Lessons for Pakistan management to put up a spirited fight in the upcoming series
The third and the final match of the England-West Indies series is currently underway and if we have managed to learn anything from the first two matches, it is that anything can happen in a Test match. The first one belonged to the visitors but the hosts made a sensational comeback in the second, leveling the series with a game that raised the bar. With Pakistan next on England’s list as a competing team in Tests and T20Is, there are a few things the visitors might learn from the ongoing series and use it to their advantage rather than be sitting ducks in the five-day encounters.
Don’t stay with the provided batting order
The way England improvised in the second Test should be something Pakistan should be wary of; and the best way to unsettle the opposition is to do the same. That doesn’t mean that one should not stay with the provided order. The secret lies in using the available talent intelligently. Sending Ben Stokes to open the innings doesn’t mean that we should use Faheem Ashraf the same way, but some other batsmen like Asad Shafiq who has done well on previous visits to England. Skipper Azhar Ali can also play the central role in the batting order and do what Younis Khan did in his last Test in England, adapt and attack. There is no reason why Pakistan can’t win in England this time around, as they have as many players in this squad than they took in the last two series combined. There is no pressure from the crowd.
Go in with an all-rounder
This has so far been the series of all-rounders – Ben Stokes and Jason Holder. While both the players led their side in the first Test, it was handing over the burden to a returning Joe Root that brought the best out in Ben Stokes. He scored a century in the middle, took wickets and later opened the innings and scored an unbeaten 78 because his team needed quick runs. Is there a player in the Pakistan side who can do the same? Pakistan will have to either expect something heroic from Fawad Alam who can both bat and bowl (if selected) or Faheem Ashraf who has the potential, yet fails more time than he succeeds.
Also, Yasir Shah who scored a century Down Under recently will have to bat more responsibly, as you never know how the top and middle-order perform. Yes there are Iftikhar Ahmed and Shadab Khan in the squad but they need to first be in contention for the playing XI, then make some noise with the bat, the ball, or both.
Put a diverse bowling attack, not a unilateral one
We have seen in the past that Pakistan has gone with an all-left-arm bowling attack against a Test side and managed to do nothing much. Observe how other teams have played under COVID-19 regulations and select a team based on merit rather than on records. One left-arm pacer (Shaheen Afridi) and one right-arm one (Mohammad Abbas) would be ideal but so would be a fast bowler who really is quick, like Naseem Shah or Mohammad Musa. Naseem Shah, who managed to take five wickets in the intra-squad match and took a hat-trick against Bangladesh, will have to play second fiddle to Abbas and Afridi, while Faheem Ashraf, Yasir Shah/Shadab Khan or an off-spinner (part-timer) would have to share the bowling duties.
Fawad Alam, if selected, can provide the left-arm spin option, and who knows Pakistan might need him to do some damage.
Use the weather to your
Both the matches in England were hit by rain, but did they end in a draw? No, they didn’t as both teams wanted to wins. Pakistan will have to go with the same mentality. Otherwise, England will dominate them and win the series. Instead of making excuses later, the management should check the weather of all three matches beforehand and use it to strategise, instead of the usual ‘hope to win the toss and elect to bat first to avoid the fourth innings’ strategy. Cricket has changed a lot in the last few years and if Pakistan uses the current tour to take giant strides, it might help the team in the longer run.