Pakistan’s tour to New Zealand was a tale of two halves – more accurately a six-match losing streak punctuated by an ODI series whitewash and the reciprocating turnaround in the final two T20s.
After Pakistan lost the first T20 in a similar fashion to the five ODIs, a similar fate for the second series was being unanimously predicted. And as Pakistan demonstrated in the final T20s, the wins were no fluke.
The batting – often the team’s Achilles’ heel, definitely in the ODI series – was confident, and scored the runs that the bowling defended well. The bowling itself that hadn’t quite shown up in the ODIs, did well to restrict New Zealand, for even scores of 201 and 181 were well within their reach.
And at the end of it all, after beating New Zealand 2-1 on their turf, Pakistan managed to regain the number one T20 ranking from their hosts.
There’s little doubt that Pakistan is the top T20 side in the world right now. Under Sarfraz Ahmed’s captaincy, they’ve beaten England away, West Indies (UAE and away), Sri Lanka (home/UAE) – and now New Zealand (away). It’s a shame that no T20s were scheduled this time last year in Australia, for that would’ve been the ultimate test, especially with the World T20 scheduled Down Under in 2020.
Meanwhile, the ODI side looked set to head in the same direction after the summer’s historic Champions Trophy win. The triumph in the final against India, especially looked set to finally push Pakistan to modern day ODI cricket – on the batting front.
The Champions Trophy title was followed by a five-match whitewash of Sri Lanka in the UAE, meaning that Pakistan was on a nine-match winning streak before losing five on the bounce in New Zealand.
Pakistan’s major problem in ODIs remains the batting. And it is through the successes in T20s that the batting woes can be addressed.
Pakistan’s T20 rise, and even the Champions Trophy win owes a lot to the Pakistan Super League, the third edition of which will start in three weeks’ time. This is not only because of the injection of promising stars through the PSL – the likes of Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan and Fakhar Zaman – but also because it provided a revamped approach towards batting.
The cagey approach was shunned and an attacking intent has been visible in the T20s. However, replicating the same in ODIs remains a challenge.
Modern ODI cricket demands the same intent over a sustained period of time. Unfortunately, Pakistan is suffering from a combination of the lack of needed personnel, and others failing to deliver in accordance with their potential.
Pakistan’s continued problem in putting up totals in excess of 300 is owing to a continued failure in getting the right starts up top, and also the inability for the batting lineup to click in unison.
Fakhar Zaman’s return to form is a positive sign, but the ODI lineup is significantly devoid of players who can play aggressively and for a sustained period. This is where an approach similar to the T20s could help Pakistan with the impetus needed to go big in ODIs as well, with those unable to keep pace being replaced by up and coming batsmen – which again would be handpicked from the PSL.
The impressive showings in the final T20s and the number one ranking might’ve put curtains on the ODI whitewash, but it’s important that the board and team management treat the two formats and the two teams separately.
So, while the T20 side should continue to do exactly what it has been doing, the ODI side needs a lot of self-reflection. And it is from the successes of the former, that the latter has a lot to gain.