A winning streak


Congratulations Team Pakistan! Two big victories, done in style and with huge resolve! Finally, they appear to have gotten it right. With few exceptions, it has been a united and consolidated performance. Proof that a dedicated and hard working leadership does drive potential to the fore. And of course this series is a confirmation that England needs to get its act together in away mode. Just as teams that visit England need to.
The past few weeks, to my mind, have been evidence of the thrill of test cricket and the mastery required to play it as opposed to any other form. Fantastic series between South Africa and Sri Lanka, Australia and India and the captioned one have enthralled cricket aficionados beyond belief. From 5am to 9pm literally every day there has been the mad scramble towards TVs. Sleep has been at a premium. What a great game this is.
Kudos to the UAE ground management. It’s quite incredible how they’ve put together superb cricketing wickets that lend themselves to results rather than the mundane ones usually prepared on the sub-continent that are specifically designed to do the opposite (or, at the least, favour the home side). The preparation has been immaculate. The wickets looked good even at the end of five days of hard fought test cricket. The grass and outfield of billiard table quality. The bat and ball have been fairly and squarely pitted against each other.
Its obvious that its not just Butt’s departure, although I believe it has a lot to do with it, it’s a lot of hard work and Misbah deserves recognition and admiration for turning a bunch of individuals into a cohesive team. The atmosphere on the field is certainly commendable. There is a synergy. An educated guess is that the dressing room and post game situation has followed suit. It’s amazing how the departure of a few negative influences can impact performance.
This Pakistan side is currently undergoing a transition. Its front line bowling attack has been severely depleted because of the spot-fixing debacle. No real successors have been found. It is an area where Pakistan needs to look deep and hard. The compensation lies in the spin department responding as a very strong fighting force. Ajmal, although not young, is outstanding and continues to improve. Rehman is still evolving and can only get better with proper guidance. Hafeez’ intervention has paid off effectively each time it has been sought, especially against England’s left-handers.
The bowlers on both sides have performed splendidly. England’s pace attack has matched the prowess of its spin attack. And Pakistan’s spin attack has been outstanding. The ball has dominated the series on a wicket that has provided a very level playing field. The spin and bounce extracted by the spinners on both sides is a salute to their talent.
Batting is a worry to both sides. Known performers have let the sides down, leaving it to others to carry the burden and build the innings. When this happens repeatedly, the pressure has adverse effects. The English top order has failed more often than not. They’ve been tentative and played back to spin and paid the penalty. The ball has come off quicker leaving them stranded, at times unable to read the delivery. Strauss has failed. Pietersen has been a disaster. Bell has struggled desperately. Morgan has tried to hit his way out and has not succeeded. Cook and to an extent Trott have held their own, but for not long enough.
Pakistan’s batting has faired marginally better. The openers have gotten off to good starts but Azhar and Younis have failed leaving Misbah, Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq to bring a semblance of order. And Azhar and Asad have responded courageously. There has been little else to commend. When you look at the statistics for the last match, 72 runs separated the two sides. A total of 870 runs were scored in 5 days at an average of 174 runs a day. In the same time 40 wickets fell.
To maintain this winning streak, Team Pakistan will have to dig deeper. The complacency witnessed in the past can quickly change fortunes. Long term plans for the team, apparently being considered by the chairman, including the appointment of a foreign coach should continue to dominate the thinking table. Changes in management must be of a permanent nature; ad-hoc appointees should be thanked and sent home, regardless of the current success. To exceed the sell-by date can only prove to be disastrous.
Pakistan must find replacement for its quick attack. The selectors need to travel the width and breadth of the country looking for serious potential now that it is known that Amir will not be returning to the game. They also need to be looking for a serious replacement for Younis. He has had a long and good innings but it’s over when it’s over. We dragged Inzamam to the point of him becoming a liability in more ways than one. Look where it took us.
To win is great. The applause is deafening. Too many get lost in the euphoria. While we need to join the applauders and support the team next weekend, we need to emphasise that there are innumerable challenges in getting to the spot on top. Face them and it’s yours. Best of luck!

The writer may be contacted via e-mail at [email protected]