Pakistan whitewashed South Africa 2-0 in the Test series on Monday with another resounding victory over the visitors in the second match in Rawalpindi. Many had their doubts whether Pakistan would be able to bounce back from the humiliation against New Zealand in their previous Test series, and their queries were answered in the most profound fashion by Babar Azam and his charges.
The series was an acid test for the head coach and bowling coach duo of Misbahul Haq and Waqar Younis, respectively. It was being reported that if Pakistan don’t come out on top against South Africa, then Misbah and Waqar may have to face the axe, but some exceptional performances from bowlers and batsmen helped the coaching duo float for now.
However, the question still is if Misbah and Waqar are the right combination for Pakistan and was the two-Test series victory a result of their planning and efforts or was it because of some other factors.
To understand this, one needs to look at the build-up to the Test series, the squad selection and also what had helped change the fortunes for Pakistan when the teams faced each other for two, five-day matches.
Before the series, Pakistan were low on confidence due to a bad tour of New Zealand. Only one victory, which came in the dead-rubber, third T20I against the Black Caps was all that was good about the tour. After that, the two Tests were a disaster to say the least. Pakistan failed to inspire with the bat and the ball and even their fielding was criminally erratic. So, in the build-up to the Tests, Pakistan must have started preparing from zero in all three departments. The only point which went against Pakistan.
On the positive side, new chief selector Mohammad Wasim finally shed Pakistan’s old rotten skin and infused the squad with young and promising prospects, hand-picked from the domestic scene.
Nauman Ali was a beautiful sight for sore eyes as he helped Pakistan bag victory in the first Test with his left-arm spin. Imran Butt failed to inspire at the top of the order, but a returning Fawad Alam was once again out there proving that he deserved a permanent spot way earlier. Kamran Ghulam, Tabish Khan and a few others missed out on the chance to make it to the final elevens in both Tests, but at least their names came forward and sooner or later they will receive their caps.
With a few old faces replaced with new ones, Pakistan received a much-needed infusion of whatever was missing.
Finally, the sweet scent of home soil played a big role in what was Pakistan’s first Test series win over South Africa in nearly 17 years. Pakistan showed nerves when the first Test started in Karachi, but recovered quickly to turn the tables on South Africa. During the two Tests, it was clearly on display what home advantage means to Test playing nations. Familiarity to the outfield, the pitch and the weather play a big role in adding a little bit more to the confidence of the players.
All this while, Misbah and Waqar were nothing more than spectators in the dressing room. With team selection now in the hands of the captain Babar, Misbah has lost the only authority he had left after first starting as the most powerful man ever under PCB with the title of chief selector, head coach and part-time batting coach attached to his name at one point.
Meanwhile, screens showed Waqar applauding every wicket taken by Shaheen Afridi and Hasan Ali during the second innings of the second Test, but one needs to keep in mind that the former is one of the most naturally talented bowler coming through for Pakistan, while the latter made it into the squad with his swashbuckling performances in the domestic circuit. Waqar may have pitched in with a few tips and tricks, but both bowlers brought form with them instead of finding their feet under the bowling coach.
All in all, Misbah and Waqar may have received a lifeline in their roles due to the Test series win over South Africa, but it has become quite clear that their influence on Pakistan’s performances is nearly nothing. There is a plethora of reasons why Pakistan pulled off two consecutive victories over South Africa in the Test series, but the influence of Misbah and Waqar isn’t among them.
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