Mission impossible?

December 10, 2023

Winning a Test series in Australia has remained an elusive dream for every Pakistani captain

Mission impossible?

The first Test between Pakistan and Australia starts from Thursday at Perth. This series is Pakistan’s second assignment in the World Test Championship round of 2023-25. In their first series, the Green-caps beat Sri Lanka 2-0 at their home to reach the top of the WTC table.

Winning a Test series in Australia has remained an elusive dream for every Pakistani captain.

Overall, Pakistan and Australia have played 69 Tests. Australia have a clear upper hand with 34 wins while Pakistan have won 15 matches. They have won only four of the 37 Tests Pakistan played in Australia, with the home side winning 26 matches.

Pakistan’s last Test series (2019-20) loss was the fifth consecutive time that Pakistan were whitewashed in Australia. Since winning in Sydney in November 1995, they have lost 15 consecutive Tests in Australia.

After Australia’s easy wins over Pakistan, former England captain Michael Vaughan said that only India are good enough to beat Australia on their soil.

India have played 107 Tests with Australia in 27 series since 1947-48. India won 32 and lost 45. Australia lead the way with 12 series wins to India’s 10, while five series have been drawn.

Interestingly, India have won the last two Test series on Australian soil, in 2018-19, and 2022-23, by 2-1 each. Team India has remained unbeaten in the last four Test series against Australia.

The Australian conditions don’t suit our players. Pakistan have many talented individuals, but as a team they have failed to deliver in Australia.

A comparatively inexperienced side has been sent for a tough tour of Australia. The selectors have included in the squad left-handed opening batter Saim Ayub who scored 553 runs in four matches for Karachi Whites in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2023-24 and was declared batsman of the tournament.

Young right-arm fast bowler Khurram Shahzad has also got his maiden Test call. He was the highest wicket-taker of Quaid-e-Azam Trophy this season with 36 wickets in eight matches at an average of 20.31. He also picked up 13 wickets at 16.62 in the recently concluded Pakistan Cup.

Another left-arm pacer Mir Hamza, who registered 32 wickets at 20.88 in Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, has been selected for the tough tour.

It is a usual practice in other cricket-playing countries that management gives chances to young players on their home ground or against low-ranked teams abroad, but in Pakistan youngsters are selected for tough tours like Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.

After winning the World Cup, confident Aussies look too hot to handle for Pakistani bowlers.

If Shan Masood wants to create history in Australia, it’s important that his batsmen post 400 plus score on the board so that bowlers can bowl according to their plan.

After Naseem Shah’s injury, team Pakistan faced another setback when fast bowler Haris Rauf withdrew from the Australia tour. He revealed that he has been particularly affected by criticism received during the World Cup campaign, with concerns raised about his form and wicket-taking capabilities.

Rauf believes that, to play Test cricket, he needs to be in the right state of mind both physically and mentally.

But he will take part in the Big Bash League (BBL) in Australia. The PCB has granted Rauf a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) to play in the BBL.

In the absence of Naseem Shah and Rauf responsibilities will be on Shaheen Afridi, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Wasim Jr, young Mir Hamza and Khurram Shahzad.

Bowling coach Umer Gul has the responsibility to teach our fast bowlers the skill of swinging the new ball for which he was known in his playing days. Our pacers only bowl fast and short. The era of yorkers seems to have ended with the careers of Wasim and Waqar. The two Ws got lots of wickets with their lethal yorkers, especially against the tail-enders.

Pakistan’s spin department looks too ordinary against the hosts’ strong batting. Slow left arm orthodox bowler Noman Ali and leg-break googly bowler Abrar Ahmed have collectively played 21 Tests and taken 85 wickets.

On the other hand, Australian right arm off-break bowler Nathan Lyon alone has played 122 Test matches and taken 496 wickets at an average of 31.

The history of Pakistan’s Test cricket in Australia since 2000 reflects a tale of near misses and hard-fought battles. While the team has shown moments of brilliance, clinching a series victory on Australian soil has proven to be a formidable task.

The problem for Pakistan is that their batsmen don’t like pitches that offer bounce. Australian pitches, known for their pace and bounce, present a stark contrast to the subcontinent’s slow, turning tracks. Pakistani bowlers have often found it challenging to adjust their lengths and lines, leading to difficulties in extracting movement and maintaining pressure on Australian batsmen.

Only six players - Babar Azam, Shaan Masood, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Rizwan, Sarfraz Ahmed and Shaheen Shah Afridi - in the current squad have the experience of playing in Australia.

Babar has played five Tests in Australia, and scored 278 runs, averaging 27.80 including one hundred and one fifty.

Shan has played two Tests on Australian soil and managed 156 runs with the help of one fifty at an average of 39.

Opener Imam-ul-Haq has played only one Test in which he managed 2 & 0.

Shaheen Afridi has played two Tests in Australia and taken five wickets after conceding 184 runs at an average of 36.80.

Fielding is also a crucial aspect of modern cricket, and in Australia, where the outfield is fast and the ball travels quickly, sharp fielding becomes even more critical. Unfortunately, Pakistan have often faltered in the field, dropping crucial catches and missing run-out opportunities.

In a closely contested series, these lapses can prove to be the difference between victory and defeat.

Cricket is as much a mental game as it is a physical one, and the mental toughness required to compete in Australia has been a stumbling block for Pakistan. The relentless pressure applied by the Australian team, both with bat and ball, can be overwhelming.

Wasim Akram-led Pakistan were whitewashed during the tour of Australia in 1999-2000. Inzamam-ul-Haq was the captain in 2004-05. In 2009-10, Mohammad Yousuf was the leader when Pakistan faced the third consecutive whitewash in Australia.

In 2017, Misbah-ul-Haq-led Pakistan were whitewashed despite creditable performances from Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq and presence of Younis Khan. Pakistan were unable to pick up all 20 Australian wickets in any of the three Tests during the tour.

Former captain Javed Miandad is the most successful batsman in Tests played between the two nations with 1797 runs in 25 Tests between the two nations. He averaged 47.28, scoring six centuries and seven fifties.

Allan Border scored 1666 runs in 22 matches for Australia at an average of 59.50, hitting six hundred and eight half-centuries.

Former Australian skipper Mark Taylor played the longest innings - 334 not out in Peshawar in 1998. Saleem Malik’s 237 in Rawalpindi in 1994 has been the highest individual score from Pakistan.

Saleem Malik’s 557 is also the highest score in a three-Test series, which he accumulated in the 1994-95 series in Pakistan. Graham Yallop scored 554 runs for Australia in the 1983-84 series. But that series consisted of five matches.

On Australian soil, Azhar Ali was the first Pakistan batsman to score 400 runs in a series, in Australia in 2017. He raced past Mohsin Khan’s 390 in 1983-84. He also became the first Pakistan double-centurion down under.

Former spin great Shane Warne took 90 wickets in 15 Tests against Pakistan, averaging 20.17. Former captain Imran Khan is on top from Pakistan with 64 wickets at an average of 24.96.

Greg Chappell, Kim Hughes and Mark Taylor led Australia in 9 Tests each against Pakistan. Javed Miandad led Pakistan 9 times against the Aussies.

However, that is all past. The players should now concentrate on the current series. Fans hope that the Green-caps will break the jinx of not winning in Australia. It is an opportunity for the young players to prove their skills.


Mission impossible?