What’s up, Pakistan?
What happened to Pakistan’s Test combination, and why is it in tatters in 2022?
Hey Pakistan, what’s up? Just thought I’d stop by and see how you’ve been doing.
Room looks nice and clean. Oh, those posters are nice, got one of Babar’s cover drive, another of Rizwan hugging him and Shaheen in that iconic starman pose. And look at all these trophies – Cricketer of the Year, ODI Cricketer of the Year, etc. Don’t think the Player of the Month pin is supposed to be with those but cool, whatever makes you happy.
You are happy, right? Your mother worries sometimes; don’t want another junior school 2009 situation. Anyway, how is the report card looking? Nice, a semi-final and two final finishes, one win in a pop quiz – not bad. Eh, you will be alright – just a matter of time.
OK, everything seems to be in a shipshape. I gotta head out, your uncle has a dinner.
Wait, what is that box in the corner?
Man, it stinks; what do you keep in here? Now I’m curious; let me take a look.
What do you mean, it does not matter? I just want to take a peek; I promise, whatever it is, I will not get mad.
OK, let’s see here. You lost a series to Australia – haha, you have done that before. Wait, this one was at home? Well, OK, the result does not look that bad, 0-1. I’m sure it was a hard-fought series, and you fell short at the final hurdle. What else we got here, a drawn series to Sri Lanka? That’s not too bad. I’ll let you in on a little secret, your brother actually lost a series to Sri Lanka, but no one actually remembers it now. Wait, wait, what is THIS? You lost a series at home to ENGLAND?
This needs investigation. I am staying; dinner can wait.
So how did it start? You had a perfectly fine Test combination; sure, the bowling was not as effective as anyone of us would have liked, but the batting did not embarrass us. How did you mess it up?
Ah, OK, you had a big series vs. Australia, and your brother had just moved out. So, you went to your principal for help. I have told you not to listen to that guy. Anyway, you then decided that the Australians would struggle vs. spin, but beta, you do realize that you need Test-level spinners to make them struggle, right? And what exactly were you thinking trying to turn Pindi into a turner? That never happens. I see you tried that again vs. England. Why?
Dekho, when your middle order consists of the guys who bailed you out of almost all sticky situations in the last few years, then don’t you think they deserve a bit more faith than to be broken up after a drawn Test, then further broken up after a loss, and finally decimated after another? Playing musical chairs with the batting order while blindfolded and going around in circles has left you dazed and confused. I just don’t understand it because I’ve asked you countless times to be flexible with your T20 batting order, but at that time, you were like no, don’t fix what’s not broken. And then what do you do in Tests? Try to fix what is not broken.
Sure, OK, one of the guys was getting old, but you had a readymade replacement to step in for him when the time came. See, the thing about Test batting orders is that after the top 3, they are more of a delegation of responsibility which comes with expectations. As we go further down the order, the expectations and responsibilities decrease in a linear fashion. Do not expect the wicketkeeper who has just kept for more than 100 overs to walk out in a Daddy 100 expectation position like number 4 or 5.
But obviously, bowling is a bigger problem. Not much you can do there, unfortunately, but maybe try to pick the highest wicket-taker in domestic cricket in the first match instead of as an afterthought in the second game. The bowling crop is young and talented, but they need time to learn; help them instead of throwing them into the deep end and then expecting them to doggy paddle to safety.
Damn, this is beginning to sound like a lecture. I’ll stop before my voice phases into the background, and you start staring blankly into nothingness. The point is, I know you have not played a lot of Test cricket, I know you do not earn much from it, and I know the fans will forget about this series when the PSL is halfway done. But 20 years from now, this will not be a problem anymore, mostly because you will not play Tests anymore. Tests will be something I will tell your grandkids about, and then they will ask stupid questions like did people play them throughout the night, and then I would have to explain the dynamics of pink-ball cricket, which is a whole thing I can’t get into right now.
So, 20 years from now, no need to care about Tests, but for now, Tests define your legacy as a team – that and ODI World Cups. T20 World Cups are side missions you execute because the ICC loves money. People will remember Test wins; they still look up the South Africa series highlights on YouTube after every home Test loss. And you are a talented team; you have an all-time great batter, a great wicketkeeper, and an opener who has all the makings of a great. Then in bowling, you have one 6’4 left armer who strikes fear in most batsmen’s eyes, another who may actually be more threatening than him, and finally, a bespectacled assassin who just carried an entire bowling attack on debut. Just find the right support cast and define your legacy your way.
And hey, I really think you should consider letting your brother move back in. Maybe just on a part-time basis, but just someone to help you through this tough time, and the other upside is that if you fail, everyone will just blame him!