Youngsters have great opportunity under Misbah


Pakistan team has just returned from a successful tour of Zimbabwe where they remained unbeaten in the ODI and T20 series as well as the one off Test. The team selected for the tour had a few youngsters with some of the seniors being rested. The team did well with youngsters giving a good account of them. The likes of Aizaz Cheema and Yasir Shah showed promise which augurs well for the future. Though a win is a win and it was good that the team has got into a winning habit but the real test for Pakistan will begin later this month when they take on a formidable Sri Lanka in the UAE for a full series. The series will start with a three Test series for which the Sri Lankans have announced a balanced squad.
Sri Lanka has just completed a tough assignment at home against Australia where although they lost both the Test and the ODI series yet it would have given them a good run and they will be in good shape for the series against Pakistan.
Both teams will be having their hopes from recent series. On a closer look, both teams look evenly matched. While Sri Lankans have a good squad and are coming out of a tough series at home, the Pakistanis too have done reasonably well in the last year or so. The overall results have been positive in the last year or so. Starting from the South African series in the UAE last year, they did well did well as they did in New Zealand before a good show in the World Cup in February and March where they lost in the semi-final. Then on the tour of West Indies, also they won the ODI series before levelling the Test series 1-1. And now they have completed a successful tour of Zimbabwe remaining unbeaten across all formats. Pakistan seems to have developed a good nucleus of players including seniors and juniors which is delivering the goods now.
Misbah-ul-Haq seems to be settling in well as captain. He may not be very expressive as some other captains around but he seems to know his job well and knows what is required of him and how he has to achieve it. He is delivering the good for the team in his own way keeping a low profile which is different in Pakistan cricket. He also seems to have earned the respect of the players and knows how to get the best out of them.
The other player who deserves a mention is Mohammad Hafeez. The nifty all rounder has proved to be a revelation both with bat and ball since his recall to the side on the last year’s tour of England. His batting and bowling averages have improved both in Tests and ODIs and he certainly looks to be a matured individual now who tend to put a price tag on his wicket.
Although Hafeez has done appreciably well but the room for improvement is still very much there and this series against Sri Lanka will be an ideal opportunity for Hafeez to enhance his reputation. He should look to convert his good starts into substantial scores more consistently and much will be expected of him during this series.
Last time these two teams met was in 2009 in Sri Lanka where they played a close series. Although Pakistan lost both the series, Test (2-0) and ODI (3-2), but the contest was a much closer one. This time round things are much different. Pakistan team looks more settled while Sri Lankans are without their two champion bowlers Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas. The islanders are finding it tough to come to terms with the retirement of these two quality bowlers. Their bowling unit struggled on the recent tour of England and they also failed to make much impression against Australia at home. This is where the senior Pakistan batsmen like Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq and Mohammad Hafeez will have to lead the way for the team. The only serious threat for Pakistani batsmen can come from left arm spinner Rangana Herath who can be deceptive with his varieties.
Pakistani bowling has got good quality too. One feels selectors will include seamers Umar Gul and Wahab Riaz and Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman will be the two spinners. This can be a potent quartet which if bowls to its potential can put a check on the Sri Lankan batting. The main objective of Pakistani bowlers should be to keep Mahela Jayawardene and Kumara Sangakkara quiet. Both of them are class acts with the bat and Sri Lanka relies heavily on them. If the bowlers can put them in check it can help the Pakistani cause big time. Sri Lankan captain Tillakaratne Dilshan can also prove to be a difficult proposition but his recent poor form and his ostentatious batting style can go against him.
Sri Lankans have had a tough time in their last two assignments against England and Australia and will be eager to improve. The Pakistan Cricket Board should order sporting pitches which favour Pakistani brand of cricket more. This way the fans will also get to see quality games rather than dull and dud draws.
The series provides Pakistan an excellent opportunity to get some positive results their way against a formidable team. They will have to plan well and go out positively and give a combined team effort and the results will come their way. If every player gives it his 100 percent and does the job, Pakistan can surely win the series which will be a big boost for them keeping in view the tough series against England and possibly India early next year.