Becoming the first ever batsman to score a century, both on One-day International and Test debuts, was not enough for Pakistan opener Abid Ali to be recognised by the team’s head coach-cum-chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq in his year-ender statement issued by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Tuesday.
Abid, after toiling hard and performing consistently in the domestic cricket circuit for the past seven years, finally made it to the national side this year, kicking off his international career with a century against Australia in the United Arab Emirates in March.
The right-hander, who idolises Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar, opened his Test career with a hundred as well, which came against Sri Lanka in the first Test at Rawalpindi early last month. Abid went on to score another century in the second Test in Karachi.
With the PCB not yet having awarded Abid for his unique achievement, Misbah too missed out on mentioning his name while he talked about happenings in Pakistan cricket in 2019.
Misbah, however, expressed concern over the injury and form issues of opener Fakhar Zaman, pacer Hasan Ali and leg-spinner Shadab Khan, the trio which played a key role in Pakistan’s ICC Champions Trophy triumph in 2019.
According to Misbah, who was a part of the PCB’s cricket committee during the 2019 ICC World Cup, said the absence of Fakhar, Hasan and Shadab was one of the major reasons of Pakistan’s failure to qualify for the semi-finals of the mega event.
Misbah also hailed the emergence of middle-order batsman Babar Azam as a mega star across all formats, as he retained No.1 position in the world T20 ranking and he is also ranked in top ten batsmen of the ODI format.
The emergence of fast bowlers Nasim Shah and Shaheen Shah Afridi was also an encouraging prospect for Misbah, who, earlier into his tenure as the head coach and chief selector had admitted that Pakistan was struggling to find good pacers.
Nasim, after a tough debut against Australia in November’s first Test in Brisbane, was rested in the second, but bagged five wickets in a match-winning bowling performance in the second Test against Sri Lanka in Karachi. Shaheen took five in the first innings of the match as well.
“Nasim 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,” said Misbah.
“We will hopefully bank on these two promising fast-bowlers in the future.”
Misbah also praised the performance of wicket-keeper/batsman Mohammad Rizwan, who is finally looking to consolidate his place in the national side after former skipper and wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed was dropped. It also indicates that Sarfraz will have to wait to make a come back in international cricket.
“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,” Misbah said.
Meanwhile, Misbah did not express satisfaction over the overall performance of Pakistan in all the three formats.
”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 the former Pakistan captain.
“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.
“Pakistan ended 2019 on a high note with victory against Sri Lanka, but, overall, it was a tough year for Pakistan in Test cricket.”