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A few positives from the lost series

Published Jul 17, 2012 01:20pm


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And so, all good things come to an end. Pakistan’s 1-0 series loss against Sri Lanka was the first time Pakistan had lost since the infamous summer of 2010. Almost two years of unbeaten – often prosaic – brilliance could not go on forever. The magnitude of this achievement can be defined as such: the last time Pakistan went as many Test series without losing (seven in this case), Imran was the captain of the side. In fact, the final series of that unbeaten run was the Indian tour of Pakistan in 1989 – a tour in which Waqar Younis and Sachin Tendulkar made their debuts. Simply put, this is the consistently best Pakistani side most of us have seen in our lifetimes. Yet, it won’t be surprising to see calls for the captain to resign – such is the logic that defines the Pakistan fan and administrator.

Despite the loss there was much to cheer for Pakistan. Foremost amongst them was the emergence of Junaid Khan as the potential leader of the pace attack. He had hinted at doing exactly that during an injury-ravaged second half of 2011, but a series in which he took 14 wickets at under 22 could be the signal of him accepting the responsibility that so many before him have failed to grasp at. Much has been made of how good, statistically, his start has been in Test cricket (after eight Tests he has 27 wickets; by comparison Aamer had 21 wickets at the same stage, while Wasim Akram had 28). But his excellence goes beyond just numbers. His bowling on the fourth day of the second Test – on a track as dead as the parrot John Cleese once held – was reminiscent of Shoaib Akhtar of yore, bowling full pelt on a wicket that offered him nothing. For a Pakistani pace attack, bereft of life – how else to explain the continuing existence of Mohammad Sami – one series loss must surely be worth the potential Junaid showed.

The positivity was not restricted to the bowling, though. This series offered proof of the continued significance of Azhar Ali – who is slowly becoming the man around whom this batting order is to be built. Azhar’s virtues – patience, hard-work, decision making and sheer bloody mindedness – are not what the average Pakistani fan romanticises about. But his record and his performances are silencing his doubters one at a time. Since his debut, in July 2010, only Kumar Sangakkara has faced more balls than him in Test cricket. But he is no Mudassar Nazar – a man who seemed to believe that his role as a batsman was to drive the bowlers and the spectators mad, rather than score runs. After 24 Tests, he has scored more runs than any of the trio that formed Pakistan’s greatest ever middle order (Inzamam, Yousuf and Younis) had scored at the same stage in their careers. Azhar’s posters may not adorn many bedroom walls, but his value as the lynchpin for Team Misbah cannot be underestimated.

Still though, Azhar has needed support. The drops in the form of the team’s senior citizens this year has been stark – Misbah’s average from 2011 to 2012 has fallen from 70 to 42, Younis’ corresponding figures are 85 and 36. At the end of last year, it would have been difficult to place your bets on Asad Shafiq to provide that support. He had averaged under 40 over the calendar year, and going into the England series had only two 50+ innings in 15 innings; all this despite the inflation provided by a tour of Bangladesh. The faith that had been given to him – something that has often been denied to many of his contemporaries and predecessors – seemed misplaced. But Asad Shafiq walked into last chance saloon and emerged victorious. He continued the theme of aborted starts in the England series, but his 40s and 50s had far more bearing on the games, in a low scoring series, than they had had previously. He has followed that with the Sri Lankan series where he has averaged over 60, and had three 50+ scores in five innings. It is going to be interesting to see whether this is the beginning of a purple patch or another file to be placed into the cabinet titled ‘Pakistani false dawns.’ Considering the application that has been used in many of the innings, the latter might be a safer bet.

But this is Pakistan, lest we forget. To wager on the future of the national team is as good an investment as a wishing well. Three years ago, Pakistan went to Sri Lanka with a similarly rejuvenated team – a team, and a captain, that had just captured the World T20 title. Pakistan lost the series by a score-line which was harsh to them. The captain would not play another Test match for 15 months. The best batsman in the series would play only one match after it. There were a multitude of reasons for why Younis Khan and Fawad Alam were ostracised in the aftermath of that tour – but few which could’ve been predicted when that tour finished.

So, as always, it would be idiotic to predict – or expect – anything with regard to the Pakistan team. Much more logical to stay on the bandwagon and see where it goes.

The writer is a sports nerd, and does not believe that opinions other than his own are valid. He can be found presenting his opinions as fact on his blog.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


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The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (13) Closed

Shan Jul 17, 2012 06:45pm
I say the opposite. THis team have everything -- Good bowling, Batsman. Need more training and leadership and we will be No1.
Bangash Jul 17, 2012 02:41pm
Pakistan cricket team is very mediocre and untrustworthy. Its is a shadow of what it was in the 90's and that is because you cannot rely on raw talent anymore. Fielding, batting, teamwork, discipline all remain as poor as the 90's but without the raw talent of the 90's.
anil Jul 18, 2012 10:58am
Pakistan cricket is one of the best team of the world But they need a couching
Sohaib YAHIA Jul 18, 2012 12:20pm
Training means putting more efforts (which is not our forte) and leadership means a quality our unfortunate society is devoid of! Conclusion: Hoping for No. 1 position of our team in short to medium term is not a safe bet. Let's narrow down our target and be happy for anything we are able to achieve. Cheers!
Yasir Mehmood Jul 17, 2012 08:23pm
newsflash junaid is kidded out of t20 world cup!. Things will just not work out for Pakistan.
Shakir Jul 17, 2012 11:33pm
About a few decades back Garry Sobers said that West indian cricket will be ruined if it gets institutionalized, lo and behold! 'Eye of the Tiger', thats what Pakistan had in the decades passed. Thats whats required, fired up youth, not old coaches!
Sohaib YAHIA Jul 18, 2012 02:57am
After Muhammad Yousuf, Pakistan cricket team has failed to produce a single quality batsman who could be consistent as well. With this more than fragile and nervous batting lineup, especially on a pitch that is offering slightest of assistance to bowlers, it would be defying your common sense and logic to predict that Team Pakistan could form any significant relevance in World Cricket in short to medium term. Sparks of individual brilliance here and there are nothing but 'Pakistani false dawns' as rightly pointed out.
Shamroz Tariq Jul 18, 2012 06:07am
No doubt its a good team overall but it can be more good if they keep themselves away from politics within the team.
Nasser Ali Khan Jul 18, 2012 09:35am
You missed the most basic fact in that Misbah has still not lost a test series. In this series he took part in the last 2 tests only, both of which were drawn. Pakistan is a mediocre side, and would struggle to get to number 3 (forget about numbers 2 and 1 completely). Pakistani players and the public alike don't even mention fielding. Most crucially, dropped catches will force Pakistan not to rise to the top ; and then add to it the poor ground fielding where 1s are made 2s and 2s are made 3s. Further, the running between wickets is diabolical, where 2s are taken when most other test players would take 3s, plus the very high frequency of run outs. Pakistani public are not cricket fans because they do not understand test cricket, the real definition of cricket. They are simple folk and like to see the likes of Arfidi to hit 6s; that's it. Given that Afridi will fail 90% of the times is neither here or there as far as they are concerned.
Ahmed Jul 18, 2012 08:19pm
Fawad Alam was treated extremely harshly by our cricket board. Shame on PCB. Fawas was a test player but he was only provided chances in T20's and maybe a few ODI's. He is not a hitter. He is lower middle order accumulator. Another player our PCB wasted is Khalid Latif, a test specialist only being given chance in T20.
Zia Jul 19, 2012 06:26am
Agree with Shan.......Misbah is best captain amongst current cricketing nations....... so we have excellent leadership skills....... We will always want to see our team at number 01.......
Zia Jul 19, 2012 06:30am
Cheema Sahab, Shafiq is excellent batsmen..... I will classify Shafiq and Azhar in same category.......... and stats not necessarily show class.....
Adil Jadoon Jul 21, 2012 08:02pm
You Sir, sound like a talent yourself. We need a proper structure for talent to be harnessed not mere comments in a news paper.