket has been stable, and for once the cricket season ended on a high note with not much to worry about.
But what's next for Pakistan?
There are still many unanswered questions like:
Who will be the next captain for Pakistan?
Which new bowlers will have a future in the team?
For how long can we persist with spinners as our main weapon?
Who is the right choice as a wicket keeper in different formats?
And more importantly, what is the right balance for the team to go forward?
Unfortunately, Pakistan won't play much cricket this year; a tour to Sri Lanka, in June with the ICC World T20 competition in September, and the last official series for the year against Australia in October.
There is no doubt that Misbahul Haq has been the influential figure behind Pakistan's stable performance. He is fit and is performing well, but he, for sure, will not be leading Pakistan in the next World Cup as he turns 38 in May.
Pakistan has no vice captain as the board wanted to avoid any infighting among the players. And so they will need to groom a captain for the future, and the only logical choices for now are Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez.
This decision has to be made with a great deal of thought and care though.
Pakistan's fast bowling attack looks as weak as it ever has. For a country that has produced great fast bowlers over the years, this is not a good sign at all.
Our problem is not that we don't have the fast bowling resources, but that we don't use our resources at the right time. Take, for example Aizaz Cheema, who made his Test and ODI début just last year, at the age of 32. How much longer can he serve Pakistan given his age? My guess is perhaps only a couple more years .
Just one bad tour and we might not see him again. We should have utilised him at his prime which we didn't.
That’s exactly what we are doing with our current crop of fast bowlers. Mohammad Talha, Rahat Ali and Junaid Khan are our future but we aren't giving them the opportunities to express themselves at the highest level. We can afford one wayward pacer who can come in and bowl quick, keeping in mind the fact that the next World Cup is in Australia and spinners won't be as big a threat.
Spinners have served Pakistan well over the past year and half, and will be a key factor this year as we play most of our cricket in Asia. Without a shadow of doubt Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi, Abdur Rehman and Mohammad Hafeez are world class spinners and will be key in the T20 World Cup later this year.
The only problem is that Pakistan doesn’t have a solution to is wicket keeping. There isn't a world class wicket keeper in the first class circuit and the only choice Pakistan has is between Kamran Akmal and Sarfraz Ahmed. Adnan Akmal can easily hold his place firm in the Test arena due to his adept glove work. However, bringing Kamran Akmal back will not be a bad choice either as he is the better batsman among all the wicket keepers, but needs to work a lot on his glove work.
One problem that has not been visible over the past year has been the balance of the team.
Pakistan mostly plays a batsman or a bowler short. This is mainly because of the absence of a quality all rounder. Hammad Azam is another example of a player who hasn't been given much of a chance to prove himself. Shoaib Malik failed after multiple tries and Abdul Razzaq hasn't been completely fit. One genuine all rounder will help share the load on both the batsmen and bowlers, and bring more variety to the team.
The best time for Pakistan to assess the captaincy and change of attack will be earlier next year when they travel to Zimbabwe and South Africa for a complete series.
South Africa is a fast bowers paradise, and Pakistan will have to pick the best possible fast bowlers for that tour who can lead them to the next World Cup. This will also be the decisive series for Misbah and perhaps the right time for him to step down and give a couple years to the next captain.
With a sensible coach and captain, Pakistan will no more be a team that explodes. Instead they will be a stable unit, the players will not fear for their places in the team and will know their roles.
The way forward is simple, just a few tweaks here and there, better planning, strategising and we can achieve a lot in the near future.
Read more by Raafay here, or follow him on Twitter @raafayawan.