DateLine: 17th August 2010
The swinging ball was always predicted to be a major obstacle for Pakistan to overcome on a tough ‘home’ series in England. But the manner in which all the batsmen have struggled and the lack of fight from the top order, has certainly raised eyebrows. After yet another demoralising test loss against England, PakPassion caught up with Asif Iqbal to look at the deficiencies in Pakistan’s test team.
Iqbal himself a successful Pakistani test all-rounder was quite blunt in his assessment on the Pakistani team. “The Pakistan team currently is simply not good enough compared to England and Australia in English conditions,” he stated.
Iqbal who hit a magnificent 146 at the Oval in 1967 as a young 24 year old and enjoyed many successful county seasons at Kent, can certainly claim to have not been overwhelmed by the English conditions. The major reason for Pakistan’s woeful batting thus far, Iqbal claimed was due to “lack of experience and alien conditions.” Whilst in the past young Pakistani batsmen were given a much simpler task of breaking into the team by playing games on ‘batsmen-friendly’ pitches at home, the challenge now is much tougher as England is being touted Pakistan’s new home away from home. “These same batsmen would have done well if the series was in Pakistan,” Iqbal said. “There seems to be a lack of self belief in the batsmen and they are struggling to adapt to the conditions.”
The fact that Pakistan gambled by sending two debutants at the crucial #3 and #4 position was not lost on Iqbal. “This top order has not played much test cricket in England at all, even the so-called experienced guys.” Prior to this tour, both Salman Butt and Imran Farhat had played just two test matches in England and that was back in 2006. Shoaib Malik, the so-called experienced player in the batting line-up had in fact not played a single test match in England coming into this tour.
On the bright side, Iqbal was confident that more exposure to playing in such conditions will only benefit Pakistan in the long term. “Need to stick with this group of players, but Faisal Iqbal should have been part of squad, as a lot of investment had gone into his development.” The case of Faisal Iqbal is an interesting one. He has played a total of 5 test matches in England but only has a solitary half century to note. In a career spanning almost 10 years, many would say that he has certainly not lived up to the standards expected of him.
Aside from the timid batting, once again Pakistan’s shambolic fielding has come to the fore. After an impressive fielding performance against Australia, Pakistan has once again reverted back to its old habits. However Iqbal was unwilling to point the blame towards the coaching staff. “It’s down to a lack of commitment from the players. Fielding is a personal thing, and you can only improve your fielding through hard work, it won't just happen naturally.” Iqbal who took 36 test catches added, “you have to concentrate hard when you are fielding as if you are batting.”
However, Iqbal being the true optimist that he is provided some hope for the future. “Pakistani cricket is going through a poor phase, but it happens to all countries and fans should not be too disillusioned.” The hope stems from the visible fight shown in the second test match against Australia. “I have to give them credit for the fight back to level the series against Australia.” A similar rearguard action was on display by Zulqarnain Haider and Saeed Ajmal in a second innings partnership which frustrated England at Birmingham and more is needed and for longer periods if Pakistan is to be competitive for the remaining two test matches. Looking ahead to the remainder of the series, Iqbal added “We all need to stop looking for excuses, rather look for genuine reasons.”
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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