It was a big week for Pakistan Cricket with celebration, injury, controversy, landmarks and serious gains abound as the cricket fans and cricket board alike prepare for a year that will prove to one of continuous challenges.
The uproar over the previous Future Tours Plan (FTP) was reduced to some extent for one, with the International Cricket Council (ICC) releasing a new FTP with revisions in which Pakistan has climbed up the ladder and secured more international game time for itself.
Earlier, there had been much controversy surrounding the ICC’s plan which had given Pakistan the least number of international engagements in the coming calendar year, bellow both Afghanistan and Zimbabwe. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had been preparing to come out swinging against the ICC for not setting up any games against India as per the council’s rules, but was met with a rude shock when this became the least of its problems.
Now, however, Pakistan has managed to secure for itself around 20 new international games than before. Earlier, Pakistan had been scheduled to play 104 internationals between May 2019 and May 2023. They are instead set to play 121 games between the same time period. they have two Tests, five ODIs and 10 T20Is more than in the earlier FTP.
Another major win for the board was that the increased pitch-time comes without any consequence to the increasing space that the Pakistan Super League is taking on the country’s yearly cricket calendar. In fact, the ICC proved to be quite accommodating in this regard.
While the increase is something the PCB will be patting itself on the back over, especially since all members signed off on it in agreement. However, they still lag behind most test playing nations and have more than a couple of series against the West Indies alone.
Another noteworthy element was that the under 19 cricket team embarked for their world cup campaign among much fanfare, a pleasing oddity. The under 19s have been much ignored since they stopped winning the tournament. Without beating about the bush, their earlier success can be attributed to the fact that the players that went for the tournament were rarely under 19. The success suddenly came to a halt after the ICC made stricter regulations for age testing through the wrist x-ray method.
Pakistani fans should be worried, however, because at least four of the players including the captain have serious controversy surrounding their ages which could in fact lead to an embarrassing exit for the team. But if that does happen, it might just give the under 19s some well needed attention from both media and controlling body.
With much good news around, possibly placed above rooms full of explosives, the one looming sadness is the stress fracture that fast bowler Junaid Khan managed to give himself stopping a ball while fielding during the BBL. Both him and Shadab Khan have been impressive in the tournament and in top form, Junaid could have been the key to replacing an always faltering Wahab Riaz, and making Pakistan’s bowling line-up the lethal one of old. How they will fare in New Zealand without him is yet to be seen, but the tone they strike in this first series could be detrimental for much of the coming year.