Shan Masood calls for patience amid Pakistan’s struggles

Shan Masood calls for patience amid Pakistan’s struggles

MELBOURNE: Pakistan Test captain Shan Masood has called on for patience regarding the side’s development into a well-oiled unit in the red-ball format.

Shan and his men were subjected to a 360-run drubbing in the first fixture of the three-match Test series against Australia last week after which the Pakistan players were met with heavy criticism from fans and pundits. Ahead of the second Test, which started at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Tuesday, Shan said a single game was “never a fair assessment” to judge Pakistan’s Test credentials.

The left-handed batter beli­eved Pa­k­i­stan needed to tick a number of boxes, ranging from domestic cricket structure to squad depth and preparation, to gradually improve as a Test side.

“You need time, you need a bit more time,” Shan told reporters on Monday. “You’ve already got a squad that’s been playing Test cricket for a while. You have to look at the domestic structure and the players available for red-ball cricket. A lot of things you need before you can sort of force that way of playing.”

While Shan, who had batted conventionally thro­ugh most of his career, has swit­ched to a more attacking approach over the last couple of years, the rest of the Pakistan batters are still on their way to make that ada­ptation with the Test format now requiring higher scoring rates.

That aspect of the visitors’ vulnerability was evident with their difference of scores as compared to that of Australia, who piled up heaps of runs in almost the same number of overs as Pakistan.

In their first innings Pakistan openers Imam-ul-Haq and Abdullah Shafique had seen off the threat posed by new-ball bowlers Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, but they failed to score enough runs through that time.

Their low scoring rate piled pressure on the batters down the order and they succumbed to it. The second innings was worse for Pakistan as cracks opened up on a fourth-day Perth pitch.

“… be adaptable to different situations,” Shan said. “Be positive. And not have huge margins where the other team is scoring at 4.5 and we’ll let them score at 4.5 as a bowling unit and not picking up those wickets in an earlier phase and not in 110 overs.”

But the Pakistan skipper added that his players needed to “buy in” to those ideas.

“You need players to buy in,” said Shan. “We want to give players ample opportunity to buy into the way we want to play.

“There are some things that we’ve said from the outside that we want to play a more attractive brand of Test cricket.

“We did that in Sri Lanka. We got some results as well. The challenge now is to do it against the best teams in world cricket.”

Pakistan have been hit hard by injuries since Perth with fast bowler Khurram Shahzad and their two leading spinners, Abrar Ahmed and Noman Ali, all ruled out of the Melbourne match.

They named a 12-man squad with Sarfraz Ahmed and speedster Faheem Ashraf axed.

Mohammad Nawaz will take the gloves, with Mir Hamza and Hasan Ali in contention for Khurram’s place in the attack alongside veteran Shaheen Shah Afridi and impressive newcomer Aamer Jamal.

With Abrar and Noman sidelined, Sajid Khan is their only spin option.

“We think Rizwan is ready and we can give Sarfraz a little bit of a break to recoup and come back,” said Shan. “It’s more of a tactical decision in terms of the conditions and what we can get out of each player.”

Australia, meanwhile, named an unchanged XI the Boxing Day Test as they look to seal the series.

Pacer Scott Boland, who took 6-7 on debut at the MCG against England in 2021, missed out.

“We’re a huge fan of Scotty, I don’t think that’s a secret,” skipper Pat Cummins told reporters. “He’s ready to go if anything happens, so I’m sure he’ll play a part at some point.

“The message (to Boland) is always ‘we love what you bring, unfortunately, you miss out on this one but don’t change, keep working hard and make sure you stay ready’.”

Showers and potential thunderstorms are expected for the first day of play but are forecast to clear by Wednesday afternoon and Cummins said he was confident of a result.

“I think there will be plenty of time to finish the game. I don’t think (the weather) will change anything,” he said. “(The wicket) looks pretty good. Fair bit of grass, probably a little bit harder and not as green as last year.”

AUSTRALIA XI: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Mitch Marsh, Alex Carey, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins (captain), Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood

PAKISTAN XII: Imam-ul-Haq, Abdullah Shafique, Shan Masood (captain), Babar Azam, Saud Shakeel, Mohammad Rizwan, Salman Ali Agha, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Hasan Ali, Mir Hamza, Aamer Jamal, Sajid Khan.

Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2023


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