Monday, October 17, 2011

Misbah Targets A Test Series Win

Sri Lanka have gone 11 tests without a victory since
Murali’s retirement. Dilshan will be batting in the middle order instead of
opening up. Sri Lanka have a 4-2 record in the last 10 tests against Pakistan.
Pakistan have not beaten a higher ranked test team for a considerable amount of
time. Should Pakistan win this series 1-0 they will narrow the 9 point gap
between 5th and 6th position on the ICC test rankings
significantly. A victory for Misbah before he next loses will give him the
highest W/L ratio by a Pakistan test captain of (4). This will be a sufficient
sample to illustrate as he will be 12th most capped Pakistan test captain
out of 29 leaders by the end of the series.

The dilemma Pakistan are facing going into this test match
is whether to play 3 front line fast bowlers or 2 specialist spinners. Rehman
was named in the test team of the year and has been the leading wicket taker
under Misbah’s captaincy with 29 wickets in 6 tests. He also adds depth in the
batting and helps the tail wag. He has a test match half century next to his
name and can attack and defend in equal proportions. In my opinion, he should
make the starting line up alongside Ajmal for the aforementioned reasons.

The other dilemma is the number #6 spot. Shoaib Malik is
widely regarded as not test match material even by his most diehard fans;
however he is in the 15 man squad and possesses an average of 60 against Sri
Lanka including both his test centuries as well as providing the calm and
composed Misbah with another spin bowling option should they decide to play 3
front line pacers. Therefore, there might be a temptation to play him ahead of
Asad Shafiq. However, in my view Shafiq should have priority. Although he only
averages 27 from 5 tests, he did start his career with 2 half centuries in his
first two test innings against the number 2 ranked South African side as well
notching up a half century in the New Zealand alien conditions in just his 2nd
innings. He also played a match saving cameo in the 2nd test of the
same series. It was just in the West Indies where he struggled, but in the ODI
leg of the same tour he notched up 2 50s. His composure, temperament and
elegance are ideal for test match cricket.

Under Misbah’s captaincy Pakistan’s average first innings
total is 332 with an average innings duration of 118 overs. Previously in the 9 tests before he took over
Pakistan’s average first innings total was 214 with a 71 innings duration. This
statistic clearly illustrates how things are moving in the right direction for
a team eyeing a spot in the inaugural world test championship in England for
2013.

Pakistan have left out Umar Akmal from the test squad. As
far as I’m concerned, this move was justified with Umar only scoring 2 50s in
his last 22 test innings. Plus, he will benefit from competitive cricket at the
domestic level rather than carrying the drinks on the side lines. Asad Shafiq
who Mohammad Yousuf regards as one of the most technically correct batsmen he
has seen flourish through the ranks should have priority at the number 6
position. He has fluent stroke play and a better temperament. Meanwhile, the
surprise omission was that of Tanvir Ahmed who after taking 6 wickets on a
pancake wicket in his debut and making some invaluable contributions lower down
the order with his hard hitting has been ignored after being rested for the
Zimbabwean tour for experimentation with new comers. Tanvir has been hard done
by and should have made the squad ahead of Junaid. Nonetheless, he is in the
reserves category. Mohsin Hassan Khan
will be taking over as interim coach for this series which provides the PCB
with more time to decide about the new coach to succeed Waqar Younis after he
stepped down due to personal reasons.

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