Omair Alavi|Sunday| Nov 17, 2019
Shan Masood should be preferred over Imam-ul-Haq and Shaheen Afridi over Naseem Shah
They may not have won a Test match at Gabba, but that shouldn’t be a problem for Pakistan side Down Under. The way they performed against the Australia A side in the practice match was enough to raise the hopes of an average Pakistani cricket fan. Yes, the hosts have been unbeatable at Brisbane since November 1988 but that doesn’t mean they can’t be beaten.
Pakistan must go into the match with a perfect side and let the best players do the talking, with their bat, ball and fielding. After all, our best performance at Gabba came in 2016, and some of the players in the side now were part of that historic near-win too!
Opening with The Openers
Abid Ali and Imam-ul-Haq might be in the side, but Pakistan needs to put their best team forward. Since Azhar Ali is the skipper and managed an unbeaten double century in Australia as an opening batsman, he should be there at the top. His partner should be the best opening batsman from Pakistan, but sadly neither Shan Masood nor Imam has a Test record to be proud of. There is Abid Ali in the side as well but since Pakistan should go with a left-hand, right-hand combination, Shan should be preferred over Imam. He has a Test century to his name, has played more matches and recently impressed in South Africa. If he doesn’t do well, then either Abid or Imam could be tried in the next Test.
Who should mind the middle-order?
Babar Azam usually opens the innings in T20Is and bats at number three in ODIs, but he has scored most of his runs in Tests down the order. Eight of his twelve innings over 50 have been scored while batting down the order, at either number 5 or number 6. However, his resurgence as World’s Best batsman has come in at number three and that is where he should be placed in the batting order. Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, and Iftikhar Ahmed should follow him, because Haris’s record is better at number four and Iftikhar is an all-rounder who can both bat and bowl. Asad is an experienced campaigner who is comfortable at number three, four, five or six, and should be used accordingly by the management. His 137-run innings at Gabba also came when he was batting at number six. He nearly won Pakistan the match with his brilliant effort.
And then there is the keeper!
Mohammad Rizwan may be the sole wicket-keeper in the side but he has multiple issues. First of all, he failed miserably in the T20I series as a batsman, then left the field during the only three-day practice match due to fitness issues and has not played a Test match as a specialist keeper before. His only Test appearance came way back in 2016 when he was selected for his batting prowess but managed just 13 runs in two innings, including a golden duck. With Sarfraz Ahmed gone for reasons better known to the PCB and Rizwan in not the best of forms, Abid might be a good option as he keeps wickets in domestic cricket and is a handy batsman as well. He did keep wickets in the three-day match and managed to hold onto a catch off Naseem Shah, which is impressive considering the bowler’s raw pace.
The bowling attack For Gabba must include . . .
Pakistan can’t go into the Gabba Test without its ace spinner Yasir Shah who is not only the most successful bowler in the team, but also the one with the most number of matches. With 203 Wickets in just 35 Test matches, he will have to shine in the land of his mentor Shane Warne, if Pakistan wants to win a match in the series. Mohammad Abbas will have to carry the load of leading the pace attack, especially after the Test retirements of Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz, both of whom played in the last match at Gabba. The management will have to select two pacers from among Imran Khan, Naseem Shah and Shaheen Shah Afridi. While Naseem Shah has impressed all, Imran Khan’s impressive comeback and Shaheen Shah Afridi’s variety (as a left-arm quickie) make them more valid for selection. If either of them fails, then Naseem Shah can be included in the team for the second Test. Hoping for the best!