Fans welcomed them with garlands when the Pakistan team returned from a successful tour of India. Their reception from South Africa will surely not be anything remotely similar. In fact, defeat against the Proteas has left supporters and former players fuming at Misbah-ul-Haq and his men.
Pakistan's shoddy performance in the first two of three Tests has drawn the ire of fans and experts back home with former captain Inzamam-ul-Haq saying the desired aggression was missing. "Pakistan must show more aggression in its approach. What I saw was that a batsman scores 50 in 150 balls, that gives bowlers more domination. Once a batsman is set he should attack and score freely."
The visitors in Cape Town lost the second Test and conceded the series on Sunday with yet another batting collapse. This after the team had crashed to its lowest Test total of 49, in the opening match. "We really blame ourselves. We made mistakes and we couldn't afford to do that. My wicket was the turning point. After that, the collapse started," said skipper Misbah after the defeat. Accepting the blame for the 4-wicket loss will clearly not suffice for the fans who earlier last month celebrated the ODI success of the team against arch-rivals India.
Pakistan-based websites like Dawn and Nation reveal surfer comments which attack both the selection process as well as the intention of working hard to avoid defeat. "Why would you drop performing players and bring in team players who are unable to make runs and take wickets?" read one such comment. "(Mohammad) Hafeez has hardly batted, he has hardly bowled. Same with Nasir (Jamshed). 2 test is enough to show class." While Hafeez has managed just 25 runs from four innings with a best of 17, his opening partner has fared better but only slightly. Jamshed has scored 51 so far with a best of 46 in the second innings of the first Test.
Misbah however also reminded that South Africa is the number 1 Test team in the world, a fact that Inzamam said played heavily on the minds of Pakistan. "This Pakistan team had the ability to beat South Africa but they seemed to be thinking a lot about their rival's world number one status and that their bowling is very dangerous," he said.
Sections of fans also agreed that it was all about the difference in the playing style and the approach. "The difference between two teams is the line and length of the fast bowlers of both the teams. The selectors selected the misfits for the encounter," read a comment on Nation.com. Performance on foreign soil continues to be the only parameter with which this team can be judged as security concerns continue to keep international matches out of Pakistan. "
While the recent defeats have been embarrassing for the team, there have been the isolated performances which have been praised. On bouncy tracks, spinner Saeed Ajmal has taken 11 wickets with a 10-wicket haul in the second Test. His plunder though has not contributed in helping his side save face, yet.
Third and final Test before the 2 T20s and 5 ODIs, starts Friday.
(With inputs from AFP)