Misbah-ul-Haq cited deficiencies in practically all departments of the Pakistan T20I outfit following their back-to-back defeats to a second-string Sri Lanka side in Lahore, but defended the decision to bring back Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal.
Over the last two years, Pakistan have won 21 of out the 28 T20Is and lost seven, five of which have come in the last nine months. “Losing is never good, especially against a team that is without their major players, and it’s an eye-opener,” Misbah, the team’s head coach and chief selector, said in the post-match press conference. “We can see deficiency in every department: bowling, batting and particularly the way we got out against spin, and also our death bowling.
“There was a clear difference between the two teams. Despite being inexperienced, they were disciplined and did everything right, while we completely failed to implement our plan.”
With Shehzad and Umar coming back, Pakistan experimented with their top order, dropping Fakhar Zaman for the first T20I and opening with Babar Azam and Shehzad, and Umar at No. 3. The three, however, fell within 4.2 overs, leaving Pakistan reeling at 22 for 3 in the 165-run chase, which they eventually lost by 64 runs. Fakhar came back as an opener for the second T20I, pushing Shehzad to No. 3 and Umar to No. 5. Their highest run-scorer of the first T20I, Ifthikar Ahmed, was left out altogether. This experiment failed too, with Pakistan losing their top five for 52 in a chase of 182 before they went on to lose by 35 runs.
Since his debut in September 2016, Babar – the No. 1 T20I batsman – has scored 1263 runs in 32 innings at a stellar average of 50.52 and a strike rate of 127.96, and nearly 70% of his 831 runs in the last two years have come in wins. Babar and Fakhar’s opening partnership has also been pivotal for Pakistan’s success, but Babar’s failure at the top in the two T20Is against Sri Lanka has left Pakistan in a fix, exposing the top order’s struggle especially during a chase.
“Obviously I am answerable but to build up a team you need to do some experiments to get the answers. We need to show some patience and wait for next series to find answers”
“There are a lot of reasons for this experimentation,” Misbah said. “Yes, we are the No. 1 team in the world but mostly our strength has been standing on Babar Azam scoring runs and with him not scoring in two games, we are exposed badly. We need to find out six or more match-winners, we need to have more dependable batsmen, we need powerhouses in the top and middle, and in bowling we need to take wickets upfront and in the death overs and we need to have good finishers.
“But we failed overall, we are struggling in every department, and it’s a big eye-opener for us. We didn’t play to our strengths and couldn’t deliver. We are looking for more batsmen rather than just relying on one or two.”
The recalls of Shehzad and Umar had come in for criticism from various sections – Shehzad has scored 4 and 13 in the two games, while Umar has been dismissed for golden ducks both times – but Misbah stood by the decision to recall them and stressed on the need to experiment.
“Both these players have performed well wherever they’ve played in the last one year. Ahmed’s performance in PSL was remarkable enough for a chance, while Umar, whichever format he played, was among the good ones [batsmen],” Misbah said. “It’s unfortunate [that] in our circuit, there is no other batsman in T20s who had performed better than them. Players who have performed in domestic surely deserve a chance, and that’s why we offered them.
“If they weren’t able to perform what can be done? Obviously I am answerable, but to build up a team you need to do some experiments to get the answers. When you play someone in international cricket with a couple of games, you understand the utility of a player. We need to show some patience and wait for the next series to find answers.”