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COMMENT: Victories, emerging talent show Pakistan cricket is in good hands

COMMENT: Victories, emerging talent show Pakistan cricket is in good hands

Pakistan’s resounding victory in all the three formats against Sri Lanka on the Islanders’ own turf was an outstanding achievement by all counts. It not only helped Pakistan to emerge as a leading cricketing force once again on the world map, the brilliant show of some half a dozen newcomers clearly dispelled the notion that there is any dearth of talent in the country.

It is never easy to beat a team on its own turf, no matter how ordinarily it has fared in international cricket away from home. England’s recent triumph over the formidable Australians substantially endorses my argument. More so, India’s shock 63-run defeat at Galle yesterday makes Pakistan’s convincing victory over the Sri Lankans in their own backyard look really special.

Winning the Test series, of course, was a huge boost for Misbah-ul-Haq and his charges as they twice came back from positions of despair to turn the tables on the hosts and win 2-1 in terrific style.

However, it was Pakistan’s back to back triumph in the ODIs and the T20 Internationals over the Islanders that was really significant and remarkable, considering their ordinary faring in the limited overs cricket during the past few years.

Firstly, it showed that Pakistan players are now more consistent and mentally tough to overcome crisis such as injuries, mini collapses and pitch variation. With key bowlers such as Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan and Saeed Ajmal not available owing to various reasons, the young guns, first under the able leadership of Azhar Ali and then under the dashing captaincy of Shahid Afridi, got the better of the Sri Lankans and improved their chances of qualifying for 2017 ICC Champions Trophy.

Secondly, I must hand it to the selectors for picking up talented newcomers such as Mohammad Rizwan, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Mukhtar, Imran Khan and a few others who not only inspired their seniors to lift their game but also sizzled in the field to take some breath-taking catches and pulling off some half a dozen run-outs that made the difference in the end.

The return of Anwar Ali, Shoaib Malik and goliath-like Mohammad Irfan were also key for Pakistan while Sarfraz Ahmed was in his elements, as always, to provide the much-needed backbone to the team.

As for Sarfraz, I feel, he is a wicket-keeper-batsman for all formats and should never be left out of the team. His confidence and aggressive style of batting often lifts the team’s morale when the chips are down and he has been the central figure in the numerous rearguard actions for Pakistan of late.

Here, I would like to share a certain observation of mine with the readers which could be interesting in analyzing the psyche of our players. I feel that since we have three different captains for the three formats – Misbah, Azhar and Shahid Afridi – it must be a bit perplexing for the players to adjust to their distinct styles of leadership which range from defensive to very aggressive.

I can say from experience that some players are more comfortable with orthodox styles of captaincy while others are happier if a leader resorts to an attacking game. That could include various aspects - as to how a particular captain approaches the match, sets the batting order, places the field, bowling changes, etc. Of course, the best captain of all is the one who brings the best out of the players every time, but such leaders are hard to find in contemporary cricket.

A word about the Pakistan Super League now. It appeared very much like a distant dream when the year began, but thanks to the untiring and brilliant efforts of Najam Sethi, the league is fast taking shape and will Inshallah get launched by year end or early next year.

Just how big a boost PSL will be to Pakistan cricket remains to be seen. However, I am fully convinced that the PSL will bring in tremendous exposure and good money for our players as well the Pakistan Cricket Board which is all one could ask for at this stage.

With PCB chief Shaharyar Khan’s diplomatic wisdom bearing fruit in shape of Zimbabwe’s historic tour to Pakistan last June, the doors of international cricket have finally reopened on the country after six agonising years.

As far as I know, a few other international team such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Ireland have expressed keenness on touring Pakistan in the next few months which is absolutely fabulous development for our cricket.

There is also a healthy possibility of the revival of bilateral series against India in December that could do wonders for the game in the region.

All in all, good days are here for Pakistan and I sincerely hope and wish that we further improve our rankings in world cricket by scoring more impressive wins like those achieved in Sri Lanka.

Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2015

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