Australia were all over them and Pakistan were nowhere to be seen. Australia were dominant right from the word go and Pakistan were crushed into little chunks as this tough, long, grueling and hardworking Australian summer began for them. Since the very first day when Pakistan set foot on Australian soil, they have been subjected to the highest level of scrutiny and criticism both from home and away.
Going to Australia and playing there is already tough, and winning even tougher. But playing away against one of the best teams on their home turf AND with the extra pressure of scrutiny from all sides of the world is inconceivably tougher still. Such were the circumstances. Pressure was at an all-time high and the expected results… well, let’s just say ‘expected.’
The first Test at Brisbane was a highly anticipated day/night game. This one started off as expected; Australia was dominant and Pakistan was being thrashed in all the departments of the game, before taking an unexpected turn. A very unexpected turn, yet it didn’t seem so unusual, keeping in mind Pakistan’s track record of surprising people. Pakistan was on the brink of chasing down 490, a world record 490, and they fell short by only a mere 39 runs. That was a heroic performance. The expectations of winning were not met, but some hope was instilled in the people, and some belief was instilled into the team: the belief that they could achieve it despite their many doubters.
Everything took a downward shift after that. It’s not that Pakistan were completely outplayed by Australia, but they lost and lost convincingly. Although there were some pretty good individual performances, the next two Tests weren’t much of a contest. As expected, the criticism started again, things went from bad to worse for Pakistan once again, and everything went back to the way they always had been.
Everything disturbed, all messy around, nothing in its place and just not working out for Pakistan. Australia, enjoying the recent shift of momentum, looked ruthless coming into the ODI series.
Everybody, and by everybody I mean literally everybody, simply wrote off Pakistan in the ODI series based on their past record in ODIs. This was very much evident from the first ODI. While Pakistan managed to restrict Australia to a relatively low total (for these days in cricket), it was also clear that Pakistan weren’t going to be winning anything from there on. The low total was only because Australia were attempting to make dry and slow pitches to prepare for their next big challenge in India. Pakistan, on the other hand, took huge advantage of it with their precious and well-constructed spin attack. After all this, Pakistan lost. Australia won. Convincingly.
This match had one positive, and that was the injury of Azhar Ali. That was a blessing in disguise for them. So many have been dying to see him leave the Pakistan ODI team as a captain, but the board has been sticking with him for some reason that the public cannot decipher.
Azhar Ali leaving the captaincy is what every true Pakistan fan wants. Don’t get them wrong: they do want Azhar Ali the batsman, but they don’t want Azhar Ali the captain. That’s all there is to it. According to them, he simply isn’t captaincy material. And let’s be frank here; he isn’t. That is as straight as it gets. He simply doesn’t have the aura required to lead a team.
Due to this blessing in disguise, Mohammad Hafeez was chosen to lead Pakistan once again, the first time since the World T20 2014 and leading the ODI team for the first time. Hafeez isn’t an extraordinary captain, but he certainly is better than Azhar. And that is what everybody wanted at that point of time: To get rid of Azhar by one way or the other.
Hafeez became captain. Pakistan once again dominated, partly due to the dry and spin friendly tracks, partly due to Pakistan’s spin attack, and a minor contribution could be due to the change in captaincy. Australia were restricted to a pretty low total and Pakistan chased it with only a few hiccups on the way. Hafeez was the top scorer.
This has been a blessing in disguise for Pakistan and their fans. Although Hafeez is not a permanent prospect for the captaincy, and he shouldn’t take on the captaincy for a long time, there are many players with great potential in the team who are young and must be nurtured and matured before being given the captaincy.
Overall, Azhar Ali’s injury and the win under Hafeez would have given hope to the fans and an awakening prod to the team management. One that would make them accept the fact that Azhar is simply not captaincy material.
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