Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Pakistan was ahead of its time... before it hit rock bottom!

Pakistan's ODI cricket has never been in such a sad state as it is in right now. They are ranked 7 in the world, are currently trailing Bangladesh 2-0, and if they lose the series 3-0 then they will drop down to number 8.

Where did it all go wrong for them?

If we consider the entire 45-year history of ODI cricket, Pakistan has the third best overall record in ODIs. Only Australia and South Africa have won a higher percentage of ODIs than Pakistan in this time. Despite this record, we are going through a period where Pakistan has not won an ODI series for over a year.

I fail to understand how they have fallen so far behind other teams. There was a time in the 90s when Pakistan was one of the best ODI teams, if not the best, in the world. They played two World Cup finals in that decade, winning one, and created a number of ODI records, which stood for a long time.

They were well ahead of other teams, but the turn of the century has witnessed a significant transformation, which is hard to understand.

Pakistan and its cricketers created 5 ODI records in the previous century, which at the time were the sort of records that one felt would never be broken. However, since the turn of the century, those records have fallen multiple times and it shows how other teams have not only caught up with Pakistan but have also marched ahead tremendously, leaving Pakistan far far behind.

1. Fastest Century in ODIs

In October 1996, one innings changed Shahid Afridi's life forever. He smashed a century off only 37 deliveries while slaughtering Sri Lanka's bowling in Nairobi and held the record for the fastest century ever scored in an ODI for 17 years! No one came close to breaking that record besides Afridi himself, who also held the record for the second fastest ODI century ever scored (45 deliveries) when he smashed India's bowlers to all parts of Kanpur in 2005.

Even though Mark Boucher bettered the second fastest ODI 100 in 2006, it was not until 2014 that Afridi's fastest 100 record was broken. Corey Anderson broke that record by 1 delivery when he sprinted to an ODI ton off only 36 deliveries against the West Indies. That record was broken again by AB De Villiers earlier this year when he further tormented the West Indies by destroying their bowlers and reaching an ODI century off only 31 deliveries.

In the 90s, one could easily say that no one can hit the ball the way Afridi does. He was well ahead of his time and gave many a bowling attack nightmares for some time.

The way the game is played today, however, there are many who can hit the ball better than Afridi ever did. The fastest 100 record has been broken twice already, and maybe ABD's 31 ball century will never be bettered, however it is easy to imagine many more centuries scored of 30 odd deliveries in the year to come.

2. Highest Team Score in ODIs

Back in the day, a team scoring 400 was unheard of in ODIs. In fact even 350 was a score that was rarely achieved by teams even when an innings used to be 60 overs long. In fact in the first two decades of ODI cricket, 350 was crossed only twice - by the West Indies in 1987 (360-4) and by England in 1992 (363-7). Sri Lanka were the only team that threatened the barrier of 400 when they managed the highest score by a team in ODIs in 1996 against Kenya when they amassed 398-5.

In that same game where Afridi hit the fastest century, Pakistan scored a daunting 371-9 in their 50 overs. That was the highest score by a team in an ODI between two test playing nations. That stood for 3 years before India scored 373 and 376 in 1999 against Sri Lanka and New Zealand respectively.

The game has changed so much that in the past decade or so, teams have crossed 400 in an ODI innings on as many as 15 occasions. Pakistan have managed it exactly zero times.

It is ironic that the three teams that posted the highest ODI totals in the 80s and 90s - West Indies, England, and Pakistan - are the only teams among the top 8 ODI sides who have not posted a score of 400 in an ODI yet.

3. Highest Individual Score in ODIs

Like a team score of 400, to think that a batsman will ever score 200 in an ODI was unfathomable. Viv Richards's 189* against England in May 1984 remained the highest score ever in an ODI for 13 years before Saeed Anwar smashed India's bowlers for a magnificent 194. That was the closest anyone ever got to scoring a double century in an ODI. Saeed Anwar could have easily become the first man to do so had he not perished as there were still a few overs left in Pakistan's innings.

At the time many felt that Saeed Anwar's record will never be broken. It took 12 years for someone to equal the record as  Charles Coventry of Zimbabwe scored 194 in an ODI against Bangladesh.

But then came Sachin Tendulkar's epic unbeaten 200 against South Africa in 2010. Saeed Anwar's record stood strong for 13 years, like Sir Viv Richards', before Sachin became the first ever batsman to score a double century in ODIs. In the past 5 years since then, we have witnessed 5 more double centuries in ODIs, and with the way the game is played today we will definitely see many many more.

4. Most Sixes in an ODI innings

In 1987 and 1988, Viv Richards played two innings in which he hit 7 sixes each. That was the most number of sixes anyone had hit in an ODI innings at the time. 7. In 1989, Sir Viv's compatriot, Gordon Greenidge bettered him by 1 and held the record for most 6s hit in an ODI innings - 8!

In 1996, Sanath Jayasuriya and Shahid Afridi, during their respective record breaking fastest ODI hundreds, hit 11 sixes each. 11 sixes in an ODI innings was unbelievable, and it remained so for more than a decade before Xavier Marshall smashed Canada for 12 sixes in 2008.

However, the past 5 years has seen even that mark crossed on 5 different occasions. Rohit Sharma, AB De Villiers, and Chris Gayle jointly hold the record for most sixes in an ODI innings - 16! Shane Watson has hit 15, while Corey Anderson has hit 14.

It is not long before we will witness someone smash 20 sixes in an ODI innings.

5. Highest Partnership in ODIs

In 1994, Aamer Sohail and Inzamam Ul Haq got together and pummelled New Zealand for 263 runs for the second wicket. Back then, not only was that the highest partnership for any wicket in ODIs, it was the only time that a 250 run partnership was witnessed in an ODI.

Even though that record was broken before the turn of the century, this century alone has seen over 15 partnerships of 250 or more in ODIs, with the most recent one being Warner and Smith's 260 against Afghanistan, and the highest being Gayle and Samuel's record 372 against Zimbabwe.

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Pakistan's ODI batting is currently the worst in the world. However there was a time when it was one of the best. In fact, as the above records show, Pakistan's ODI batting was well ahead of other teams, and definitely far far ahead of its times.

To think how far down the barrel we have fallen; it is just sad. It is unbelievable. And it is quite incomprehensible.

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