The Sun is about to rise again, the men are back on their national duties, and at last Pakistan Cricket team will return to the field after a hibernation of five long months. Amid the Hullabaloo of Pakistan basking in the glory of Champions Trophy win and warm welcome of the sight of return of the Country’s lifeline (Cricket) live in front of millions of Fans.
There will be two men sitting in two different cities, two men who have walked in the sunset after illustrious careers, two men who have served and carried the burden of Pakistan Cricket for almost two decades. Misbah –ul-Haq and Younis Khan’s name will not be on the scoreboard when the Test team locks horn with Sri Lanka in upcoming Test Series. The Collective departure of both players not only marked the end of an Era but it also signals the generational shift in Pakistan Test team, a new dawn and some exciting times lie ahead.
While the absence of Misbah and Younis can be sole evidence for a new start for Pakistan but likely end of careers of Saeed Ajmal, Zulfiqar Babar, Akmal Brothers simply refers a major shift in Pakistan Cricket. Here we will try to look at the pool of players on whom Pakistan can bank on to take the baton from Misbah and Younis.
Failure to get decent openers in recent years have forced Azhar Ali to move from no. 3 to the opening position. However, the problem of other opening slot is yet to be fixed.With Sami Aslam and Shaan Masood’s failure to bring consistency in their game after an early promise means the competition is wide open. Among the Contenders, Habib Bank’s Fakhar Zaman is strongest especially after his breathtaking century in Final of Champions Trophy. Zaman made 170 in his last first class inning against WAPDA in Qaide Azam Trophy Final last season. He already has 2269 runs at an average of 42 in First Class and seems to be the first choice as of now.
Babar Azam hasn’t set the stage on fire in Test Cricket but the potential in the youngster and the way Micky Arthur rate him he is sure to start at no. 3. While it is highly likely that Asad Shafiq, who has batted most of his career at no.6 might have a gradual upshift to no.4 boosting the top order. This leaves the competition for no.5 and no.6 interesting one, and there are multiple candidates for these two slots.
Fawad Alam has been brilliant for Sui Southern Gas Corporation. He has been churning runs season after season and looking at his record; one might wonder (10,172 runs at 56.51) why hasn’t he been able to make a comeback in the Test team? He has the required experience and at 31 can become Pakistan’s Michel Hussey.
Usman Salahuddin is another youngster with immense potential and performance behind his name. The Right hander who plays at no. 4 for National Bank is said to have a strong temperament especially suited for Test Cricket. Haris Sohail is another strong contender to be part of a fresh faced middle order. Sohail averages 52 in first class cricket and is said to be having a very attractive game. Apart from them, Umar Amin and Adil Amin have been equally impressive and have a great chance of getting a test cap.
With Sarfaraz appointed as Captain, there is no one who seems to be challenging him as a keeper. The bowling has some exciting names, While Mohammad Amir and Yasir Shah are sure starters barring any injuries, The arrivals of Hasan Ali and Mohammad Abbas on the big stage and the assurance provided by them through quality performance on Caribbean tour has been a big relief for Pakistan who were facing problems with the decline of Wahab Riaz.
Abbas has been a continuous performer in domestic circuit topping the charts in last few seasons. However, his previous season performance where he took a whopping 71 wickets in just 10 matches at a sensational average of just 12.74 made it hard for the selectors to ignore him. Like Abbas, Tabish Khan has been a domestic warhorse, but at 32, the Karachi pacer seems to have past his opportunity time.
United Bank’s Mir Hamza and Khan Research’s Sadaf Hussain are the two other very talented fast bowlers who have taken bundles of wickets at domestic level. Hamza has 216 wickets at 19.15 while 27 year old Sadaf Hussain has claimed 311 wickets at a staggering average of 18. While Domestic cricket cannot be a parameter to guarantee success at International Level but they are a mirror of what resources you possess.
Whoever may get the opportunity, UAE will Witness an October Sky under which Pakistan’s generation next will take guard to ensure that the generation following it gets better opportunities to emulate Younis and Misbah.