“I didn’t tell the curator to make a pitch according to me. It was the same for Australia, yet we got their 10 wickets”
The barren pitch in Rawalpindi became a talking point after only 14 wickets fell across five days in the first Test. While Pakistan managed to take all 10 Australian wickets in the first innings, Australia could pick up only four in total, as the hosts made 476 for 4 and 252 for 0 before the game ended in a tame draw.
Imam, in particular, flourished, becoming only the 10th Pakistan batter – and third opener – to score a century in both innings of a Test. Imam and Abdullah Shafique also set a new record for most runs scored by an opening pair against Australia.
After the game, Australia’s captain Pat Cummins suggested that the lifeless pitch was made to nullify the visitors’ pace attack, something PCB chairman Ramiz Raja also confirmed though he conceded that a draw wasn’t a good advertisement for Test cricket.
“A draw is something nobody wants to see,” Imam said. “Obviously when it’s a five-day Test everyone anticipates for a result. But when we go to Australian conditions, they don’t make pitches consulting us but make it according to their will so I think we should see our strength and should live up to our strength.
“But in Karachi, we are looking for a result in our favour. I think the Rawalpindi Test was played well as we managed to get all 10 wickets. Unfortunately 70 overs were not played out due to bad light and rain but had those overs been bowled the result could have been different because we intended to make them bat again.”
Australia’s combined bowling average of 238.33 and strike-rate of 478 were their second-worst in 145 years of Test cricket. The visiting bowlers claimed just three scalps between them across 239 overs, with the other wicket coming through a run-out. Furthermore, none of the Australian batters managed to get into three figures.
Imam, however, went about making runs on a docile pitch that barely tested him. Playing a Test at home for the very first time, Imam survived a dismissal on 94 when replays showed he had inside-edged a Nathan Lyon delivery to short leg, only for Australia to miss taking a review. But beyond that lapse, Imam dealt with Lyon without much fuss. According to ESPNcricinfo’s ball-by-ball data, of the 45 length deliveries that Lyon bowled to him, Imam took 41 runs, including two sixes. On a slow pitch, Imam kept his focus intact, even expertly blocking 49 fuller-length deliveries from Lyon.
“Regardless of my settled or unsettled position in the team or even whether I am performing or not, I will always be criticised,” Imam said. “It’s been nearly five years and 60 games I have played so far for Pakistan and yet I face criticism but I am not sad because that’s very normal to me.
My job is to score runs and the quality of innings should be judged on the basis of my intent. For me, my captain, my coach and the think-tank are the important ones and what they are expecting from me and how they rate my innings. It is not really important what people say from outside and what perception is made about me that doesn’t matter at all and I don’t care about it. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I respect that any judgement coming from the people in the dressing room is what is all important for me.
“I didn’t tell the curator to make a pitch according to me, nor is he my relative. It was the same for Australia, yet we got their 10 wickets and none of them managed to score 100. I didn’t ask for the pitch so that I can score a hundred in each innings. The Karachi pitch will be the same as it has been in first-class cricket and I won’t be playing at it for the first time. But at the same time whatever Test I had played before this I played outside in South Africa, Ireland and England in away Tests. So whatever the pitch will be – either it’s green, yellow or brown – my job is to play cricket and I will play and keep believing in my practice.”
The second Test starts from March 12 in Karachi, where in the last five years the spinners have taken 275 first-class wickets at 33.16 while fast bowlers have dominated with a better average of 31.44 and 499 wickets.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent