Monday, January 4, 2010

A Year in Pakistan (Test) Cricket

After the drought in 2008, the year 2009 gone by started with Sri Lanka touring Pakistan.

It was also the beginning of Younis Khan's captaincy stint; this time as full-time captain and not just a fill in for Inzamam ul Haq or Shoaib Malik; this time in the job he had finally accepted and not turned down like in the past.

If that was the start, 2009 ended with a different man at the helm of Pakistan cricket - Mohammad Yousuf.

Yes, Pakistan's captaincy had been played like a YoYo again, from one Yo to another, with the all familiar sight of Younis Khan giving up.

It is hard to imagine how a tough personality like Younis can give up so easily. In his own word he "lost control of his players".

Why Younis? Why did you lose control? Why were you not strong enough to command respect? What did you do so differently from the meek Shoaib Malik that you could not even last a full year as captain? You started your stint with a tremendous 313 in your first test as captain, yet you did not command respect? You led your team to the World T20 title, yet you did not command respect?

And how does someone like Mohammad Yousuf, who has turned his back on the country, who has dissed the players currently representing Pakistan, who has dissed the selectors currently serving Pakistan, who has spoken against the current cricket board of the country, command respect as captain that you could not Younis?

As always, 2009 was no different for Pakistan cricket - it continued to entertain, amuse, bemuse, satisfy, and sadden on and off the field.

Where there was the emergence a Mohammad Aamer and an Umar Akmal, there was the unfair handling of a Fawad Alam.

Where else in the world will you find a player who tours with the test squad for 3 years without playing, makes his debut as an opener when he has played in the middle order all his life, smashes 168 on debut, opens in another test and is then moved to number 3 in the next, then gets dropped from the XI, and then all together from the touring squad!

A 168 on debut and 5 innings of 16,16,16,29, and 5 gets Fawad Alam booted from the Pakistan camp! How absurd is that? What about all those innings that he played in domestic cricket to get him into the squad? What about all the time he spent on the bench for a chance?

What's more, while Fawad was dropped, Misbah Ul Haq, who had a torrid year with the bat was first dropped and then called back to strengthen the batting in Younis Khan's absence!

Where is the logic? You drop your most promising batsman (well after Umar Akmal) and you recall a fading star?

This happens only in Pakistan!!!

The opening is another drama in itself.

Khurram Manzoor is hailed as the solution to the opening problem at the start of 2009, but by the end of the year he is dropped in favour of Salman Butt who was dropped mid way during the year due to a prolonged period of failures with the bat.

And then they think they have an opening problem! They have a problem sustaining their openers!

Khurram was dropped after scores of 27, 59*, 2, 15, 3, 38, 93, 2, 6, 4. Alright so not convincing but bad enough to be replaced by an opener that has failed so many times?

Well on the brighter side Salman Butt is being hailed as a part of Pakistan's next promising opening pair along with Imran Farhat - how many times have we heard that one before?

There was Imran Farhat and Taufeeq Umar, then there was Salman Butt and another dozen partners, then there was Khurram Manzoor, then there was Fawad Alam, and now its Salman and Imran again!

Some things never change.

Enough with the negatives; as always with Pakistan there were some positives too and none bigger than the emergence of Umar Akmal and Mohammad Aamer, who will in all probability will be at the forefront of Pakistan cricket for the next decade and a half.

It had been a long time since a true batting star emerged in Pakistan. The last one was Mohammad Yousuf; before him, Inzamam ul Haq.

Such has been the dearth in batting talent in Pakistan that we had to wait for over a decade for the next batting star to emerge.

And who better than Umar Akmal!

We at Well Pitched had followed Umar's rise before he made his international debut; and what a ride it has been since then.

A century on debut, followed by 5 fifties and 9 test innings into his career his scores read: 129, 75, 46, 52, 0, 77, 51, 27, 49.

His ODI start has been just as impressive.

Dare I say, this is just the beginning!

Pakistan had always had riches in the fast bowling department, which was displayed yet again by Mohammad Aamer.

He first thrilled during the World T20 where in his debut tournament for Pakistan he played an instrumental role in taking Pakistan to the title.

His ODI and test performances, which peaked at the MCG with his first 5-for, have been stellar to say the least.

With Mohammad Asif returning from his doping facade, Mohammad Sami returning from the wilderness and rocking Australia's boat at Sydney, and Mohammad Aamer hopefully returning from a groin injury, Pakistan's bowling attack looks almost as strong as it was during the days of the 2 Ws.

Pakistan cricket never ceases to amaze and with plenty of cricket to come on 2010, we can be sure to see a lot more surprises.

A lot more heartache, a lot more pleasant shocks, a lot more thrilling cricket, and a lot more drama, which never stops as long as Pakistan keeps playing.

Hopefully I will be able to continue blogging too!

Make your pitch on this post...

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6 Pitched:

  1. amk said...

    welcome back Q, dare i saw you see more negatives than positives. Considering that this compared to past years might have been one of the best ones ((relatively)

  2. Reverse Swing said...

    Fawad Alam is a strange case, I am not much confident of him being a great batting aspects as his batting has flaws. But still he is smart cricketer the one who can make his way through. And if we can have guys like Imran crazy Farhat opening and doing well why can't a smart Fawad. He deserve more continuous chances I guess.

  3. Obaid said...

    Good writeup Q.. and good to have you back :) Btw check out Geoff Lawson's comments on the Sydney Morning Herald website.

    Maybe you can ask him a question from wellpitched :D

  4. Gaurav Sethi said...

    WB Q.

    The only reason to bring Misbah back is use him as an interpreter.

  5. Anonymous said...

    i like cricket too much

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