No bilateral series is insignificant in international cricket, but the series between Pakistan and South Africa starting on Tuesday is very important in many ways.
This will be the best series in terms of cricket quality after the return of international cricket to Pakistan as so far Pakistan has only hosted teams like West Indies, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
The series will also be the focus of attention in the sense that Pakistan’s best batsman Babar Azam will formally begin his captaincy. Many hopes will be attached to him and many keen eyes will be testing his leadership abilities.
In the absence of regulars like Shaun Masood, Mohammad Abbas, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, and Naseem Shah, Babar will be tested on how he builds his line-up. After the drop of Naseem Shah and Mohammad Abbas, a gap has been created in the Pakistani bowling line.
Hassan Ali’s enviable statistics for the recent domestic season have answered a question for Pakistan, but it is up to Babar Azam to decide who will be the fourth bowler.
Prior to this series, the captain has been getting suggestions from the coach for selection, but this is the first time that Misbah-ul-Haq has left the team selection at the discretion of the captain.
By the way, after the drop of Abdullah Shafiq, newcomer Imran Butt can be the opener with Abid Ali. But if Babar Azam wants, he can make a bold decision like playing one-down with Azhar Ali in the opener, which can test South Africa’s strong pace attack.
Team selection is the first stage where the captain openly expresses his cricketing temperament. How bold Babar Azam’s decisions will be will determine the new face and future of this Test team.
Misbah-ul-Haq played all his home cricket in the United Arab Emirates, his special defensive style and controlled aggression is in place, but Pakistan’s conditions are very different from there. Here, the spin-to-pace ratio in a bowling attack cannot be the same as in the UAE.
Pakistan has to win a match in Test cricket throughout the year. The main reason for this bad continuity has been the lack of experience and leadership in the lineup. Babar Azam will have to answer these two questions, then he will be able to take Pakistan’s Test cricket forward.
Because on the other hand, the situation of the South African team is not different from that of Pakistan. She had lost nine out of ten Test matches before winning the Boxing Day Test against Sri Lanka. After the departure of players like Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn, Morkel, and Philander, Mark Boucher’s new coaching setup has been experimenting with success.
For now, the main strength of Quentin de Kock’s convoy is Dan Elgar’s form and the presence of bowlers like Rabada and Norkia, but in the conditions of the last two days of the match, this pace attack will need a reverse swing and so will Boucher. There will have to be some tough decisions that they have hinted at.
It is very easy to play Test cricket in home conditions. Pakistan has this advantage, but the future of Misbah and Waqar Younis is at stake. Viewers will also need to justify the presence of newcomers Thaqleen Mushtaq and Mohammad Yousuf in the coaching setup.
Having a batsman like Babar Azam is a blessing for any team. But will having a captain like Babar also be a blessing for this team? The answer may be found on the toss tomorrow morning.