@Yas_Wisden 3 minute read
Pakistan’s first series under new Test captain Shan Masood is an away tour of Australia, where Pakistan have a wretched recent record – will a new approach yield new results?
“Test cricket has changed,” asserts the new Pakistan captain Shan Masood. “As a batting unit our scoring rate has to improve and we need to be equipped and determined to take 20 wickets. These are the basics of Test matches. We will try and do our best to do these things properly. We have spoken together as a team to play with a positive mindset and an aggressive mindset. Whenever we get an opportunity to put the opposition under pressure, we will look to jump on it.”
There are few jobs in cricket as tough as the Pakistan Test captaincy and if Masood’s early proclamations are anything to go by, the new captain will not shy away from the challenge. And some opening challenge he has. Pakistan’s recent record in Australia is appalling, having lost their last 14 Tests on Australian soil – a stretch running back to their win in Sydney in November 1995. Babar Azam, who preceded Masood as captain, was one year old at the time.
So will Masood’s appointment as captain herald a new approach? Pakistan won 10, lost six and drew four of the Tests they played under Babar Azam’s captaincy – a more than decent record. In fact, of Pakistan players to captain their country in 20 or more Tests, only Javed Miandad and Imran Khan have superior win-loss ratios. Babar’s tenure oversaw series wins at home against South Africa and away to Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
A major blot on his copybook, though, was his side’s recent record at home where they were winless over their past eight Tests on Pakistani soil. They battled not just high class opposition in Australia, England and New Zealand but a succession of extremely flat pitches that made forcing results particularly challenging.
England’s 3-0 win in Pakistan was inspired by record-breaking scoring rates from the away team, manufacturing extra time in the game to take the 20 wickets needed for victory. Across those three Tests, England scored at 5.50 runs per over – an all-time Test record scoring rate across a series. It is in those sort of conditions that Pakistan are most likely to benefit from a more proactive approach.
Since his recall against England last year, Masood has batted noticeably quicker than he had during previous runs in the Pakistan side. Four of his nine innings back in the side have seen him score at a strike rate above 80; in his previous 47 innings, not once did he strike above 80 in a Test innings.
Under Babar’s captaincy, Pakistan were not particularly fast scorers; of the nine players to score more than 400 runs under his leadership, only Salman Agha struck at more than 54. There is room for Pakistan to bat more quickly if that is the direction they want to go in.
While they were not particularly fast scorers under Babar, Pakistan had begun to play more positive cricket in what turned out to be Babar’s final few Tests in charge, especially in victory over Sri Lanka where they scored at more than four runs an over across the series, only the second time Pakistan had ever done so.
Under Masood, Pakistan can expect to continue to go in that direction. Masood captained Yorkshire in the 2023 County Championship and every one of their regular batters struck at more than 60; Masood himself struck at 77. Given the weaknesses in their bowling attack and the overall strength of Australia, a change in approach is unlikely to prompt a change in end result in Australia but Masood’s captaincy shouldn’t be judged on performances in a country where every modern day Pakistan captain has struggled. That said, given Masood’s words and recent track record Pakistan fans can expect a more positive brand of cricket and one that may assist them in overturning their recent poor home form.
Subscribe to the Wisden Cricket YouTube channel for post-match analysis, player interviews, and much more.