Pakistan’s batting woes are like the intestines of the devil, as they say in the Urdu language; torturous and never-ending. The side failed to cross 200 in four of its five one-dayers against the Saffers in UAE, and then collapsed twice in the T20s to gift both limited-overs series to the opponents while providing minimum resistance. However, one positive that Pakistan took away from the series against the Proteas in the UAE was a new name: Sohaib Maqsood.
The relatively new face in the dressing room can hardly be referred to as a youngster, for his age is already on the wrong side of 25, but it is hardly Maqsood’s fault that he has appeared so late on the international circuit. Neither is it the selectors’ fault, as is usually the case when the wastage of talent in Pakistan Cricket is analyzed. Maqsood started his first-class career ten years ago but a serious back injury sidelined him, and he didn’t play a single game until returning after three years. The Multan-born batsman also suffered from a career-threatening ankle-ligament injury in 2010, and had surgery performed to have an ingrown toenail removed soon after.
It has been a rocky path for a cricketer who could have slid into a batsman-thirsty Pakistan side much earlier, had his body not betrayed him. Now that he is here, he has announced himself in a confident, if not arrogant, manner. In his first two ODIs which he played against South Africa in the UAE, Maqsood was the only batsman in the Pakistan team who was not afraid to attack the bowlers, and who managed to play them with any kind of surety or confidence. In the 4th ODI, his partnership with Misbah-ul-Haq seemed unbreakable until he gave away a catch to deVilliers, and in the last one, he was the only batsmen who offered any resistance as the whole team tumbled for a meagre 151.
In a team that has followed Misbah’s defensive approach to become a very defensive unit as a whole, Maqsood’s arrival is both timely and much welcome. However, Maqsood is not the first to show such promise and prospect in his early days in the Pakistan side. Many others before him shined when they were first introduced into the side but have since then, shown to be of the regular breed of Pakistani batsmen. Take, for instance, Nasir Jamshed, who was touted as the answer to Pakistan’s opening probelms and who scored back-to-back centuries to help Pakistan to a series win against India in India, a feat that can hardly be expected of this Pakistan side. Now, the very same Nasir has withered into an indifferent batsman, and Pakistan’s opening woes continue. Same is the case with Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal, both of who have yet to deliver as much as they promised when they first burst on to the International scene.
Only time will tell if Maqsood is another false messiah for the Pakistan team, or if he is a genuine find. But one things is for sure: Maqsood’s aggressive intent and his youthful exuberance are exactly the attributes that Pakistani batsmen have been lacking in the last few years. There’s much to be learned from the newcomer’s approach to batting; especially, his limited overs batting. With the tour of South Africa already underway, Maqsood will be looking to prove his mettle in his first ‘away’ tour against a top opposition. If he can come good in Africa, it can be safely said that this stout man from Multan can be Inzamam’s successor in the team, and finally a bottle-cap to Pakistan’s never-ending batting collapses.