The change in the Pakistan team’s approach is already evident after Azhar Ali took over from Misbahul Haq and guided Pakistan to their second successive ODI series win with his refreshingly positive approach — something which had been so painfully missing over the previous few years.
With Azhar at the helm and senior players Shahid Afridi and Misbah retired, the ODI team looks much more eager and energetic to express themselves.
Previously, the dressing room had been split into three parts — with one set supporting Misbah, the second Afridi and the third opting to not lend their support to either but instead stay as neutrals.
In his first series, Azhar was on the receiving end as Pakistan were whitewashed by Bangladesh but he has since then tasted series wins over Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka.
Former cricketers, experts and PCB officials admit that he has done a good job as captain.
“Nobody was giving this young team a chance to win against Sri Lanka but we believed in these players that if they clicked as a team, they are capable of beating the Sri Lankans at their home,” chief selector Haroon Rasheed told The Express Tribune. “Pakistan have won the ODI series against Sri Lanka which will give this team the confidence and self-belief.”
The selector was also full of praise for the new skipper. “Azhar’s captaincy has been outstanding and he has been leading by example with some brilliant batting up front. He has also been scoring at a good strike rate,” he said. “He has used his resources really well and you can see that energy and togetherness in the group that they are keen to fight for every run.”
Pakistan managed to win the series in the absence of three most senior batsmen — Afridi, Misbah and Younis Khan — while the likes of Wahab Riaz, Haris Sohail, Sohaib Maqsood and Sohail Khan were also not available.
Haroon said that the selection committee’s main focus has been to improve the strength in depth of the team and thankfully the process has been going really well as there is a genuine competition for places.
“This series victory sends a message to the players that Pakistan’s strength in depth is improving and it wouldn’t be an easy walk for those who are out or are trying to cement their places,” he said. “They would have to earn their place in the team and Pakistan would ultimately benefit from this health competition.”
Haroon feels the added competition will only benefit the team. “You can see the improvement in performances of certain players because they know that if they do not perform, they will be replaced by the likes of Mukhtar Ahmed, Nauman Anwar or Haris Sohail in future,” he said. “Hafeez looks really hungry for runs while Ahmed Shehzad wants to stamp his authority as well. Anwar Ali and Imad Wasim are emerging as good all-rounders and this allows the team to be more dynamic.”
Haroon congratulated the entire team and team management for the important series win and said that it would not have been possible without the combine effort of players.
Pakistan have also been commendably flexible in their approach by shuffling the batting pack as they promoted vice-captain and wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed to number four in the series, while the experienced Shoaib Malik has produced consistent performances ever since he has returned.
The fielding has also improved, especially with the likes of Anwar and Mohammad Rizwan taking some spectacular catches.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2015.
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