With the Covid-19 pandemic not going away anytime soon, Pakistani cricketers are held in quarantine in New Zealand as they undergo rigorous testing to ascertain whether someone is a carrier of the virus.
All this procedure gives Pakistan enough time to setup bulletproof game plans, mull over perfect playing elevens and come up with multiple contingency plans if everything starts taking a wrong turn for them.
Whether they are doing this or something else in this no-practice, free time is a discussion for some other day, but these are the four things they must do in order to beat New Zealand.
1. Stay positive
Isolation is as gloomy as things get. Nearly locked in a single room with not much to do, Pakistani players may be driven into a downward spiral psychologically.
The Pakistan Cricket Board is setting up a psychotherapist for the players, however, in the end, it will come down to the players’ own will to get out there and slay their psychological demons.
Time and again cricketers from other countries like England and Australia have talked about the negative effects ‘bio-bubbles’ can have on one’s mind. Pakistan need to learn from them, take help if necessary and get into a positive mind-set before they take on the in-form New Zealand.
2. Stay fit and active
When you are only allowed limited movement, lethargy can kick in really quick and Pakistani players are facing this exact dilemma at the moment.
With the majority of the players confined to their rooms and only allowed limited out time, a drop in physical aptness may become a huge problem when they are asked to put in the hard yards in training and in the matches.
One cannot expect them to do summersaults in their rooms, but light exercises inside the rooms can help their muscles retain their memory of workouts. This will help them when they are allowed to train outside as they would not have to start from exact zero to get in peak physical form.
3. Plan actively rather reactively
More often than not, Pakistan cricket team has been seen to react to situations rather than predict them earlier and plan better.
A player is thrown into matches when he is lacking form, and when he doesn’t perform for two or three matches, he is then is taken out to be replaced by someone else. An evaluation of a player’s form during practice should be the norm rather than analysing it when he is in a match.
If a batsman is unable to middle the ball in practice, he will surely be unable to do so in a match. If a bowler cannot bowl his quota of overs with perfect line, length and pace in practice, he will surely falter when push comes to shove in a match.
So, if Pakistan want to get a glance at victory during the New Zealand T20Is and Tests, they will have to be proactive in their approach, rather than react to situations as the series goes on.
4. Support Babar
Babar Azam is being touted to become the next Virat Kohli and he is indeed walking on the same route. With him becoming captain in all three formats, he will need unwavering support from his players to lead the team past the finish line in New Zealand.
Pakistan skipper has shown that he is rock-solid in his focus and drive, but a recent abuse allegation against him might have put a chink in his armour and the PCB and his fellow players will have to support him to keep him from getting distracted.
Pakistan’s tour of New Zealand is very important in some aspects and Babar leading the side in Tests for the first time is one of them. Will he be able to pull off a Misbahul Haq for Pakistan in Tests, or is it going to be an Azhar Ali? Only time will tell.