Unpredictable Pakistan, once again, seems to be emerging as a superpower in world cricket by beating South Africa in the recent ODI series on their own turf with some emphatic performances. With a bunch of young cricketers showing resilience, this Pakistan cricket team looks to be in promising shape.
Pakistan struggled a lot in the past decade. Internal conflict between cricketers and the board, match fixing, spot fixing and numerous other negativities tore apart their cricket team. Although they have won the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017, it was nothing but an unexpected result with no consistency afterwards. Nevertheless, the seed of resurrection was planted there.
90s was the golden age of Pakistan cricket. After lifting the 1992 World Cup they remained one of the best teams of that period with a formidable pace unit formed by Wasim Akram and Waqar Younus. Saqlain Mushtaq and Mushtaq Ahmed had maintained nobility in the spin attack. Batting was as strong as the bowling unit as the opening pair of Saeed Anwar and Amir Sohail became a nightmare for any opponent. Javed Miandad, Ijaj Ahmed, Salim Malik followed by Inzamam Ul Haque, Mohammad Yousuf, Shahid Afridi never let the batting lineup look weak.
Although Pakistan was not winning any ICC trophies, they continued to be one of the best teams across all formats till their miserable exit from the 2007 World Cup. Mysterious death of coach Bob Woolmer in the hotel room added to the disaster. They managed to reach the first-ever T20 World Cup final months after from the WC disaster, again, which was no promise of consistency but a display of the team’s unpredictable character.
On top of that, catastrophes kept following them. After the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team at Lahore, Pakistan had been barred from hosting international cricket matches. Due to political crisis, Pakistani cricketers were not allowed to participate in IPL. India-Pakistan series, one of the biggest sources for PCB’s earning, had only taken place once in the last decade. Spot fixing scandal of Salman Butt, Mohammed Asif and Mohammad Amir tarnished their cricket further.
Pakistan had still some life left in the team till the retirements of stalwarts like Misbah-ul-Haque, Younis Khan, Saeed Azmal and Umar Gul. They slipped to their lowest ODI ranking on ninth position with only 78 points in 2016. With their backs against the wall, that was the year when the process of resurrection began with many new talents coming to the squad.
Babar Azam has been at the centre of Pakistan’s dream of bringing back their glory days. His batting average in ODI format is a little shy of that of modern day great Virat Kohli. Imam Ul Haque is playing with much more responsibility while his partner Fakhar Zaman is busy with showing aggression. This pair frequently reminds us about the Saeed Anwar-Amir Sohail era.
On the other hand, Shaheen Afridi continuously earned the badge from experts since debut. Hasan Ali was often compared to Indian all-rounder Hardik Pandya for their identical approach to the game. Magical leg-break deliveries of Yasir Shah have been bringing crucial breakthroughs for the team on a regular basis.
Pakistan as a cricket team has always been a treat to watch for their unpredictable nature. The team has suffered enough loss; they have been deprived of playing cricket on their own soil, their players have been left out of IPL, they have faced spot-fixing crisis several times. They have sunk so deep that the only way to go now is upwards.
With cricket returning to their country after a decade, young players taking more responsibility and showing brighter prospects, everything seems to be falling into place once again. It’s only a matter of time when they start ruling the cricket world once more.
Shafin Saif is currently studying International Relations at Jahangirnagar University.