In Pakistan cricket, 2019 was the year of questionable calls, honest-to-God mistakes and out-and-out blunders.
The outgoing year had the PSL, the World Cup and a drought-breaking home Test series. It, thus, saw plenty of action but at the same time it saw just as many mistakes. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), the management, the captain(s) as well as the players — all contributed to the mess that this calendar year was.
Here’s a recap of all that went wrong:
Everyone but the PCB knew that Fakhar Zaman had been supremely out of form since the summer of 2018. Over a 26-game block before the World Cup 2019, he had averaged 29.34 runs. Despite that knowledge and fair warnings that the technically lacking leftie was a bubble waiting to be burst, the PCB went into the World Cup with just him and Imam-ul-Haq as their only two recognised openers.
He averaged even less at the tournament, with his 23.25 runs per innings often leaving Pakistan short of a solid foundation, and put unnecessary pressure on the middle-order to make up.
Australia, India and England all have far bigger, better and more successful cricketing setups. Neither of the trio has ever thought of ditching their chief selector and handing the job to the head coach.
Yet, this happened in Pakistan, thanks to the PCB.
Not only was there no precedent of a one-man-do-it-all appointment but the move was also ill-thought-out as weeks into Misbah’s appointment the board realized that he would need a coordinator.
The ‘coordination’ gig, eventually landed by Nadeem Khan, was a tacit admission that the board dropped the ball.
READ: 5 talking points from 'selected' head coach Misbah's appointment
The two things everyone and their mothers know about Waqar Younis are that he used to bowl a mean yorker, and that he is possibly the most difficult people to work with/under.
From staging mutinies against his captain in the 90's to allegedly trying to end careers in the 2000's, Younis has time and again proven to be a bad man manager.
Contrary to his reputation and perception, he cannot be given credit for producing any notable fast bowlers during his many stints in various capacities. Yet, he gets the nod once again for the bowling coach. Like that experiment hasn’t failed enough times already.
Pakistan is no stranger to post-World Cup purges, especially when the team does not make even semi-finals. The PCB changed most things after the tournament this year except for the captain. Replacing Sarfaraz Ahmed then and starting anew would have made the most sense at the time. The board flinched and missed the opportunity.
Rumour has it that it wasn’t Sarfaraz’s idea to give Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad a couple more in the T20I series against Sri Lanka. Misbah was the architect of the plan that failed so spectacularly. In the end, the Karachi native had to pay the price.
Once the ship had sailed, the PCB eventually did wield the axe. It was clear that Sarfaraz had been sacked due to the mauling of his team —which he had not picked — received at the hands of Sri Lanka.
Suddenly, the sacking which might have made total sense a month or so ago, appeared to seem unjustified and even gave the debate a wholly unfortunate ethnic angle.
Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.
Naseem Shah is not legal driving age and won’t be for two years. He’s played a grant total of five first-class matches. Yet, the first time he’s picked in the Pakistan squad is for the tour of Australia. Neither the legendary Imran Khan, nor the magical Wasim Akram or anyone else before, in between or after them has ever won in Australia.
The uber talented Mohammad Asif had struggled so much on his debut tour of Australia, Bob Woolmer had purportedly called him useless. Yet, the 16-year-old Shah and the 19-year-old Muhammad Musa were picked.
Add to it a 33-year-old debutant spin all-rounder in Kashif Bhatti and a 32-year-old Imran Khan Sr, who has not exactly been moving mountains the past few years.
It’s pretty clear that the PCB has decided not to pick Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik again. They are well within their rights to discard a pair of almost 40-year-olds.
But if a policy decision has been made (Hafeez certainly thinks so) in this regard, the least the veteran duo deserve is knowing that the doors are shut on them. And the doors for now certainly are shut because if the two can’t have a look in in an easy home assignment and a difficult away one, what else is left?
By picking fan-favourite Fawad Alam for the Sri Lanka Test series, it has seemed as of the powers that be very finally ready to right an old and unforgivable wrong.
Sadly for Fawad though, he was not picked in either of the two Test. Haris Sohail, despite his shoddy post-World Cup form was retained under the pretence that he can also bowl. Sohail bowled a grand total of 10 overs over two Tests and scored a paltry nine runs on the only occasions he got to bat.
Fawad, too, could have done that, which would not only have been a much deserved reward for his domestic form but also would have satisfied his fans. With no Test series on the calendar for months, it is very likely that this may be it for him. After all, there has to be a limit to even his determination.