Pakistan’s T20I unit’s stock has plummeted so drastically the past few weeks that ahead of the third and final T20I against Australia, their top rank is no more the predominant narrative.
The angles being discussed instead are the threat of another whitewash, the humiliation at home against a Sri Lanka side full of unknowns and the fact that the so-called number one team has just a single T20I win in the entire 2019.
That sole victory, against South Africa way back in February, also came as a consolation when the series had been surrendered.
Pakistan have zero victories in the nine months since. Granted that for a large chunk of that period no T20I cricket happened, but then during the same phase they have six losses. It would have been seven straight Ls but as you might have heard, rain saved them in the series opener last Sunday.
So what gives? To put it simply, previous studs have turned duds. Not suddenly or overnight but match by match, over by over and failure by failure.
But this is not the first time that a bunch of overachievers fall flat in the face of correction. When the honeymoon phase wears off, things even out and statistical anomalies evaporate, forcing seemingly otherworldly fellas like Fakhar Zaman and Asif Ali appear completely (below) average.
When this happens, teams usually wise up and dump the trash instead of treasuring it. The Misbah-ul-Haq regime is, however, hell-bent on sticking to its guns regarding the duo. Which is why it won’t be surprising if Zaman, who is averaging 6.25 runs per innings across eight T20Is in 2019, still opens the innings today and adds a few more to his grand total of 48 runs this year.
Asif, the other half of the problem, is faring little better with a 2019 batting average of 10.44 in the format.
Daily Jang reports that the duo may finally be benched today but it can’t be said with certainty. If they are retained still it won’t be the strangest calls made by the new regime.
Another possible solution could be to scapegoat Haris Sohail and save one of the two blue-eyed power hitters. Sohail also has two consecutive failures but had two straight half centuries before that so it won’t be a tad unfair it would be borderline criminal to do that to him.
Jang further states that the more dependable Imam-ul-Haq and rookie batsman Khushdil Shah are in the frame for opportunities. Moreover, one of Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz are also likely to be dropped, meaning one of Muhammad Musa Khan and Mohammad Hasnain could be inducted.
Shadab Khan went wicketless in the second T20I but gave away just 25 runs in his four overs. It is unlikely then Usman Qadir will get a look in ahead of him.
Who plays for Australia and who doesn’t … doesn’t matter. Pakistan’s problems are internal.
The match is scheduled to start at 1:30pm PST.