Bowlers like Rahat Ali need to be given a longer run in the side © Getty Images
Bowlers like Rahat Ali need to be given a longer run in the side © Getty Images

Pakistan have historically had some of the world’s best fast bowlers. Imran Khan, Sarfraz Nawaz, Fazal Mahmood, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Asif; the list can go on. And yet, over the last few years they have struggled to field the same pace bowlers for extended periods. Shiamak Unwalla wonders where Pakistan’s feared pace attack keeps disappearing.

Pakistan and unpredictability are essentially two sides of the same coin. One never quite knows what to expect from them in any encounter. They conceded a hat trick in the first over of a match, and went on to score 599 — with their top seven batsmen scoring at least fifty — in the second innings of that same Test.

However, despite their tendency for infighting, frequent changes in Board management, and on-field inconsistency, they have usually managed to maintain a steady pace attack. If it was Imran Khan and Sarfraz Nawaz in the 70s and 80s, it was Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis in the 90s, Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami in the early 2000s, and Mohammad Asif and Umar Gul in the late 2000s.

However, since 2010 Pakistan have had a worrying trend of shuffling around their pacers without maintaining a core attack. Since 2010, Junaid Khan has played the most for Pakistan — 18 Tests. He is currently injured, and would have surely been a part of Pakistan’s attack in the last couple of series if fit. Other than him, only Rahat Ali has played over 10 Tests in the same period. Pakistan have played as many as 10 other pace bowlers apart from them since 2010: Umar Gul, Mohammad Talha, Rahat Ali, Sohail Khan, Wahab Riaz, Tanvir Ahmed, Aizaz Cheema, Mohammad Irfan, Ehsan Adil, Bilawal Bhatti and Imran Khan.

The reason this is strange is that most of these pacers are included for a couple of matches before being cast aside. Talha has played four Tests in six years, the latest being against New Zealand in the recently-concluded series. Riaz has played eight Tests since 2010. Ehsan Adil was picked for one game against New Zealand and didn’t get another chance after that. Imran Khan did a decent job when he got the chances, but hasn’t kept his place in the playing eleven. Going by the current trend, he probably won’t play another Test for a couple of years.

In their last five Tests, Pakistan have used four pacers. Only Rahat has been a constant. They have been lucky that the spinners Yasir Shah and Zulfiqar Babar have bowled as well as they have, or their 3-1 aggregate result in this same period could well have been different. Pakistan need to let their pace bowlers settle, and give their promising young attack some time to grow rather than running through their reserves at the rate of knots.

(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and cricket fanatic. You can follow him on Twitter @ShiamakUnwalla)