Experience of Azhar Ali and Mohammad Hafeez just what Pakistan need

Waseem Ahmed 07:28 02/10/2018
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Pakistan batsman Azhar Ali.

Pakistan cricket has hit rock bottom. If not, it is very close to it. A shambolic Asia Cup performance in the UAE drew extensive criticism from Pakistani fans in the country and across the globe, with the dismal efforts of opening batsman Fakhar Zaman, seamer Mohammad Amir and captain Sarfraz Ahmed targeted.

Not only did Pakistan fail to make it to the final, losing comfortably to Bangladesh in their must-win Super Four Clash, they also endured eight and nine-wicket defeats to India in the tournament. It was a shocking effort in a country that basically has been their second home for a decade.

Pakistan made some startling selection decisions, picking six fast bowling options and not having enough spinners when teams like India fielded as many as four. Pressure has therefore mounted on Sarfraz to stop the slide and get some confidence back into the team leading up to the World Cup.

Their next assignment is in red-ball cricket – against Australia in a two-Test series with the first match in Dubai on Sunday. It offers Pakistan an opportunity to again test themselves against quality opposition and see how good or bad they really are.

Hafeez is back in Pakistan's Test team.

Hafeez is back in Pakistan’s Test team.

The Asia Cup debacle started with poor selection choices and the management seems to have rectified it to some extent by adding veteran batsman Mohammad Hafeez to the original squad following the horror run of Fakhar in the Asia Cup.

Pakistan need some solidity in the batting line-up at the top and in the middle and Hafeez, along with experienced opener Azhar Ali, provide some much-needed assurance.

Hafeez hasn’t played Test cricket for two years but is fighting fit. He is fresh off of a double century in Pakistan’s first-class Qaid-e-Azam tournament. Plus, he is bowling again after getting his action cleared recently. The presence of four possible left-handers in the Australian top-order makes his selection a no brainer. Plus, he will give Sarfraz cushion in the lower order.

Ali at the top brings sanity to the proceedings. The opener scored a fifty in Pakistan’s Lord’s Test win in May. His confidence should rub off on others like Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam, helping them negotiate a threatening Australian attack that includes Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon.

Ali and Hafeez hit fifties in the Champions Trophy final against India last year. But for some reason they have both been shown the door in limited-overs cricket with the management moving on to younger players. But Pakistan’s Asia Cup results have shown that you need experienced players in the team. At least in the Test series, they can expect these two to help overcome difficult periods and come out victorious.

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