Pakistan losing a Test match in Australia is as much a given in all of cricket as any. They haven’t won a Test Down Under for almost a quarter of a century now, and have lost every Test contested in Australia since 1999. Therefore, the innings defeat in the first Test at the Gabba is hardly a jolt.
But, given what had preceded the mauling in Brisbane, the pressure has been piled up. Pakistan were completely dominated in the 2-0 T20I series loss in Australia, which had come at the back of the 3-0 whitewash against Sri Lanka at home in the 20 over format as well. Therefore, history and relative pedigrees, go out of the window and what registers is the fact that Pakistan, under the new Misbah-ul-Haq regime, are being hammered in all formats.
Misbah might be little over two months into his new job(s) but he couldn’t have been off to a worse start. Now another defeat in the second Test at Adelaide, despite being the odds on prediction, will lead to must-win scenarios in the upcoming series against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – again, already, less than three months since the takeover.
While Pakistan continue to be undone Down Under, a slight change in approach could see them look at the Adelaide Test as an opportunity to undo 24 years of history. Win a solitary match and the new regime would already have “rewritten history” making the start to the tenure significantly less inauspicious.
After all, a tweak or two, and this Pakistan team could be significantly more competitive – especially in a Day And Night pink ball Test, which the second match is going to be.
For instance, Haris Sohail who replicated his identically cheap T20 dismissals with those in the Test format, needs to go – if not from the playing 11, than from the crucial number three batting position. Imam-ul-Haq could be inducted and open with Shan Masood, who looked similarly impressive at the Gabba as he did in South Africa earlier this year, despite not converting his starts. Azhar Ali could go in at three in that case.
Just a couple of changes and Pakistan can have a decent shot in a one-off match with Australia
Similarly, Babar Azam should be pushed up the order. Perhaps this verdict is more in hindsight and sending Babar Azam at five at the time made sense, given his struggles in the 5-day format – as exhibited by his dismissal in the first innings. But now there is simply no reason for him to not be in the top four.
As far as the bowling is concerned Mohammed Abbas needs to be reinstated. He might not have been as effective at the Gabba – or might have been, we will never know – but in seaming conditions under lights, he should be at his most effective. One of Imran Khan and Shaheen Shah Afridi would make way, perhaps the former to continue giving the youth a chance at mighty Australia.
Just two changes – Imam in for Haris or even Iftikhar Ahmed, and Abbas in for Imran Khan or Shaheen Afridi – and Pakistan can have a decent shot in a one-off match with Australia, where they have so much more to gain than what they could lose.
It is imperative that Azhar Ali comes good with the bat. That will reflect in his captaincy as well, which was ominously passive at the Gabba. Another failure, and juxtaposition with his form over the couple of years would reveal that the man tasked with leading the Test side hasn’t been performing for a while now.
The unlikely – nay currently outrageous – result would give a massive push to this Pakistan side which is currently under transition. If they believe and perceive it similarly, they can pull off a heist.