Sunday, September 17, 2017

Pakistan roller-coaster on the up

Life as a Pakistan cricket supporter is like being on a roller-coaster with similar emotions suffered by fans of the proverbial ‘yo-yo’ football teams that enjoy the highs of promotion before tumbling down again the next season.

The summer’s triumph in the ICC Champions Trophy was clearly a high and one that not many people saw coming.

But a glance at history shows that the Asians have never really been a consistent side and it really should have surprised nobody that they were able to fly under the radar to pull off such a stunning tournament success.

Whether they can carry it into the 2019 World Cup only time will tell and it is unlikely they will be among the favorites.

The 1992 World Cup triumph under the leadership of the legendary Imran Khan remains the nation’s pinnacle in the sport and a success that was borne out of adversity, with the side barely making it out of the group stage.

To quote the great man himself they fought like ‘cornered tigers’ and it was a never-say-die attitude that saw them all the way to the final and past an England team tipped for glory.

The current crop of players may not quite have the talent of their compatriots from 25 years ago but they have no less fighting spirit and were simply too strong for England in the semi-finals before taking apart rivals India in the final.

Pakistan have always been tough to beat once they get on a roll but they have also shown a brittle side in recent years with some poor defeats and displays.

Form in the months leading into the Champions Trophy was patchy, with a 4-1 ODI series loss to Australia but they did manage to beat a relatively weak West Indies side 2-1 in April.

Test results have not been much to write home about with losses to Australia and New Zealand in the past 12 months but, once again, they were too good for the men from the Caribbean.

Misbah-ul-Haq must take a lot of credit for the way he led the side from the turbulent times after the 2010 England tour, and his retirement will leave a huge void in the side both in leadership and batting.

Any success that Pakistan had in the five-day game was in no small way down to the veteran, who scored runs for fun after being handed the captain’s armband.

His 26 Test victories is a Pakistan record and the new man at the helm, Sarfraz Ahmed, has big shoes to fill in all three formats of the game.

All Pakistan’s recent success has been achieved without having a home to call their own with matches played in the United Arab Emirates, and it was a welcome sight to see international cricket back in the country.

The World XI may not be the strongest side that will ever visit Lahore but it is one of the most significant for a nation starved of matches on home soil since 2009, and the hope is that it will be the forerunner of Test cricket returning to Pakistan soil in the near future.

There will doubtless be many ups and downs for the Pakistan side in the future but, when they come, the peaks are certainly worth the wait.

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