Asia Cup debacle a much-needed wakeup call for Pakistan

Celebrations, praise and all things good hid our oblivious batting woes for a long time

Asia Cup debacle a much-needed wakeup call for Pakistan PHOTO: AFP

Four defeats in four now, after being unbeaten in 25 consecutive matches against Bangladesh, an event which calls us to question Pakistan on a lot of grounds, inquiries which do not derive from mere criticism, but which express concern.

A 37-run defeat, while chasing 240 in your own backyard, to a team which boasts its status as the Champions Trophy winners is criminal to say the least, but with dark clouds comes the hope of blissful rain.

As soon as Pakistan Cricket Board hired Mickey Arthur as the head coach, dissing Waqar Younis out because of his negative tactics and bad performance in the role, the main aim had been to prepare a perfect squad for the 2019 World Cup.

Fast forward to England and Wales where Pakistan, the lowest ranked team in the Champions Trophy, win the final convincingly against India and beat favourites England and South Africa en route the title, however what no one remembers is the team hardly made it past Sri Lanka.

Celebrations, praise and all things good hid our oblivious batting woes for a long time since no team tested out mettle since then in limited-overs cricket.

Sri Lanka lost 5-0 against us in ODIs, New Zealand hosted us for a 5-0 thrashing in ODIs, we beat Zimbabwe 5-0 at their home and then we walked into the Asia Cup against the best in the region; unprepared, complacent, tired or out of form maybe because we forgot what ODIs tasted like or what the 50-over format demands now.

Whatever it was, it helped us.

Asia Cup should be seen alone as a tournament where Pakistan didn’t fare well, it should be seen as the start of a long cricket season that Sarfraz Ahmed and co have packed their bags for.

Australia visit the UAE for Tests and T20Is, New Zealand follow with a full-series consisting of all three formats (three ODIs for Pakistan, finally), a visit to South Africa is then scheduled (five more ODIs, thank heavens) and lastly playing against England in England an all-important five-ODI series.

Some might complain that 13 ODIs over a period of eight months before the World Cup are too less, but what should be seen is that apart from the UAE ODIs against the Kiwis, all 10 ODIs are in uncomfortable and testing conditions for Pakistan.

The mantra of relying on youth has now taken root in Arthur’s plans for the 2019 World Cup, and with energy and potential comes the risk of inexperience and immature displays.

Asia Cup has given Arthur, captain Sarfraz and the whole PCB management points to ponder upon.

Firstly, is throwing out experienced players like Azhar Ali and Mohammad Hafeez a good decision, and if yes, then are they ready to back their youngsters no matter what until the 2019 World Cup.

Defeats and such embarrassing ones as in the Asia Cup are generally not forgiven by the Pakistan cricket fans and the PCB management alike.

But is the PCB ready to take a leap of faith and give Arthur 100 per cent control over Pakistan team till the 2019 World Cup?

Also, when and how Sarfraz will be rested so that he is fresh for the World Cup in England is an urgent inquiry that begs an urgent answer. Reports and suggestions are that he might not take part in Australia’s visit to the UAE, but only time can tell.

Also, who be deputy once he is gone? And has the management or will the management give Safraz the confidence that he is their main guy for the 2019 extravaganza, and if yes, then when will it be done?

Asia Cup has helped all that was wrong with Pakistan before the Champions Trophy resurface, and truth be told, we should be happy it happened now, with time on our hands to iron out our flaws.