A welcome calm after the storm

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The Pakistan cricket team did not forfeit any match in 2011. None of the cricketers were found consuming cricket balls or drugs, trying to hit each other with cricket bats, or bowl scripted no-balls. In an uncharacteristically sedate year for Pakistan, the only controversy, quite literally, emerged in the form of Shoaib Akhtar’s book, Controversially Yours. So what went wrong (or right in this case) one would ask? The credit in large part goes to the current captain, Misbah-ul-Haq.
Misbah’s appointment as captain of the Test team and eventually his leadership in the shorter formats was met with surprise and criticism from most quarters but the stoic Misbah brought a sense of calmness and predictability, traits that are often missing from Pakistani cricket.
Misbah lead from the front and under his watchful eye, the team ended the year with a win-loss record of 6-1, second only to England’s 6-0 and an ODI record of 24 wins from 32 matches. Some of those wins came when Afridi was in charge including their appearance in the semi final at the ICC World Cup. Pakistan’s stellar year was rounded off by four wins out of five in T20 internationals.
Admittedly, the opposition that Pakistan faced was not of the highest standards but Pakistan, since that fateful Oval Test of 2006, have been mired in one controversy after another, each more embarrassing and debilitating than the previous one, so 2011 proved to be a welcome change.
Team and individual performances are inter-linked and there was no shortage of individual brilliance as well; Ajmal finished the year as the highest wicket taker in Tests and the number one bowler on the ICC ODI bowler rankings.
Hafeez and Afridi also joined him on that list making it a memorable year for the trio of Pakistan spinners. While the spinners dominated proceedings, Pakistan unearthed some very fine fast bowlers in Junaid Khan and Aizaz Cheema.
Things got better off the field as well with Ijaz Butt’s comical and disastrous tenure coming to an end and his replacement Zaka Ashraf getting off to a good start. The chairman has already delivered on his promise of bringing cricket back to Pakistan by negotiating a deal with the Bangladesh Cricket Board which will see them tour Pakistan in early 2012, subject to a security report.
More importantly, Ashraf so far has come across as someone who likes to stick to his job and not meddle in every matter, a hobby Butt loved as the head honcho of the Pakistan Cricket Board.
With so many good things happening on and off the pitch, there were bound to be moments which would prove to be a buzz kill. The semi-final in Mohali stands out for obvious reasons and while the team needs to be applauded for the show they put up throughout the tournament, one cannot help but feel disappointed at a very good opportunity lost.
Speaking of missed opportunities, the team yet again failed to register a series win in West Indies against a line up that can rightly be termed as a shadow of their former glorious self.
As far as off-field matters go, the spot-fixing scandal and the eventual trial saw the three implicated cricketers being convicted and sent to prison. There is hope that budding cricketers learn from the shamed trio and steer clear of such notoriety.
The past year proved to be a resounding success but everyone involved with cricket in Pakistan must look to build on from here and not rest on their laurels. Pakistan’s fielding still leaves a lot to be desired and the strong bowling attack coupled with weak oppositions papered over the cracks in our batting department that will be no doubt be tested against sterner opposition, starting from England in January.
As Imran Khan once said: “Good teams learn from their mistakes while great teams learn from their successes.”

1 COMMENT

  1. good article. gives hope for the future. can you comment on what sort wickets pakistan should prepare for england series.

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