Misbah-ul-Haq evaluated Pakistan's performance in 2019. The year turned out to be a mixed bag as Pakistan managed below-par performances in overseas series, South Africa and Australia tour, whereas they showed a late resurgence in the ICC ODI 2019 World Cup and ended the year on a high in the longer format by routing Sri Lanka in their backyard.
Pakistan have been a force to reckoned with in T20 format but the winning streak got broken disastrously against Sri Lanka with a demoralizing clean sweep in Lahore followed by the 2-0 drubbing handed by Australia in their fortress which rang alarm bells over T20 World Cup preparations but Pakistan still manage to hang by a thread on the number one spot in T20 rankings.
”Overall, we are on the right track. The more we play the longer format, the more we will improve. We need to do a lot of work in white-ball cricket ahead of the all-important ICC T20 World Cup next year,” said Misbah.
“Retaining number one position in T20Is was a big positive for us. No doubt, we did not perform up to the set standards, but this is something we look to build on.
After the rain-truncated game in Rawalpindi, the action moved to Karachi and Pakistan dominated the proceedings right from the start and beat Sri Lanka comprehensively by 263 runs and won the ground-breaking Test series in Pakistan by 1-0.
“Pakistan ended 2019 on a high note with victory against Sri Lanka, but, overall, it was a tough year for Pakistan in Test cricket.”
After Sarfaraz Ahmed's sacking following the World Cup fallout, change in personnel took place not only in management but some new players got several opportunities. Mohammad Rizwan was agile behind the stumps and scored some valiant knocks in trying conditions in Australia which impressed Misbah. Iftikhar Ahmed, who was always on the radar of, chief selector, Misbah was an instant hit in limited-overs cricket and the decision to reintegrate him into the side was spot on.
“Mohammad Rizwan performed very well for us in Australia, which was very good for us. Iftikhar Ahmed joined the team in the latter part of the year and the way he has put up performances in the T20I performances was certainly a plus for us. We can go a long way with a few more additions in the side and with the present players maturing,” Misbah remarked.
Misbah is sanguine about the ability of the pool of players he has been working with over the past few months and believes the players have shown great promise.
“Going further, we have to improve a lot of things in both red-ball and white-ball cricket. This team has enough potential and new boys are also making their way in international cricket. There’s certainly a bright future ahead for us,” former skipper added.
Babar Azam is repaying the faith shown in him, especially, by Mickey Arthur and he has translated his white-ball magnificence to Test cricket this year. That century in Gabba was of the highest class and Babar himself rated it as his best innings of the year in Tests. Moreover, the ton against New Zealand in the Wolrd Cup was Babar's coming of age event as he showed the virtue of courage and bravery on a very tough batting pitch and against a superb bowling attack.
“The emergence of Babar Azam as a mega star across all formats is very good news for Pakistan cricket. He remained No. 1 in T20I cricket and is in the top ten batsmen in the ODI cricket.
“He played some brilliant innings in the World Cup and ended the year by establishing himself as a Test batsman with scintillating performances in Australia and two centuries against Sri Lanka in Pakistan,” Misbah remarked.
Misbah showed concerns over the dip in form of Fakhar Zaman, Hasan Ali and Shadab Khan that he scrutinized as the main factor behind the insipid performances.
“In white-ball cricket, our mainstays like Fakhar Zaman, Hasan Ali and Shadab Khan, on the back of whom we had won the ICC Champions Trophy 2017, lost form at a crucial time, which saw us suffer in the ODI World Cup and T20I format. Though, we managed to stay No. 1 in the format throughout the year. Overall, our win ratio in T20I cricket has fallen,” Misbah said.
Naseem Shah took a match-winning fifer against Sri Lanka in Karachi in his third Test and showed he has truly arrived on the big stage after a distressing outing in Australia where he was undergoing personal tragedy and was making a debut in alien conditions but he is improving voluminously and has certainly bolstered Pakistan's pace arsenal.
Misbah is also pleased with the evolution of Shaheen Afridi as a bowler. The 19-year-old bowled brilliantly in the World Cup and was one of the standout performers in 2019.
“Some of the new bowlers like Naseem Shah and Shaheen Afridi have arrived at the scene and they have been impressive in Test cricket. Naseem got five wickets in the last Test against Sri Lanka.
"Shaheen bowled well in the World Cup and he showed glimpses of being a Test bowler in South Africa, and bowled really well in Australia and here in Pakistan against Sri Lanka.
“We will, hopefully, bank on these two promising fast-bowlers in the future,” Misbah concluded.