Babar’s Azam maiden series as Pakistan’s T20I captain proved to be a chastening experience with the Men in Green comprehensively turned over by Australia (2-0) in the three-match series.
The visitors were thoroughly outplayed in all departments by the Aussies and would most definitely have lost their current No1 ranking as well, had rain not stopped the first T20 in Sydney.
While Babar has only just taken over the T20 reins, the side’s woes very much predate his appointment with just one win and nine defeats to show for from 10 outings in the current year.
For head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq, the record is now five defeats in six T20I clashes. The mandate for the former highly respected skipper on his appointment after the 2019 World Cup, was primarily to shore up Pakistan’s dwindling Test and ODI fortunes. However, just a few months into his tenure, Misbah now finds himself with the unenviable task of having to fix all three set-ups of the national team.
With less than a year remaining for the T20 World Cup to take place in Australia itself, Pakistan have plenty of holes to plug in a side which has been ranked No1 for two years and running now. Very few positives, if any, can be taken from a shambles of a series with the individual display of Babar and the emergence of Iftikhar Ahmed as a viable lower-order aggressor just about covering it.
The question marks, though, are aplenty for Misbah and Babar.
Asif Ali’s time has run out
Pakistan’s search for an explosive hitter for the death overs has been a longstanding one and it is Asif Ali who has been given the long rope in that regard.
However, that rope is now running out with the right-hander failing to come good despite umpteen chances in the T20 setup. While much of the focus has been on opener Fakhar Zaman’s disastrous T20 form, Asif has been equally culpable with an average of just over 10 in 2019.
The middle-order batsman has a high score of only 23 in his last nine innings for Pakistan and his latest displays in Australia should all but confirm his impending axing from the squad.
He hasn’t really been able to cut it at the international level, in both ODIs and T20s, despite some promising signs in the Pakistan Super League.
Misbah’s botched selections not helping matter either
Misbah had been criticised for recalling Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad in the 3-0 series loss to Sri Lanka and the head coach responded by pointing to a lack of batting talent in Pakistan’s domestic pool.
While there might be a hint of truth in Misbah’s reasoning, the fact that he quickly discarded the two top-order batsman after the series whitewash while continuing to give others a long run, does not pain him favourably.
Fakhar Zaman has continued to be persisted with, despite his horrendous T20I form, while the same has been the case for Asif Ali. Khushdil Shah was the fresh face called up to the squad for the Australia tour but the middle-over batsman was only given an opportunity in the final T20.
In the bowling department, Usman Qadir was a surprise call-up to the squad by Misbah with the leg-spinner barely creating an impression in his Big Bash League stint earlier this year. While his selection turned plenty of heads, Misbah then made sure it hardly mattered by not giving the spinner a single appearance in Australia.
It would be all well and good if there were more opportunities waiting down the line for the likes of Qadir, Khushdil and even young pacer Muhammad Musa. The problem, however, is that there aren’t many with Pakistan not set to play a single limited-overs clash until July, next year.
So what exactly was Misbah saving these players for?
Babar needs time but is there any?
“We have learnt a lot from this series and we’ll take the positives and come back hard in the next series,” a crestfallen Babar stated after the Perth humbling.
“I have learnt a lot, there is a lot to learn as well. Hopefully, I’ll apply it in the future.”
There is no denying that there are many tricks to learn for Babar as captain after his side’s lopsided defeat in Australia. But, with just five more T20Is to come for Pakistan ahead of next year’s World Cup, the team management might have left him with too little time to learn the ropes.
The batting prodigy is not even the captain of his Pakistan Super League (PSL) outfit Karachi Kings, with his national team-mate Imad Wasim leading that franchise instead.
While he has welcomed the captaincy publicly, the fact that the burden of leading has come at a time when the team is already so reliant on his batting is not a great situation to be in for Babar.
Time is not on his side, or Pakistan’s, with the World Cup fast approaching, and the team management will now have to blindly hope that their gutsy decision will bear fruit ultimately.
Obsidian’s Grounded is a survival game crossed with Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
Obsidian is a studio best-known for deep, intriguing role-playing games like Fallout: New Vegas and, most recently, The Outer Worlds. But the studio’s next release moves in a completely different direction. At X019 in London, Obsidian revealed Grounded, a survival game set in a suburban backyard where a group of four friends has to fend…
Obsidian is a studio best-known for deep, intriguing role-playing games like Fallout: New Vegas and, most recently, The Outer Worlds. But the studio’s next release moves in a completely different direction. At X019 in London, Obsidian revealed Grounded, a survival game set in a suburban backyard where a group of four friends has to fend for themselves after being shrunk down to the size of an ant. “It’s a little different than what you’re used to seeing from Obsidian,” says director Adam Brennecke.
Grounded, which is the first new property from Obsidian since the studio was acquired by Microsoft, is a four-player co-op experience that can be played in both first- and third-person. Like most survival games, you’ll build a base, craft gear, gather resources, and hunt and cook food. What Obsidian hopes will make the game stand out is the setting.
The game has a very Honey, I Shrunk the Kids vibe. The four main characters were all shrunken as part of an experiment and are now forced to survive the untamed wilds that are actually a standard American suburban backyard. Seen from this new perspective, things feel very different: bugs become giant monsters, while a simple baseball is a huge structure. A patch of grass is a forest to traverse, and weedkiller turns an area into a toxic zone.
According to Brennecke, part of the appeal of the setting for the studio was its accessibility. “It’s something that everyone is familiar with,” he explains. “Everyone has an expectation for what they’ll see in this world. It’s very approachable, even on a global scale. Everyone knows what insects do, how they behave; even the man-made objects you find in the yard are familiar. It’s a pretty cool environment as a game designer to come up with ideas. It’s a setting where everyone on the team, and even outside the team, can be a designer and contribute ideas.”
It’s also much more elaborate than it might seem. Despite being developed by a relatively small 12-person team, Grounded features what Brennecke describes as a robust and realistic ecosystem. “It’s a huge ecosystem where the insect life is being simulated outside of the view of the player,” he says. “We want to make insects to behave like we all expect insects to behave. So an ant colony will send out scout ants to search for food, and will battle the player over food. They communicate through a pheromone system with other any colonies. And there’s a day / night cycle where this ecosystem is constantly changing. Things come out at night like giant spiders and fireflies.”
Grounded will be available in spring 2020. It’s coming to Game Pass on both Xbox One and PC, and it will also be available through Steam early access.
X019: all the news from Microsoft’s big Xbox event
Every new announcement in one place Contributors: Verge Staff Microsoft’s X0 conferences are usually small in focus, but Microsoft went big for its late 2019 event in London, with its first big showing of original games from Rare, Obsidian, and Dontnod. Plenty of other games, like Age of Empires 4, Tell Me Why, and more…
Microsoft’s X0 conferences are usually small in focus, but Microsoft went big for its late 2019 event in London, with its first big showing of original games from Rare, Obsidian, and Dontnod.
Plenty of other games, like Age of Empires 4, Tell Me Why, and more debuted onstage, too. Microsoft also debuted some exciting developments on xCloud, its cloud gaming service, as well as Game Pass.
We’ve got all of the latest announcements and deals covered below.
Valve’s new Half-Life release isn’t about selling Valve headsets — it’s about selling SteamVR
Yesterday, Valve released a trailer for its upcoming game Half-Life: Alyx — the first we’ve seen of the shooter series since 2007. Valve says Alyx is “the next part of the Half-Life story, in a game around the same length as Half-Life 2.” (For the record, that’s about 10 to 15 hours.) It might even…
Yesterday, Valve released a trailer for its upcoming game Half-Life: Alyx — the first we’ve seen of the shooter series since 2007. Valve says Alyx is “the next part of the Half-Life story, in a game around the same length as Half-Life 2.” (For the record, that’s about 10 to 15 hours.) It might even help clear up some of Half-Life 2: Episode 2’s myriad questions. And it’s coming exclusively to virtual reality headsets in March.
Valve is making a not-so-subtle attempt to sell people on VR headsets, which remain a niche platform at best. It’s using the game to promote its own high-end Valve Index headset, offering Alyx for free — and with some special cosmetic features — to Index users. Oculus and Sony have long used their clout and money to lock up big VR titles for the Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest, and PlayStation VR. Now, Valve has its own flagship product.
But Valve is playing a different game than Oculus and Sony. Both of those companies have invested heavily in hardware exclusivity. As far as we know, Valve doesn’t seem to care about having the world’s most popular headset; it just wants to own the software pipeline for everybody’s headsets, the same way it nearly does for traditional PCs.
Half-Life: Alyx is exclusive to Valve’s SteamVR platform, the way that games like Stormlands are exclusive to the Oculus Store. But unlike the Oculus Store, SteamVR supports basically any PC-based headset — including the standalone Oculus Quest, thanks to a recent update. You can play Alyx as long as your PC meets the beefy minimum specs, a fact Valve touts on the game’s landing page.
I’m sure Valve would like lots of people to specifically buy the Index. But I doubt it expects them to. The system costs $999, which is more than twice the price of a Rift S or Quest, and it requires a more cumbersome setup than nearly any other consumer headset. Index controllers are unusually full-featured, and Valve might include some special interactions involving them, but it hasn’t suggested that you’ll get substantially more gameplay options.
Many VR headset sellers downplay competition in the industry. Companies like Oculus and HTC have argued that any headset sale is a win for everyone because it’s growing a very small platform and creating more opportunities for developers who can release their games across lots of headsets.
Even if there’s a diverse array of headsets, though, Valve could theoretically become the default storefront for all of them. And it could help build that dominance with a hugely anticipated game like
Half-Life 3 Half-Life: Alyx. After all, Valve launched the non-VR version of Steam on the strength of Half-Life 2, back when the idea of a ubiquitous digital storefront seemed strange. A few years later, the platform was synonymous with PC gaming.
Steam was convenient and user-friendly, but its dominance has given it tremendous power over small developers — many of whom have welcomed the rise of platforms like Itch and the Epic Games Store. It’s bad for all industries, including gaming, when there’s only one place to sell your stuff.
Fortunately, this could be less likely to happen on VR than PC. Steam was fairly singular when it launched, but almost every big PC VR brand already runs its own reasonably well-established store. Windows Mixed Reality has Microsoft’s app store, Oculus headsets have the Oculus Store, and HTC has Viveport, which also supports multiple brands of headsets.
These stores generally come with their own VR “desktops,” too. On one hand, this could eventually create more lock-in for Valve since you can use other headsets purely through SteamVR without touching the Oculus or Viveport interface. On the other, non-Valve headset owners have to actively seek out SteamVR, and they’re shunted by default toward a competing store. (It’s still not clear how independent stores like Itch or GOG might fit into this ecosystem.)
Back in 2015, before any of these headsets were released to consumers, I speculated about the possibility of virtual reality platform wars. VR headsets offered hugely different experiences at that point: the Oculus Rift still used an Xbox gamepad and phone-based VR was seen as a viable category in its own right, rather than an evolutionary dead end. So it made more sense to wonder whether developers would get locked into building games for specific platforms.
As Valve’s cross-headset support for Alyx shows, though, most PC-based systems have settled on a similar experience: a wired headset that lets you walk around a room, plus two motion controllers with a semi-standard button layout. So instead of console wars, VR’s conflict seems more like the fight over PC platforms between Steam and the Epic Games Store — except this time, Valve doesn’t have the same head start.
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