Why did a full-strength Pakistan ODI side lose to an England side missing most of its primary stars?
Only days before the start of the ODI series against Pakistan, the England cricket team was forced to isolate itself after seven of its players tested positive for COVID. On the other hand, Pakistani supporters were upbeat after England named a whole new squad, including nine uncapped players, as the cricketing world expected the Pakistan team to win comfortably.
However, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the young England squad went on to whitewash the Green Shirts, raising the issue of what is wrong with our cricketing structure if our best players can’t even compete against England’s substitute team?
The biggest question following such a devastating defeat would be regarding our player selection. Are we basing our selections on performances in the country’s top 50-over competitions and List A cricket? When we talk about this, it’s apparent that some quality batsmen like Sahibzada Farhan (average of 55) and Shan Masood (average of 58) have been overlooked by the selectors. Perhaps the top-order failure could have been avoided or minimized if any of these individuals had been included in the team.
Another issue where the Pakistani batting line was criticized was the lack of definite responsibilities for all-rounders Shadab Khan and Faheem Ashraf, both of who have performed admirably with the bat in Test cricket but average 24 and 12 in the 50-over format. The duo was anticipated to play aggressive cricket in the death overs or even provide stability in the event of a batting collapse. However, they fell short, scoring a combined total of 67 runs in the three-match series, and that too with a strike rate of less than run a ball.
Moving ahead, the Pakistani team was also seen to be missing its batting coach, Younis Khan, who quit as the team’s batting coach only two days before the team was scheduled to leave for England. This was considered to be having a negative influence as the team struggled to bat against a very inexperienced bowling attack that lacked names like Mark Wood and Adil Rashid in the first two matches. Furthermore, despite these batting failures, ex-captain Sarfaraz Ahmed was left out of the team as a batsman, despite having the highest average of any Pakistani batsman in England.
Despite this, the English Cricket Board deserves respect for having such a solid domestic structure that reserve players like James Vince, Saqib Mahmood, and Lewis Gregory can step in and succeed at this level and that too on such short notice. It’s remarkable that these players have collectively played hundreds of first-class matches and have been polished so well by the ECB, while players in Pakistan are selected after only a few matches.
This also demonstrates how competitive domestic cricket in England is, as all of the international stars are required to participate in it despite their international commitments, which instantly raises the caliber of cricket being played. This is missing in Pakistan’s domestic cricket as stars like Babar Azam, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shadab Khan, and other players like Haris Rauf and Imam-ul-Haq have not been spotted playing domestic One-Day cricket in Pakistan recently.
Thus, this ODI series was a wake-up call for fans and management, as our cricket, like our other sports, appears to be fading, and we now need to question ourselves if our cricket is in safe hands and whether our domestic cricket system is competitive with our international stars not participating in it.
The opinions expressed solely belong to the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Grassroots Cricket.