Sunday, June 19, 2016

Pakistan vs England: What does 2016 have in store for Pakistan?

Since I have been watching cricket, every single time Pakistan tours England, something goes wrong. Irrespective of what happens on the field, off the field the Pakistanis get embroiled in controversy after controversy.

In 1992, ball tampering took center stage as clueless England batsmen resorted to calling the lethal Wasim and Waqar cheats and accused them of tampering with the ball. Only because their batsmen were not good enough to face them and their bowlers were not good enough to bowl them.

Besides this, there was also an ugly incident between Aquib Javed and umpire Roy Palmer (or was it Ken Palmer?) in one of the tests where the umpire felt Aaquib was intimidating number XI Devon Malcolm with repeated bouncers; which was clearly not what was happening.

In 1996, the ball tampering allegations continued as England's batsmen remained clueless against Wasim and Waqar. A court case regarding ball tampering involving Ian Botham and Imran Khan was ongoing during this series.


Thankfully the World Cup in 1999 and the tour in 2001 did not involve any cheating claims; however the tabloids carried numerous stories on the night life that Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar, Shahid Afridi, Saqlain Mushtaq, Ijaz Ahmed and others enjoyed during their visits to the UK. Nightclubs, bars, casinos - the stories made Pakistan's cricketers sound like rockstars!

In 2006, ball tampering returned once again! But this time it wasn't the players who accused the Pakistanis. It was Darrell Hair. He gave 5 penalty runs to England (or docked Pakistan of 5 runs) because he believed that the Pakistanis were tampering with the balls. In protest, Inzamam did not lead his team out to the field after the Tea break.

Pakistan refused to continue the test match and for the first time in the history of test cricket, a match had been forfeited.

In 2010, Pakistan sent quite a young team to England following the after math of the disastrous tour to Australia that resulted in almost all of Pakistan's senior players banned  by the PCB. The result was yet another disastrous tour as three of Pakistan's cricketers had been caught red handed spotfixing through a newspaper's sting operation.

Pakistan cricket was never the same again.

6 years on, Pakistan will play its first test of 2016 at Lord's, the same ground where the 3 cricketers got their hands (or should I say feet?) dirty!

One of the banned cricketers has returned to international cricket and he will play his first test since the ban, his first test in 6 years, at the same scene as his crime!

If that isn't Tabloid headline worthy, I don't know what is.

I can already see it.

Aamer returns to the scene of his crime.
Once Upon a Time at Lord's.
Aamer at Lord's again. No Ball?

It is going to happen sooner or later. The English media will leave no stone unturned to pile on the pressure on the Pakistanis.

For Misbah's men in white, the tour will be a stern test. Having beaten all opposition in their fortress known as the UAE, this is Pakistan's chance to truly stamp their authority in tests, a format that they have been very successful in since that ill fated tour to England in 2010.

It has been 20 years since Pakistan won a test series in England, with their last win (2-0) coming in 1996. Even though Pakistan has beaten England in 5 tests of the 6 they have played in the past 4 years, all those wins have come in the UAE. In England, it will be quite different.

However, this is also probably their best chance to shine. It will be interesting to see the odds the bookmakers will provide for the series given that Pakistan is ranked higher than England, however the latter seem to be favorites at home. Take a look at My Betting Sites Interactive Tool.

In Younis, Misbah, Azhar, Asad, and Sarfraz Pakistan have one of the strongest batting line ups they have ever had in tests. In Aamer and Yasir they have two genuine match winning bowlers. On their day, they can run through entire batting line ups single handedly.

In 1992 and 1996 it was the magic of the 2 Ws combined with the guile of Mushtaq Ahmed that led Pakistan to series wins. This time, Pakistan have a similar bowling combination.

Pakistan are currently ranked number 3 in tests. A series win can make them very serious challengers for the number 1 spot!

We don't know what 2016 has in store for Pakistan, but one would be a fool to expect a tour without any controversy.

Having said that, one would also be a fool to expect an easy win for England!

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