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Opinion

Is a specialist white-ball coach the solution to Pakistan's short-form struggles?

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Roar Guru
25th May, 2021
4

Pakistan recently concluded their tour of Africa with four straight series wins, two each against South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Despite a strong performance in the Test series against minnows Zimbabwe, Pakistan’s white-ball cricket showed deep cracks. The second T20 international against Zimbabwe was one such instance.

Chasing a paltry 119, Pakistan’s batting collapsed on their hinges as Zimbabwe dismissed them for 99 to seal a remarkable comeback win.

Interestingly, it was Zimbabwe’s second win over Pakistan across all formats in their last six limited-overs outings.

Babar Azam batting for Pakistan

Babar Azam. (Harry Trump-IDI/IDI via Getty Images)

Ironically, it came under Misbah-ul-Haq’s coaching regime. While the defeat purely boiled down to the ineptitude of the Pakistan batsmen, critics were quick to direct the blame at Misbah.

Pakistan’s most successful Test captain has often been lambasted in his own country as a mismatch for limited-overs cricket. His ideas, as the folklore goes, are dull and defensive and not suited to the modern-day cricket.

Whether it was during his time as a ODI skipper or now as a head coach, Pakistan seem to be in the doldrums all the while.

Shoaib Malik was the first to forward the suggestion of retaining Misbah as the coach for the longest format, and opening up newer opportunities for a specialist white-ball coach. The suggestion has become quite popular in the country since then.

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Former greats like Ramiz Raja and Shoaib Akhtar have also welcomed the advice.

The question is whether it is the right solution for any team struggling to perform in limited-overs cricket or is it just that the profile of players is not good enough.

While it is easy to criticise the management for the team’s poor performances, you often forget that it is the players that make a difference on the pitch.

As things stand, only Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam seem to be in good nick. The Pakistani middle order has been non-existent for a while, which has greatly contributed to their recent setbacks.

To Misbah’s credit, Pakistan’s lower to middle order has started performing better than any other time in the last five years, with Hasan Ali and Faheem Ashraf contributing key runs across formats.

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Another factor that the critics often forget is that Zimbabwean pitches, owing to the lack of funding, are often neglected and badly prepared. That means second-half batting becomes tough. This is something that cost Pakistan in the second T20 international.

Pakistan’s search for better middle-order players may just well be the solution to their recent crisis. Misbah, despite his demeanour, has fairly little to contribute to their current miseries.

It is safe to say that this innovation for a new specialist limited-overs coach is nothing but a popular rhyme – something that is difficult to materialise.

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