The tour of Australia came at a point when Pakistan were in a transition phase. The captains for the T20Is and the Tests are players who are not Sarfaraz Ahmed. The burden of winning in Australia coupled with new captains getting accustomed to their new roles has put Pakistan in a position where they are destined to lose both series.
They are already 1-0 down in the three-match T20Is series with the first match washed out and the second lost due to bad batting and also courtesy Steven Smith’s impeccable innings.
However, all is not lost for Pakistan as they can still bounce back to level the series, at the very best, but that will require a few changes which are risky but may reap exceptional rewards.
With the players that Pakistan have at their disposal in the squad, there is only one combination of players which can help the Babar Azam-led squad to down the Kangaroos on their home ground in the third T20I.
Since Babar is in the form of his life, his position at the top of the order should remain unchanged, but to find a suitable partner for him in the playing XI has become a hard task. With only two openers in the squad, there is but one option of leaving Fakhar Zaman out and praying for a miracle from the bat of Imamul Haq.
The problem of who will play at the one-down position still exists since Babar has moved himself to the top and is showing form. Haris Sohail has been asked to fill in but he has shown that he is unable to cope with the bounce of the Australian pitches and also because he doesn’t fit in the role where Babar always played.
However, Haris has shown that he is an important player who can contribute immensely if he starts finding the middle of the bat. Hence, his position at one-down should be retained.
The problem in batting starts when Pakistan lose two wickets and the middle-order, composed of supposed hitters who have failed time and again, are exposed to the well-charged Australian bowlers.
Asif Ali is the name which should be struck out immediately and the only possible replacement is in the form of Khushdil Shah, who has made through domestic cricket to the national ranks courtesy his reported big-hitting.
With Asif missing again and again to prove consistency, there will be no love lost if Khushdil fails too. At least there is a 50-50 per cent chance he might click. But with Asif, it is a certainty that he won’t be able to contribute and the odds are now well against him.
Meanwhile, Muhammad Rizwan (surprisingly at number four), Imad Wasim (the bowler and not the batsman) and Iftikhar Ahmed (may he keep finding the middle as he already is) look well-set in their positions and should be retained.
In the bowling department however, Pakistan need to show courage and take risks with the likes of Musa Khan and Muhammad Husnain brought in to bowl alongside Muhammad Amir.
Muhammad Irfan has already shown why Mickey Arthur never preferred him in the team with figures of 31 runs in two overs in the washed out encounter and 4-27-1 in the completed match.
Also Wahab Riaz has shown why his inconsistency is so talked about with him leaking away 33 runs in his three overs courtesy extras and four boundaries in the second T20I.
Lastly, Shadab hasn’t been in his usual wicket-taking form lately and Pakistan have a potent alternate in the form of Usman Qadir, who has played in Australia for a while now and understands the conditions better than Shadab.
These may sound like radical changes after just one loss, but if Pakistan want to catch Australia by surprise, they will have to throw something different at the Aaron Finch-led side.
Playing safe and losing by small margins will take us nowhere and that is what Misbahul Haq has been consistently doing since his appointment in three powerful roles. With the captain, the mindset of the team needs to be changed as well, a task Misbah may not be able to succeed at.
Preferred playing XI (in descending order)
Babar Azam, Imamul Haq, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Rizwan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Khushdil Shah, Usman Qadir, Muhammad Husnani, Musa Khan and Muhammad Amir.