THE inspirational moment of playing in front of a home crowd in the first T20 international cricket series in nearly a decade has ended in disappointment for Pakistan. Although positioned as the top team in the ICC T20 rankings, Pakistan were outplayed by a young, inexperienced yet exuberant Sri Lankan side which is touring without the 10 senior players who opted to stay away citing security reasons. After having lost the ODI series 0-2 last week in what was seen as a contest where the visitors were still trying to come to grips with the environment and playing conditions, the T20 series was a riveting win by Sri Lanka in a show of confidence, ambition and skill in front of a packed and appreciative crowd at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium. Led by skipper Dasun Shanaka, the Islanders executed their game plan to perfection on the back of fine performances by Danushka Gunathilaka, Shehan Jayasuriya, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Wanindu Hasaranga — all future stars.
Pakistan, on the other hand, put up a listless show, featuring a collective slump. There was hardly any notable effort — Mohammad Hasnain’s hat-trick in the first T20 was the only real highlight. The lingering effect of the World Cup loss is there for everyone to see. There are too many players with suspect fitness and concentration levels, and there is no evident plan to counter the opposing team. Even if there is one, the players have proved themselves incapable of implementing it. Captain Sarfraz, reeling under his own poor form with both the bat and the gloves, has been unable to infuse fresh purpose and zest in a side that almost always appears to lack self-confidence. His body language suggests fatigue and he has failed to inspire hope. But to be fair to him, under the current management, he is unlikely to shine independently given the towering shadow of Misbah-ul-Haq whose role as head coach-cum-chief selector will continue to dwarf the skipper’s role until better sense prevails at the PCB.
Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2019