THE Test series loss against South Africa has once again exposed the brittleness of Pakistan’s batting and the lack of mental toughness among the players which for long has been the Achilles’ heel of our national team. Although the tourists put up an improved show in the second Test at Cape Town compared to the rout at Johannesburg, where they had capitulated for an all-time low of 49, it was their batting once again that let them down giving the hosts a decisive 2-0 lead in the three-match series. In the final analysis, one is compelled to note that the Pakistan Cricket Board and the team management overlooked several key factors while planning for the extraordinary assignment at hand i.e. going into battle with the top team in world cricket that South Africa is today.
To begin with, the tour itinerary contained basic flaws with only a couple of practice games scheduled in between the Tests that were clearly insufficient and did little to familiarise our players with the bouncy tracks or to acclimatise them to the sultry weather. The weeklong camp in Lahore prior to the series, too, served no purpose since the coaches failed to draw the players out of the hit-and-run Twenty20 mode which eventually proved to be the team’s undoing in the five-day format. Moreover, the absurd choice of replacement players — Tanvir Ahmed and Rahat Ali — backfired as both the players failed to make any impact in the Tests. While Saeed Ajmal’s 10 wickets at Cape Town and fine centuries from Younis Khan and Asad Shafiq have been a few high points for Pakistan on the tour, Misbah-ul-Haq and his men have failed to fire as a unit so far. They must regroup now to win the third Test and avoid a white wash which, unfortunately, looks imminent.