KARACHI: Before the ongoing tour, Pakistan had lost just once in ODIs against Bangladesh. A 3-0 whitewash later, they have now lost four. Before the ongoing tour, Pakistan had never lost a T20 against Bangladesh, now they have lost one. It is now time for the Tests. Pakistan have never lost a Test to Bangladesh, and recent results have suggested it is their definitive strong zone, but ruling out Bangladesh now would be folly.
Pakistan come into the series on the back of whitewashing Australia in the whites and a drawn series against New Zealand in the UAE. Now comes what should not have been but may well prove to be an even bigger challenge a few weeks ago — the first match of the two-Test series against high-on-confidence Bangladesh.
History favours Pakistan but the present does not and with the team in turmoil and question marks regarding several players and team officials, the visitors go into the tie with a point to prove.
New ODI captain Azhar Ali was bound to face a tough challenge in his maiden assignment, and any hopes of Shahid Afridi changing the narrative were blown away by Shakib alHasan and Sabbir Rehman.
But with the return of the calming presence of Misbahul Haq and Younus Khan, nerves in the dressing room are bound to improve.
Apart from Misbah and Younus, the technically-sound Asad Shafiq — confined to warming the bench in the ODI series — would further help shoring up a solid middle-order which consists of the composed Azhar and the aggressive Sarfraz Ahmed.
Sami Aslam will be making his debut as the policy of bringing in youngsters continues to be implemented and he will partner Muhammad Hafeez at the top of the order.
While coach and captain may be spoilt for choice when it comes to batsmen, with Haris Sohail waiting in the wings, the team is decidedly light in terms of quality bowlers.
Saeed Ajmal is a shadow of his former self with his remodelled action while premium pacer Junaid Khan still does not look completely match fit.
Junaid, fellow left-armer Wahab Riaz, left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar and fit-again leg-spinner Yasir Shah will, in all likelihood, make up Pakistan’s bowling arsenal.
Bowlers, senior batsmen must deliver
Former Test cricketer and off-spinner Tauseef Ahmed believes that Pakistan are in for a long and tough series if the bowlers fail to deliver.
“Our bowling had been winning matches for us but they have not done so since the World Cup and Pakistan have suffered because of it,” Tauseef told The Express Tribune. “It will not be an easy series at all so the players must give their best to salvage some pride.”
The former off-spinner also believes that Younus and Misbah hold the key with the bat. “The return of Younus and Misbah will be a big boost and Bangladesh will look to target them. Right now the team is under severe pressure and they will need two or three good sessions to regain confidence.”
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s most successful Test spinner, Danish Kaneria, has predicted that wrist spinners would be much more effective as compared to finger spinners. “The pitches in Bangladesh are different from the tracks in UAE and wrist spinners get more purchase from them as compared to finger spinners,” said Kaneria. “So the onus will be on Yasir Shah to perform if given the opportunity because right now Ajmal is struggling, while it will be a stiff challenge for Babar as well.”
The 34-year-old believes that the side cannot afford to rely on youthful exuberance alone after what happened in the limited overs matches. “Pakistan need to learn from this series that they cannot play youngsters only and the team should have a mixture of seniors and juniors,” added Kaneria. “The new players can also benefit from the experience of the seniors and improve quickly under their guidance.”
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