A West Indies-Pakistan Classic in Jamaica Won by the Hosts

The first of the two-match test series is in its last moments on the Caribbean soil in Jamaica where West Indies need 6 to win on the last wicket while on the other hand, it’s midnight on the other side of the planet in Pakistan where a number of cricket fans of 230 millions’ population country in South Asia, are awaking to witness a West Indies-Pakistan classic, wondering if it would be possible for Hasan Ali and Shaheen Shah Afridi to send one of West Indies last-wicket stand’s cast back towards the pavilion?

All Pakistan needs is a wicket, while West Indies have to get just 6 runs, by anyway. Their last wicket stand has already produced 11 and they need just half of that and the job will be done. Hasan Ali bowls the second ball of his 17th over of the inning outside the off stump, Kemar Roach goes on to chase it and turns it into an outside edge that goes for a four behind the wickets as the wicket-keeper of Pakistan, Mohammad Rizwan, fails to catch a difficult chance. 

West Indies are just 2 runs away from the victory, everyone in the dugout is cheering while the bowler, Hasan Ali, and the skipper of Pakistan, Babar Azam, are just disappointed with the result of the action. Roach keeps his nerves, waits and stays patient on next two deliveries and places the third one into a gap between the covers fielders. It is a 117 Km/h delivery, quite wide outside the off stump, easy to pick and place, even for a West Indian tailender, Kemar Roach, who would later say that it was the first time that he found himself in such a situation.

West Indies are excited, pleased, and overwhelmed by the result while Babar Azam has a lot to think about, as he, later on, went on to say “What if, had that been…” in his press conference as well but many would think whether this lack of energy from the bowler and wicket-keeper was the only reason why Pakistan lost it?

Disgusting fielding in last one hour

When Mohammad Rizwan missed what could have been a catch if he was better prepared or positioned, even Ian Bishop said during commentary, “Is Rizwan a hero from zero? Or am I being harsh?” And many people think Pakistan lost a chance there but the story of drop catches and missed chances goes long as there were run out chances missed during the whole game but Mohammad Abbas and Hasan Ali dropped Joshua Da Silva and Kemar Roach when West Indies needed 53 and 19 respectively. 

The latter, Kemar Roach, went on to finish the game for his side with his brilliant knock of 30 not out while his partner at no.11, Jayden Seales, who had taken 5 scalps as well in the second inning of Pakistan, faced 13 deliveries for 2 runs. He kept on defending against Shaheen Afridi while Roach mostly faced Hasan Ali but trusted his partner as well for the strike.

Lack of form of Yasir Shah

Shaheen Afridi got 3 wickets at the top sending the whole West Indian top order cast back in its dugout after just 8 overs. Roston Chase was joined by Jermaine Blackwood for the 4th wicket and both produced a 68 runs stand in a game where their opposition was playing with just 168. Other bowlers including the senior most, Yasir Shah, remained helpless as Blackwood kept on punishing everything that was wide and loose. 

On his good day, he would have bowled half of the overs in the 4th inning but this time in Jamaica, Yasir Shah, was given just 3 overs by his skipper and 35 years old leggie leaked 13 runs in those 3 overs without taking any wickets. Shah had gone wicketless in the first inning as well where he conceded 46 in 13 overs and remained ineffective on the track.

Babar might have gone back towards him if he looked even slightly threatening but Shah’s form in recent months has remained so down that Pakistan had played Sajid Khan over him in Harare against Zimbabwe, thinking it was better to leave Shah out from foreign tours where he remains ineffective. Management had gone back towards their main spinner in Caribbean and had benched both Nauman Ali and Sajid Khan and did not consider young leggie Zahid Mehmood as well for the selection

Yasir Shah has struggled to perform in foreign conditions where pitches do not assist slow bowlers

Yasir Shah is key player for Pakistan in white dress and if he struggles with the red ball also, as his consideration for the white ball is already out of equation, he may find it hard to play again as he is already 35. When a player loses his place at this age, people 10 or 15 years younger to them come in the team to replace them. So far, even Pakistan does not have any replacement of Yasir Shah and his lack of form will disturb Pakistan’s performances in WTC2 where Pakistan has good chances to play finals this time.

Top Order has issues

Pakistan has an issue of finding stable top order in test cricket and the history of this problem goes back very long. Even in the era of Misbah Ul Haq as test captain of Pakistan, Pakistan tried a lot of openers while Azhar, Younus, Misbah and Shafiq remained the permanent players in the middle order.

Taufeeq Umar, Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmad Shehzad, Imran Farhat, Nasir Jamshed, Sharjeel Khan, Sami Aslam, Azhar Ali, Imam Ul Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Shan Masood, Abid Ali and Imran Butt, without going into correct record and history, these names are easy to recall and one can understand that many batsmen of white ball were also tried in a hope of finding better players for the top order. The issue is still there and management wonders why the problem is so severe?

Reality is that Pakistan lacks quality pitches, conditions, and competitions required to groom domestic players for the international level. Many times, players have wasted themselves after PCB dif not allow them to practice in the National Cricket Academy. Lack of resources and places to prepare an athlete is the main challenge for the country but no institution or political party has any interest in this area, what else can we expect from a ruling class whose own daughters and sons study and live in England, America or Canada.

Pakistan needs better management of sports because athletes represent countries across the globe and lack of preparations due to the unavailability of resources required to groom players are a shame for the nation and state. Pakistan Cricket Board has money and it will have plenty of it in future as well, it should work more seriously on this issue to produce better openers, fielders and spinners for the national cricket team.

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