There could be changes within the team and the coaching staff as Pakistan prepare for the home series against SA
Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan coach, was left to rue an age-old Pakistan shortcoming after a third successive Test series loss to New Zealand: dropped catches. Pakistan missed eight chances in the second Test in Christchurch, as well as a couple of more difficult ones at Mount Maurangui in the first. They ranged from the straightforward to the half-chance but all of them were dropped, and given that Kane Williamson was on the receiving end of this generosity on at least four occasions, the 2-0 scoreline is perhaps little surprise. The loss also means that Pakistan have now not beaten New Zealand in a Test series for a decade.
“I think the biggest thing in front of us, that we have seen in the past with Pakistan cricket as well, is our dropped chances,” Misbah told the PCB podcast after the series. “I think that has really affected our chances in this series. We missed a lot in both Tests, in which if we had grabbed them, we could have taken the Test further, but we missed them. We need to work on that.”
Pakistan’s fielding was generally poor throughout, continuing a dip in standards that coincided with the departure of fielding coach Steve Rixon in 2018.
Under Rixon, Pakistan, especially their white-ball teams, had become the best fielding side in the country’s history but the board let Rixon go and Pakistan have slipped into older, bad habits.
Better teams than Pakistan’s have come to New Zealand and lost, so expectations were low, especially given the absence of Babar Azam from both games with a thumb injury. The two losses mean that Pakistan have lost each of their last 15 Tests in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. But the contrasting nature of the two losses – a fighting, near-draw in the first at Bay Oval which raised expectations, only to be followed by a wipeout at the Hagley Oval – means that criticism of the team has been fierce. Talk has begun of changes within the team as well as in the coaching staff though it remains just that for now.
“The criticism is valid,” Misbah acknowledged. “The people who criticise are those who believe in this team’s capabilities and the potential of this team. And that potential they showed in phases, like in the first Test when we were down and out in both innings but fought and brought it to a stage where we were five overs from a draw, from nowhere. You see that and of course fans then have expectations and then from there when your performance goes down, then the criticism is justified.
“When you perform below your potential in all three departments, we just need to get up from this and improve our performances. The main objective when you play sport is to win. When you don’t, there are disappointments. When your performances don’t match your expectations then there is sadness. You feel it, that we could’ve done better but we didn’t. On this tour we had opportunities, we created those by playing well but didn’t cash in on them. We have to see why we are getting in positions where we can close Tests but are not being able to do it ultimately.”
Speculation will no doubt rumble along as to the future of Misbah as coach. The board’s cricket committee is due to meet later this month, just before South Africa’s visit, and Misbah will be a topic of discussion there. But there isn’t much time before that series – the first Test in Karachi starts in just under three weeks’ time. There are likely to be changes to the line-up that turns up for that, both in the batting order and bowling attack, though Misbah is looking forward to some home respite.
“That’ll be a good opportunity for us to review and try and improve, and to bring back the confidence that has been shattered in this series,” he said. “We’ll have to plan our own changes keeping in mind home conditions and the South Africa team. In home conditions you’ve played all your life, that gives you confidence. The Quaid-e-Azam trophy has had good performers, so we will look at them too. The mistakes we made here, what we lacked, we need to analyse those and move forward and plan for the next series.”