NEW ZEALAND’S 5-0 whitewash of Pakistan in the ODI series has dismayed fans whose expectations of the national team had considerably arisen after the Champions Trophy win in England last June.
The series, despite the participation of many talented youngsters, proved disastrous with the Pakistanis hardly putting up a fight, barring perhaps the fourth game that was taken away from them by de Grandhomme’s onslaught.
In the final analysis, none of the factors that won Pakistan that grand ICC event last year — ie skipper Sarfraz Ahmed’s swagger and lead-from-the-front style, the top order’s batting consistency, match-winning bowling spells from Hasan Ali and Mohammad Aamir — were on display against New Zealand.
Improved fielding standards, perhaps, were the only uplifting aspect. Though there were some good individual performances, especially from all-rounder Shadab Khan, the team lacked the winning edge.
International tours have always been a daunting prospect for the subcontinent’s teams, primarily owing to the bouncy pitches and strong weather conditions they face abroad, as opposed to the featherbeds in their own cricket grounds.
Passion for the game and a population skewed towards the young that gives the sport enough players earn them occasional success on foreign tours but hardly ever a clean sweep.
Inexplicably, not enough has been invested in infrastructure, player academies, sports medicine, coaching and a stable administration which could guarantee a robust domestic framework and produce quality players.
Pakistan’s case has been made worse by the lingering threat of terrorism, which means that there have been no home series for several years.
There is also the spectre of match-fixing that often rears its ugly head and deprives the country of exceptional talent such as Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif, and more recently Sharjeel Khan. Measures to remedy this imbalance would be more useful than making hasty changes in the squad.
Players like Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Baber Azam, Ruman Raees and Haris Sohail are future stars and must be groomed well to serve the country for a decade and more.