A year of redemption, glory and hope


If 2010 was a year of tumult and hullabaloo for Pakistan, 2011 is a year of fabulous performances, glory and optimism. The Pakistan cricket was at an all-time low last year in the backdrop of the ‘spot-fixing’ controversy, chronic mismanagement; an inefficient Pakistan Cricket Board failing to fight Pakistan’s case at the international forums, and the only thing worse than PCB’s management was the team’s on-field performance.
Thankfully in contrast, this year has been much serene and tranquil both on and off the field. There may be one or two cases of misconduct or mismanagement overall but in a nutshell it was a peaceful year in Pakistan cricket’s context. And most important of all, the results have gone Pakistan’s way on a more consistent basis which was heartening to see after a long time. At the end of 2011 Pakistan cricket team looks in a much better shape than it was last year at this time. The team looks like a more settled unit with everyone doing his job and delivering for the team’s ultimate good.
Also there has been a change at the helm in the PCB and positive vibes seem to emanate from the corridors of power. The foremost thing in this regard is revival of international cricket in Pakistan which was terribly halted after the 2009 attack on Sri Lankan cricket team. The new chairman Mr. Zaka Ashraf has clearly laid down the fact that revival of foreign teams visits to Pakistan is his main aim after taking over the chairmanship of the board. Talks are on with Bangladesh board and if all goes well Bangladesh can become the first Test playing nation to visit Pakistan in almost three years this spring.
Let’s hope and pray that things improve and the cricket grounds across the country come back to life once again with international cricket and the ardent Pakistani fans get to see their own stars perform in front of them. Playing your home series away from home is never easy.
Eventually, when cricket will come back to Pakistan not only the fans but also the cricketers will reap the benefits and with the home encouragement the cricketers will be able to develop their game further.
Then there is some talk of revival of cricketing ties between Pakistan and India. There was a possibility Pakistan might tour India in March-April next year to play a bilateral series but that idea has gone out of the window after the announcement of the Asia Cup schedule in Bangladesh during the same dates on which Pakistan’s tour of India was to take place. Its seems that despite the PCB’s genuine intent to resume bilateral ties with India there is an overall reluctance and disinclination on part of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and they don’t want to play Pakistan just yet.
Coming on to the field Pakistan cricket team is to have a new head coach soon. Former fast bowling great Waqar Younis resigned from the position of head coach in September after serving for a year or so. Since then former opening batsman Mohsin Khan has taken over as an interim coach and has done a reasonable job so far. But if reports are to be believed, former Australian batsman and head coach of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh Dave Whatmore is to take over this role before the start of England series next year. Now this is going to be a good choice by PCB as Whatmore has a proven track record as a coach. He has done appreciably well as a coach with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh plus he also coached English county side Lancashire with success in the 90s and is currently doing a good job with Indian Premier League (IPL) side Kolkata Knight Riders. The other good and important thing about Whatmore is that he knows the sub continental culture well and with his keen eye on the game he can be the ideal man for Pakistan cricket team. Apart from Head Coach there is also talk that specialist batting, bowling and fielding coaches are to be appointed as well which one fells is a very good idea as cricket is changing and similarly are its management playing dynamics. And its high time Pakistan cricket adopts these modern dynamics.
When we talk of results on the field in 2011 Pakistan cricket team has had a fruitful year in 2011 beyond any doubt. The team has gelled well as a cohesive unit and the role of captain Misbah-ul-Haq has been vital in this regard. He has given Pakistan team the stability that was needed the most at this point in time. Misbah is calm and collected in his demeanor as a captain on the field and also off it. He knows what he is doing and also backs his instincts when needed. He looks positive and backs the players in his own way and the boys seem to respect him as he himself leads from the front by scoring runs and keeping fit despite being 38 years old.
Pakistan started the year with an ODI series win in New Zealand. Then in the World Cup they played fantastically beating Australia, Sri Lanka and West Indies on course to the semi-final where they lost out to eventual winners India. Then on the tour of Caribbean they won the ODI series 3-2 and drew the Tests series 1-1. The 2011-12 season started with a comprehensive victory over Zimbabwe across all formats in September. After this the team went to UAE to take on Sri Lanka in a home away from home series. This was going to be their toughest Test this year given the fact that Sri Lankans are a top notch side and have been playing good cricket in the lead up to this series. The team did well yet again and won the Test series 1-0 and the ODI series 4-1. Now on the current tour of Bangladesh they have blanked out the hosts winning all the games so far.
There have been some fine individual performances as well this year. Saeed Ajmal has developed into a top notch off spinner. As one writes he is the leading Test wicket taker of the year table with 47 scalps in just seven Tests this year and he also sits on top of the world ODI ratings. Apart from him, Mohammad Hafeez has turned out to be a true all-rounder taking wickets when needed and scoring runs consistently. Younus Khan has done well with the bat as have Taufeeq Umar, Azhar Ali and Umar Akmal. With the ball Abdur Rehman has grabbed all opportunities that have come his way while Junaid Khan has shown immense promise, something which augurs well for the future. And then there is Shahid Khan Afridi who has been simply awesome with the ball.
Overall, the team’s show this year has smoothened the ruffled feathers of last year and the team seems to be headed in the right direction. The consistency has been there in the results but the overall performance will be tested to the maximum next month when they take on England in a full series in the UAE. If Pakistan keep up the good show, play with positive intent and professionalism there is no reason why they can’t do well against England and carry on the good show of 2011 in 2012 as well.