Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Pakistan vs Sri Lanka - Major Personal Milestones Around the Corner

This post first appeared on DAWN.

Pakistan vs Sri Lanka has become an all too familiar sight for the cricket watching public. This is Pakistan's third visit to the Island for a full tour in the past 4 years. To put it into context, Pakistan has not toured Australia, England, New Zealand, or the West Indies during this period. Moreover, Pakistan has also played Sri Lanka in the UAE twice during this time, making this the 5th test series between the two sides since October 2011.

During this period, the two teams have played 11 tests with Sri Lanka holding a slight edge with 4 wins to Pakistan's 2. Both of Pakistan's wins have come in the UAE. In fact, it has been 9 years since Pakistan won a test match in Sri Lanka; that was the last time that Pakistan won a test series in the Island as well.

Besides turning around their test performance in Sri Lanka, Pakistan's test cricketers will also be eyeing some personal achievements during this test series.

Pakistan's absolute test legend will play his 100th test during this series, fitness permitting of course. This will be a significant feather in his cap making him only the 5th player from Pakistan to play 100 tests (the others are Javed Miandad, Inzamam Ul Haq, Wasim Akram, and Salim Malik).

Younis Khan also has some more achievements to look forward to. He needs only 286 runs to go past Javed Miandad and become Pakistan's leading run scorer in test cricket; only 453 runs to become the first Pakistani to score 9,000 test runs; only 1 century to become the first Pakistani batsman to hit 30 test centuries.

Given the form Younis has been in recently, there is every likelihood that he will achieve all these feats during the upcoming 3-test series against Sri Lanka.
Ahmed Shehzad
Pakistan's talented young opener has had a fabulous start to his test career scoring 718 runs, including 3 centuries, in only 15 test innings. He needs another 282 runs to reach a 1,000 test runs and he has the opportunity to create a Pakistan record of becoming the fastest batsman to reach 1,000 test runs. The record right now is held by Saeed Ahmed who required 20 innings to complete 1,000 test runs. 

Shehzad is also in the running for a Pakistan record in terms of time required to score 1,000 test runs. Having made his test debut on 31st December 2013, it had been 1 year and 164 days since his test debut. The Pakistani selectors denied him a good opportunity to create this record by unfairly dropping him from the test squad against Bangladesh, but good on them to correct this mistake and bring the talented opener back into the fold. 

Misbah Ul Haq
Pakistan's test captain has already achieved so much while captaining the team that there doesn't seem much left for him to do. He has taken Pakistan to number 3 in the test rankings, he has won more tests as captain than any other Pakistan captain, he has scored more runs as captain than any other Pakistan captain, and he has led Pakistan more times than everyone else, except for the great Imran Khan.

So what else is left for Misbah to make his own? Well, he needs 1 more century to equal and two more to break Inzamam Ul Haq's record of 7 test centuries scored as Pakistan captain.
Yasir Shah
Pakistan's newest leg spinner has been a revelation in test cricket. He has taken over from Saeed Ajmal in the best possible way and has plenty of wickets to show for his tenacity and perseverance. Rated by Shane Warne as the best leg spinner in the world today, Yasir Shah has so far picked up 37 wickets in only 7 tests.

He has the opportunity to complete 50 test wickets faster than any bowler from Pakistan if he can pick up another 13 wickets in the next 2 tests. The Pakistan record for fastest to reach 50 test wickets is jointly held by Waqar Younis, Mohammad Asif, and Shabbir Ahmed, who managed it in 10 tests. For spinners, the Pakistan record is held by Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman who required 11 tests.
Yasir Shah also has time on his side as it has only been 235 days since his Test debut against Australia in October last year. No one has achieved the feat of picking up 50 test wickets for Pakistan within a year of his debut.

While the overall international record for fastest 50 test wickets is 6 tests, held by Charlie Turner from Australia, the record among spinners is held by Alfred Valentine, the slow left armer from West Indies, who managed the feat in 8 tests. Yasir can't break that record but he definitely has the opportunity to equal it.
While Pakistan will be looking to improve its test record in Sri Lanka, and its cricketers will have their eyes firmly on their personal goals, Pakistan's two biggest nemeses will be licking their lips at the prospect of playing against their favorite opposition once again. Kumar Sangakkara and Rangana Herath have been the two biggest hurdles that Pakistan has not been able to overcome.

No one has scored more test runs or test centuries against Pakistan than Sangakkara has.

Moreover, Sangakkara will be looking to add to his 2,809 runs against Pakistan and become the first batsman in the world to score 3,000 test runs against them. That will make him the first cricketer to score 3,000 test runs against an opposition besides Australia and England. The feat has been achieved only 7 times before - by Bradman, Border, Sobers, and Steve Waugh vs England; and Tendulkar, Hobbs, and Gower vs Australia.

Rangana Herath has also been very successful in tests against Pakistan picking up 88 wickets in only 17 matches, making him the third most successful bowler against Pakistan. He needs only 3 more wickets to surpass Shane Warne, and only 12 more wickets to become the first bowler in the world to pick up 100 wickets in tests against Pakistan.

So then, even though the upcoming test series may reek of too much familiarity, there is plenty at stake for the players taking part. It will definitely make for interesting viewing to witness experienced campaigners like Younis, Misbah, Sangakkara, and Herath achieve the above mentioned milestones near the end of their careers; as it would be to witness upcoming talent like Shehzad and Yasir to achieve their feats so early in their careers.

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