LAHORE: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) have mutually decided to defer Pakistan team’s tour to Zimbabwe, scheduled for August-September this year, for an indefinite period, well-informed sources told Dawn on Friday.
Pakistan were scheduled to undertake a return tour to Zimbabwe for a bilateral limited-overs series featuring ODIs and T20s, after Zimbabwe squad visited Pakistan for a historical series in May this year, opening the gates of international cricket to Pakistan after a lapse of six years.
“[However] Zimbabwe have now involved the West Indies to hold a triangular series, in place of the bilateral series, which does not suit Pakistan in the wake of [our] qualifying for the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy,” a PCB official told Dawn on the condition of anonymity.
“The decision to include the third team was clearly clashing with our interests. Therefore, we proposed Zimbabwe a T20 triangular tournament but it was not accepted. So, both [Zimbabwe and Pakistan] cricket boards have decided to postpone the triangular event and any bilateral series for the next year,” he added.
Decision mutually taken by PCB, ZC
“[Deciding] fresh dates for the tour to Zimbabwe is not possible this year. However, a window will be found out next year to tour,” the official said.
“The PCB was ready to play a T20 series [in Zimbabwe], bilateral or in a triangular format,” the official added.
In fact, the PCB wanted to play the triangular ODI series too. However, when Azhar Ali and company took an unassailable 3-1 lead in the ongoing five-match ODI series in Sri Lanka, which ensured the green-shirts’ participation in the Champions Trophy, no further ODI cricket suited Pakistan’s interests.
Had Pakistan lost the ODI rubber in Sri Lanka, participating in the triangular series (in Zimbabwe) would have been the only chance left for the PCB to keep its team’s qualification chances for the Champions Trophy alive.
It is instructive to mention here that in case of Pakistan’s loss in the Sri Lanka ODI series, the West Indies would have opted for the strategy, now adopted by the PCB -- of withdrawing from the triangular series in Zimbabwe -- as in that scenario further ODI cricket would not suit the Caribbean side.
Taking a look at PCB’s recent strategy of finalising international series -- with Pakistan struggling to qualify for the Champions Trophy -- one finds the approach anomalous.
The PCB, after the national team’s disastrous exit from the World Cup, made a mistake by deciding to send its team to Bangladesh for a limited-overs series (which featured three ODIs) in April-May.
Before the Bangladesh series, Pakistan stood at seventh place in ICC ODI rankings. However, after losing all three ODIs to a resurgent Bangladesh who had stunned England in this year’s World Cup, Pakistan dipped to ninth spot and faced the danger of failing to qualify for the Champions Trophy contested by top eight-ranked teams.
After losing in Bangladesh, Pakistan had to confront two tasks to regain their standing among top eight-ranked teams to get eligible for the Champions Trophy.
There were doubts that Pakistan will get the required results, as the new skipper Azhar Ali, installed after the World Cup crash, was inexperienced in ODI format, seemed to lack confidence and had not even been considered by the selectors earlier as an accomplished ODI player.
After undergoing the 0-3 thrashing in Bangladesh, first Azhar’s men had to win the three-match ODI series against Zimbabwe at home, which was necessary to revive international cricket in Pakistan.
Though Pakistan did it successfully, the second challenge was tougher -- of winning the series in Sri Lanka.
However, Azhar and his team-mates gathered themselves, took the challenge head-on and with teamwork and self-belief also achieved this target, defeating Sri Lanka 3-1 in the series (with the fifth and final match to be played tomorrow).
The bilateral ODI series victory on the Island after nine years enabled Pakistan to finally book their place in the prestigious ICC Champions Trophy.
Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2015