The outcome of our recent Test series in Australia has been very disappointing. I find it very hard to put it into words. I feel it is our worst performance in the six years since I took over the Test captaincy. This was not a team that should lose six Tests on the trot - we never thought that could happen. It was the worst possible scenario.
Ever since we lost to West Indies in the third Test in Sharjah in October, we have not been able to regain our winning momentum that saw us briefly rise to number one in the world earlier this year. It all started with the batting collapse there and then a substandard performance in New Zealand. We reached Australia on the back of three defeats and the team was low on confidence.
The 3-0 series defeat to Australia has been a huge setback for us. It is always huge when you lose amidst high expectations.
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I feel what happened in Melbourne in particular was a massive blow. The batsmen, especially Azhar Ali with his superb double-hundred, had worked hard and helped us post 443 in our first-innings. When you have scored nearly 450 and dominated the match for two days you need your bowlers to back up the batsmen’s hard work. But the two sessions and 58 overs in which Australia scored 278 tilted the momentum that we had gained in the second innings in Brisbane back towards Australia. When you score 450 and the other team still goes ahead of you, that is simply demoralising.
We always talk about batting in overseas conditions but it is actually bowling that wins you matches. When Asian teams tour Australia the bowlers have a bigger role to play than the batsmen. You need to have bowlers who can get you 20 wickets.
When India visited Australia two years ago, Virat Kohli alone scored four hundreds yet still they were on the losing side.
England just toured India and often posted big totals, but they too lost the series. We scored 443 and 450 in Australia and still could not win. No matter how many runs you are scoring, at end of the day it is 20 wickets that will win you Tests.
That is no excuse for our lackluster batting though. We could have easily batted out the last day at the MCG. A couple of wickets fell and then we could not gather ourselves.
In Sydney, it was as if we were playing under Melbourne’s shadow. In truth, Australia had a massive impact on us in the previous match.
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But winning and losing is part of the game. The best way to get yourself out of such situations is to focus on the mistakes that you have made and work hard to improve. We have couple of months before our next series. This team indeed has the ability to win in future and I’m sure we can bounce back.
Playing in Australia and South Africa is totally different to playing anywhere else in the world. When don’t have experience of their conditions, it is very difficult to challenge the home team. If you are playing against a team other than Australia in Australia, it is a different scenario but tourists will keep struggling unless their players are being sent there regularly.
I noted some very harsh comments from Ian Chappell about my place in the team, my leadership and about whether Pakistan should have toured Australia. I believe those comments were uncalled for and unbecoming to someone who has a vast experience of playing and watching cricket. The comments do not make any sense or suit a cricketer of his stature.
Australia themselves have been on the losing side in the recent away tours. They were clean swept by a Sri Lanka side that did not have Mahela Jayawardena or Kumar Sangakkara and some of their players didn’t even have 10 Tests to their names. Then Australia lost the one-day international series 0-5 in South Africa. In the recent past they have been whitewashed by us in the UAE and in India.
If we apply Chappell’s comments to Australia, does that mean if they continue to get whitewashed on the subcontinent on a regular basis then they should also not travel there?
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And if Australia does not travel to Asia or the Asian teams do no travel to Australia then how are they going to improve?
I think there’s been a gap between the teams because we hardly tour.
If we tour Australia only every seven years (our previous Test tour Down Under was in 2009-10) then how are we going to improve? The next time we will go there, there might be 8-9 new faces and just two or three players that were part of the previous tour.
We accept that we had a bad tour to Australia but it is largely the same team that had defied expectations over the past six years. The team in fact started winning abroad when it won 1-0 in New Zealand in 2011. Last year, we won two Tests in England and drew the series 2-2.
There were a few good performances in Australia too but we just could not put it all together. We need to improve in certain areas and learn from the experience. I feel we have the ability to do well in the future. The fans and the supporters and the players of the Pakistan team should not lose hope.
Personally, it was a tough tour for me as well. Never before have I been through such a lean patch as a batsman. Things were going alright during the West Indies series and even in the first innings in New Zealand, I didn’t do too badly. My second innings was poor and then I had to return home. I lost momentum and could not regain form.
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When you are under pressure you play shots that you have not played before. Your calculations of risk get blown out of proportion. I always say as a captain, first you need to perform your primary skill as a batsman or a bowler to a high standard. If you are not doing that, then more problems being to emerge.
I had an option of prolonging my stay in Australia as Brad Haddin had talked to me about a possible stint in the KFC Big Bash League with the Sydney Sixers but I wanted to give myself a break and spend some time at home before my next cricketing assignment, the Pakistan Super League.
There have been lot of questions about my retirement but at the moment I have taken a time-out. That’s why I have not made any decision about it. I want to spend some time at home and then play in the PSL. I will then analyse how much passion for cricket I have left in me and whether I can play on. I think when you are playing cricket and enjoying your performances, it gives you an idea if you want to continue or not. But if you are not enjoying the competition then it becomes difficult to play. The PSL will be important for me in making a decision on my international future.