Pakistan’s historic loss in the bilateral T20I series against Afghanistan raised a lot of eyebrows as the cricketing fraternity was left unimpressed by the Men in Green’s displays in the first two matches of the series.
The Green Shirts were extremely poor in the first game as they were bowled for only 92 as the batters failed to set their mark. Afghanistan chased down the total with relative ease as they registered their first win over Pakistan in history.
Pakistan did not fare much better in the second T20I as they could only manage 130, after a collapse of the top order. Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan saved the day with well-crafted innings to take Pakistan to a respectable total. Afghanistan faltered in the run chase but managed to hold their nerves as they cashed down the target with only one ball remaining, handing them an unassailable 2-0 lead and a landmark series win.
While the Men in Green will not be too disappointed with the result due to the inclusion of fresh faces in the squad, they will however take this opportunity to get a better idea of how to develop their squad ahead of the 2024 T20 World Cup.
Let’s have a look at the 5 major lessons Pakistan should learn from this loss.
International Captaincy is a Different Ball Game
Pakistan cricket currently is blessed with a top leadership group consisting of the all-format captain, Babar Azam, wicket-keeper batter, Mohammad Rizwan, express pacer, Shaheen Afridi, and skillful all-rounder, Shadab Khan.
Prior to the start of the series, there was a lot of commotion on social media regarding the future of Babar Azam as the captain of the national T20 side. Many fans had called for Babar to be removed as captain in favor of either of the three members of the leadership group.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) decided to hand over the captaincy to Shadab Khan as they rested Babar, Rizwan, and Shaheen for the bilateral series. While Shadab has been touted as a future Pakistani captain due to his excellent leadership skills with Islamabad United in the Pakistan Super League (PSL), it became apparent that Shadab lacks the experience to captain at the top level.
Shadab’s novice captaincy skills were on display as Pakistan made several tactical mistakes on the field, including the batting order, field placements, bowling changes, and failure to maximize the resources.
It is expected that Babar will resume charge as Pakistan takes on New Zealand in a 5-match T20I series next month.
Failure to Adapt to Different Conditions
A new look Pakistani side looked clueless in alien conditions in Sharjah as they failed to impress on slow pitches. After playing T20 cricket on batting-friendly pitches over the past month, the Pakistani batters failed to adapt as they were unable to handle a strong Afghanistan bowling unit.
The likes of Saim Ayub, Mohammad Haris, Abdullah Shafique, Tayyab Tahir, and Azam Khan all were in sensational form coming into the series but their inexperience was on full display as they were not able to assess the conditions which ultimately cost their side.
Even experienced bowlers like Naseem Shah and Shadab Khan have been unable to bowl in the right areas as the Afghan batters took full advantage of their home conditions. The only positive from the series has been the form of Imad Wasim with the bat and Zaman Khan and Ihsanullah with the ball.
Pakistani players will have to work on honing their skills in order to develop as more rounded players, who can perform regardless of the conditions on offer.
Some Experience is Key
Pakistan decided to rest five of its first-team players for this series. Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, Fakhar Zaman, Shaheen Afridi, and Haris Rauf were not selected in the squad as the PCB wanted them to rest ahead of Pakistan’s busy schedule throughout the year, which also includes the 2023 Asia Cup and 2023 ODI World Cup.
While the decision did seem to make sense but there were some question marks regarding the decision to rest all five players simultaneously. Pakistan’s inexperience during the series was on display as only Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan, two veterans of international cricket, shouldered the responsibility in an otherwise lackluster display.
The absence of Babar and Rizwan at the top of the order and Shaheen and Rauf with the ball was truly felt as Pakistan failed to score consistently and pick up wickets at regular intervals.
It would have been a wise decision to include one of Babar and Rizwan and one of Shaheen and Rauf alongside the new players in order to provide some stability to the line-up. Nevertheless, if the main objective was to try new players without caring about the results, then it did make sense to drop all five of them, but that is not how sports work.
No Compromise on Wicket-Keeping
There is little doubt about the talent of Azam Khan in T20 cricket. The dynamic batter is one of the best hitters in Pakistan and his record in the franchise T20 leagues all over the world is immaculate.
Azam has failed to replicate his performances in the international arena though as he has only managed only seven runs in four innings in T20Is. He only scored one run in his two innings in the ongoing series as he fell cheaply on both occasions. Despite his woeful performance with the bat recently, Azam’s wicket-keeping skills have been the main issue for Pakistan in this series.
The 24-year-old’s fitness concerns have always been a talking point and they were on full display as he was unimpressive with the glove behind the stumps. A few dropped catches and plenty of byes hurt Pakistan in both matches as Afghan batters took full advantage of Pakistan’s fielding mistakes.
With wicket-keepers such as Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Haris, and Haseebullah in Pakistan’s ranks, it would be a catastrophic mistake if Azam plays as a wicket-keeper without improving his glove work.
Imad Wasim’s Red Hot Form Should be Utilized
Imad Wasim has been in the form of his life with the bat recently. He finished as the fifth-highest run-scorer in PSL 8, scoring 404 runs at an astounding average of 134.66 and a wonderful strike rate of 170.46 in 10 matches he played in the competition.
He was rewarded for his sensational displays as he was recalled to the national side after almost one and a half years. Imad did not disappoint on his comeback as he was the lone standing warrior in the first T20I and then he went on to smash his first T20I half-century in the 2nd T20I as he rescued Pakistan from a precarious position.
Imad’s sensational form should be fully capitalized by the Men in Green and he should be a regular part of the white-ball set up once again. Imad could prove to be a significant piece in Pakistan’s ODI team as well as he provides the side with the perfect balance, both with the bat and the ball.
What do you think? What other lessons should Pakistan learn from this series loss? Write down your suggestions below!