The fans of the Pakistan cricket team have a newfound fear: their team regressing into its former self. In roughly two months, 2019 would become 2020, but for the Men in Green it may still be 2015 — the era when Misbah-ul-Haq was the captain, leader and laggard.
If the team reverts into its 2015 version, watching cricket would once again become like swallowing slow poison, and there is pretty much nothing anyone would be able to do about it.
Back then, Pakistan’s white-ball team was led by a batsman who formed the team’s backbone. He was surrounded by a supporting case full of average players who just simply did not know their roles.
Back then, it seemed that only one player’s role was defined, and that was the captain’s. Misbah had the responsibility to make sure that the team somehow matched that bare-minimum bar. Then it was over to the bowling unit to somehow manufacture a result. The bowlers and the prayers wouldn’t work every time.
The same mechanism was on show recently when Pakistan faced Australia in the three-match T20I series, which the home team won 2-0, and not 3-0 only because the first game of the series was luckily washed out.
This team, too, was led by a batsman—his name being Babar Azam—who was surrounded by others of inferior quality. Like 2015, the 2019 supporting case also had no idea about their role.
Babar was under pressure from the get-go to score so that the team manage to somehow cobble together enough runs. Then, just as it would happen four years ago, bowlers and prayers would be relied upon to conjure up some miracle — a combo that works but only at times.
It’s funny how the team’s regression is caused by pretty much the same folks wearing different hats. Misbah, the captain in 2015, is now the head coach and chief selector. Waqar Younis, the head coach back then, now is the bowling coach. The similarities keep on coming, and reinforce the belief that it is Ground Hog Day in Pakistan cricket.
With less than 12 months to go before World T20, the fans of the top-ranked T20 side in the world are wondering how things have gone so wrong in such a short period of time under new management.
How is it 2015 all over again for Misbah’s men when it’s almost 2020 for the rest of the cricket world?
The author is a sports journalist based in Karachi. He follows cricket and football passionately.