One thing which has surprised me is the doubts & question marks which are being raised regarding Taufeeq Umar’s place as Pakistan’s test match opener. Taufeeq has 3 centuries & 4 half centuries in 29 test innings since being recalled into the side. He was Pakistan’s leading test run scorer last year. He has opened in 15 consecutive test matches alongside Mohammad Hafeez which is 50% more than the previous highest by a Pakistani opening pair ever, overtaking Ramiz Raja/Mudassar Nazar & Saeed/Sohail. That is a reflection of his performances & consistency which has resulted in stability & continuity in first choice selection matters. He has been involved in the most 100+ stands for the opening wicket by a Pakistani opening pair so has been providing starts & foundations for the middle order to build on.
Younis Khan has publicly said that Azhar Ali’s emergence & revelation at number 3 has reduced the pressure & burden on him & allowed him to settle into an easier position at number 4 to consolidate on a firm top order display. Azhar Ali has been doing wonders at number 3 as his 50+ test average in the 15 test matches under Misbah ul Haq shows. Not only is he technically well equipped in defence & tactical awareness, but has the mental toughness to absorb pressure up front, after all men with balls do the hard yards of batting at 3. Hence, needless to promote Azhar to the opening slot, both from an individual & team point of view.
In comparison to his opening partner Taufeeq has been the better & more consistent of the performers. Mohammad Hafeez has scored 2 centuries against Bangladesh & Zimbabwe & 3 50s in 29 test innings. Taufeeq is technically & temperamentally the better of the openers. Not that I am indicating that Hafeez is to be dropped or should be as he is an effective bowler even in the longer version of the game when it comes to nipping out left handers, breaking partnerships & genuinely troubling the batsmen with his guile. He can be a defensive & attacking option with ball in hand. He is also a key part of the whole think tank & fields decently in important positions. However, if you are putting the argument that Taufeeq has to be dropped, then Hafeez who primarily is meant to be in the team for his batting also has to be dropped; otherwise it is ill-logical.
Taufeeq is a safe as houses fielder in the slip cordon & one can even put his name in the hat for the contention of being vice captain of the side as he has abundance of domestic experience & earlier this year led Punjab to the Pentangular Cup trophy.
He has been around the block for a while, even though there was a large period where he was out of the side. For the record he is the 2nd most capped batsmen in the side after Younis so has the experience. This should come in handy. As always there is pressure to perform when you are playing test cricket, but Taufeeq was the leading run scorer with a 236 against Sri Lanka in the Emirates towards the end of last year so should be fairly confident of performing well against the Lankans in their own back yard as well.
Statistically, Pakistan’s best opener after Saeed Anwar. Taufeeeq is a traditional solid defensive opening batsman content on batting time, content on batting long periods. With an attritional game plan Taufeeq has the capabilities to display the virtues, strategies & principles the highest form of the game demands, particularly on Asian wickets where one has to scrap hard to make it count in the heat & humidity.