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Misbah and the art of destroying a winning combination

A lot of factors contributed to Pakistan’s defeat against Sri Lanka in first T20I

PHOTO: AFP

Pakistan’s head coach-cum-chief selector Misbahul Haq, in his first Twenty20 International (T20I) match incharge, might have shaken the solid combination that made the Men in Green a dominant side in the shortest format of cricket. The fact that this shake-up occurred on the heels of a fast-approaching T20 World Cup will create unease for every Pakistan cricket fan.

A lot of factors contributed to the defeat of the number-one ranked Pakistan side at the hands of a depleted number-eight ranked Sri Lanka. The defeat cannot be chalked down to a fluke, as the Islanders were completely dominant during their quest for victory.

Inorder to assess the damage done, however, we must first identify what made Pakistan the most complete side in T20I cricket.

The removal of trouble makers, the perfect blend of youth and experience, the presence of all-rounders backed up by capable specialists were responsible in Pakistan’s wonderfully dominant run after the 2016 International Cricket Council (ICC) World Twenty20.

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The top of the order was populated by prolific batsman Babar Azam and opener Fakhar Zaman. The latter being a regular mainstay in the opening spot, frequently providing Pakistan with solid and free flowing starts.

The young duo at the top were backed by veteran all-rounders, Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez, who had a four-dimensional role in the team. They are reliable batsmen, solid fielders, good part-time bowling options and a source of guidance in tense situations.

The bowling attack, in the previous combination, was probably the most complete attack the format has ever seen. An experienced fast-bowler such as Mohammad Amir was usually paired with a young pacer such as Shaheen Shah Afridi or Usman Shinwari. All-rounder Faheem Ashraf or pacer Hasan Ali acted as the first change bowler.

The spin department contained all-rounders Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Malik and Hafeez, all of whom could be used according to the circumstances.

Taking away the experienced duo not only weakened the batting line-up, it also exposed the lack of back-up options incase the main spinners could not get the job done.

The fast-bowling attack was left toothless, first through selection errors and then through the usage of Faheem instead of Amir, in the early stages of Sri Lanka’s innings. Shaheen’s illness paved the way for pacer Mohammad Hasnain. However, two proven bowlers were needed to strike early.

Pacer Usman Shinwari, who has continually proven his skills with the new ball, should have been added to the playing eleven instead of the bits-and-pieces all-rounder such as Faheem, especially if the bowler was supposed to deliver the new ball.

The biggest setback, however, came in the form of the inclusion of batsmen Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal. With a history of disciplinary indiscretions along with their inconsistent performances, their addition to a perfectly oiled combination has shaken the foundation of the team to its core.

The first impression of Misbah’s reign in the T20 format has arrived. To say that it was a disappointment would be an understatement as the current head coach-cum-chief selector has perfectly displayed the art of destroying a winning combination.