Wasim Akram was slumped in his chair, glumly staring at his phone, probably scrolling through messages about how abject Pakistan were during their dispiriting first Test defeat against Australia in Perth.

It was instructive that local fans passing by Akram, seated inside the bowels of the gigantic Optus Stadium, were giddy catching a glimpse of the Pakistan cricket legend. For a lot of casual Australian cricket fans, Akram remained undoubtedly more famous than the current Pakistan team who they probably only could cite a few of without looking at the teamsheet.

An understrength Pakistan came into the three-match series with little fanfare for a myriad of reasons, but tellingly because they lack headliners. This was a far cry from a team who once boasted a rotating line of star-studded players such as Akram and Imran Khan, whose huge popularity propelled him into being the country’s prime minister.

Many Australian fans before the series wouldn’t have even known of Shan Masood, the new Pakistan skipper who had sported a middling Test record over a decade.

Masood did his best to market a series lacking hype by promising that Pakistan would play a proactive style of play – something like their version of ‘Bazball’ which took cricket by storm this year to help fuel interest in the Ashes series to levels rarely seen before.

It was Masood’s bid to continue Pakistan’s attacking approach in their impressive series victory in Sri Lanka mid-year. Rather predictably, when it became Pakistan’s turn to bat against Australia’s irresistible full-strength attack, they went back into their shell. Facing an Australian attack on fast, bouncy wickets was always going to prove difficult for Pakistan to unleash a counterattacking brand.

Masood, who tried to lead from the front by playing positively, had a couple of ungainly dismissals including being nicked off in the second innings after playing a loose cover drive.

It was a rash stoke from a player clearly unaccustomed to tackling the renowned steep bounce in Perth with the Optus Stadium stadium particularly spicy. As is the case with cricket scheduling increasingly tight, Pakistan came in undercooked having only played one warm-up game in slow conditions in Canberra.

The resulting whipping by Australia was inevitable. After a limp start with the ball, where they were flayed by opener David Warner intent on silencing his critics, the only really interest in the Test match was whether it would reach a fifth day.

It did not with Pakistan humiliatingly crashing to a huge defeat late on day four and Australian summer’s highpoint of its marquee fixtures in Melbourne and Sydney look set to be dreary anti-climaxes.

Pakistan have saved their worst performances for Australia – a graveyard site they haven’t won since 1995. It’s perhaps not wise to start a Pakistan think piece into their Test cricket future and potential demise given even their strong teams – like in ’99 when they were led by Akram – have similarly been thrashed in Australia.

But Test cricket needs a strong Pakistan – a cricket-adoring country that has been sidelined by rival India to their detriment. Pakistan players are banned from playing in the lucrative IPL, while the countries sadly don’t play bilateral cricket against each other.

Despite this, given the formidable traditions in a huge country boasting more than 200 million people where cricket is clearly the most popular sport, Pakistan still remain firmly committed to Test cricket.

Pakistan is the main hope that the five-day Test cricket’s doesn’t just merely revolve around the powerhouses of India, England and Australia as other traditional nations start dropping off due to lack of funds and Test’s declining popularity in those countries.

But it seems only the intervention of inclement weather can save Pakistan from another winless Test tour of Australia as an ashen-faced Akram resembles the stupor from his compatriots tired of their country’s hopelessness when playing Down Under.

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