Pakistan

Twenty Years of Hurt: Pakistan’s victory in the making

Cricket Froth’s more mature readers will remember the days when Australia toured Pakistan; a time before the 1992 ODI World Champions were forced to play their home series in an adopted country. Earlier this year Cricket Froth discussed Pakistan’s last Test series victory over Australia in the nostalgia of cricket in Pakistan. The crux of that article is recorded here:

“During the ’94 tour Pakistan won a nail biter by one wicket at Karachi with big performances from Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Saeed Anwar, Inzamam-ul-Haq and current England spin coach Mushtaq Ahmed.

In the following Test Saleem Malik scored a double tonne, which ensured a draw at Rawalpindi. Michael Slater, Damien Fleming, Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan excelled. During Pakistan’s epic 2nd innings every Australian player – except Ian Healy – had a bowl. Yes, even Mark Taylor and David Boon rolled the arm over. In fact, opening batsmen Taylor and Slater took wickets! The third Test at Lahore was also a draw. Pakistan won the series 1-0.

They had some good players. I imagine that tours there were extremely challenging, but equally rewarding. I think Australia’s last tour occurred in 1998, a 1-0 victory for Australia – Peshawar providing the scene for Mark Taylor’s 334 and a big series performance from Ijaz Ahmed and the introduction of youngster Shoaib Akhtar.

In a nostalgic and perhaps rose-tinted sense tours to Pakistan and the West Indies seemed to be the epitome of tough international Test Match cricket. It’s a massive loss that international cricket isn’t played in Pakistan and West Indies struggle from poor governance and administration, un-helped by the ICC and India’s selfish scheduling of T20 tournaments.

In Pakistan the instability and threat of violence means that cricket seems an impossible and a luxurious frivolity in comparison to the issues facing their people. I hope that cricket can return to Pakistan in the near future, because that will mean things have substantially improved.”

If Pakistan nullify Australia in Abu Dhabi they’ll score their first victory in 9 series played across 20 years against Australia. It would be momentous. But Michael Clarke’s men will resolve to prevent it. I expect a more dedicated performance from Australia’s batsmen. The toss will be critical, but not solely determinant.

Australia will need to attack at key moments and prevent Pakistan from reaching a defensible position. The hosts will take a draw. Australia’s spinners – I’m looking at you Nathan Lyon – must penetrate.

I have been a big supporter of Lyon, but his return in the 1st Test was a damning moment in his 36 Test career. Pakistan had scored 454 runs before Lyon took a wicket in the first innings. He finished with 2/148, which was 0/144 until Pakistan’s wicket keeper, Sarfraz, hit out on 109 and a tailender skied one to Rogers at point. He returned 0/72 from 18 overs in Pakistan’s declared second innings.

Pakistan’s spinners looked a million dollars. On debut Yasir Shah took 7/116 and Zulfiqar Babar, playing his 3rd Test, took 7/155 in the match. Shah looks the business, but leg spin is a tough art.

Abu Dhabi may not offer as much spin and there is a rumour Australia may drop Lyon or O’Keefe for a quicker option. “That demonstrates Australia’s confidence in their spinners [on spinning decks]” said a colleague. Mitchell Starc could become the third Mitchell in Australia’s XI (bizarre). Glenn Maxwell could be a late bolter (good player of spin) if Alex Doolan is cut. I’m not convinced of Maxwell’s ability as a top 6 Test batsmen, but Doolan needs runs to repel the criticism that he isn’t one either.

Who do you think? Post your comments here or fire away on Cricket Froth’s Facebook page.

 

Pakistan v Sri Lanka & the nostalgia of cricket in Pakistan

Pakistan and Sri Lanka are producing some cracking cricket during their three match series in the United Arab Emirates. The 2nd Test in Dubai is sparsely spectated though, and this leads me to ponder why.

The UAE is Pakistan’s home base and the obvious neutrality of the venue is one reason why there’s few spectators, but can more be done to attract a crowd?

It’s a real shame Pakistan cannot play at home. As a youngster growing up in Australia I fondly recall Australia’s tours to Pakistan, particularly Australia’s defeat in 1994, which I followed via press updates and eventually through Wisden. Pakistan toured Australia in ’95 so their players were familiar to kids at the time. We recreated the battles in the street by imitating Akram, Malik, McDermott and Boon.

During the ’94 tour Pakistan won a nail biter by one wicket at Karachi with big performances from Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Saeed Anwar, Inzamam-ul-Haq and current England spin coach Mushtaq Ahmed.

In the following Test Saleem Malik scored a double tonne, which ensured a draw at Rawalpindi. Michael Slater, Damien Fleming, Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan excelled. During Pakistan’s epic 2nd innings every Australian player – except Ian Healy – had a bowl. Yes, even Mark Taylor and David Boon rolled the arm over. In fact, opening batsmen Taylor and Slater took wickets! The third Test at Lahore was also a draw. Pakistan won the series 1-0.

They had some good players. I imagine that tours there were extremely challenging, but equally rewarding. I think Australia’s last tour occurred in 1998, a 1-0 victory for Australia – Peshawar providing the scene for Mark Taylor’s 334 and a big series performance from Ijaz Ahmed and the introduction of youngster Shoaib Akhtar.

In a nostalgic and perhaps rose tinted sense tours to Pakistan and the West Indies seemed to be the epitome of tough international Test Match cricket. It’s a massive loss that international cricket isn’t played in Pakistan and West Indies struggle from poor governance and administration, un-helped by the ICC and India’s selfish scheduling of T20 tournaments.

In Pakistan the instability and threat of violence means that cricket seems an impossible and a luxurious frivolity in comparison to the issues facing their people. I hope that cricket can return to Pakistan in the near future, because that will mean things have substantially improved.

Pakistan v Sri Lanka, UAE 2013-14

The first Test in Abu Dhabi was a draw after a mighty backs-to-wall fight back from Sri Lanka forced Pakistan to hold out on the last day. The Dubai Test is through 2 days and the cricket being played is world class standard. Both teams possess excellent cricketers so it’s a shame there’s less than 3 men and a dog watching.

Surely the Pakistan Cricket Board, the ICC and local sports officials can do more to get punters into the grounds. The UAE is well known for having large populations of tradesmen and labourers from the sub-continent. Strike up partnerships with large employers, subsidise tickets, provide adequate public transport, improve advertising and promotion, get the players out there engaging the people and get them through the gates to watch the amazing cricket being played by these teams.

The ICC’s Future Tours Program has Australia scheduled to play Pakistan in October this year. What can Cricket Australia do to help the PCB get on the front foot and promote the series?

Probably a heck of a lot more than it will do under James Sutherland, that’s for sure.

Pakistan-Australia Test series set to be downsized

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The Ashes are over, but the need to promote cricket has never been stronger

Ashes Finale

The Ashes in England are over. England 3 – Australia 0.

Much has been said of the series, elsewhere and on this blog. The scoreline suggests England were totally dominant and battered Australia, but those of us that followed almost every ebb and flow of the series are acutely aware of a few moments when Australia had the ascendency, and could have won Test Matches.

Australia lost by only 14 runs at Trent Bridge and were annihilated at Lords. They had England on the ropes on the last day at Old Trafford, before rain stole almost a full day’s play. Australia were 1/150+ chasing 290odd at Chester le-Street, but capitulated, all out for 220odd. The final Test at the Oval in London was an unusual finale.

To some degree it was framed by the “dead rubber” context, but with an Ashes Series in Australia soon after, and many of the baggy greens playing for their careers, the outcomes were always going to provide a platform of intense speculation.

In the end, the match was a draw, mostly shaped by rain and bad light. Despite the draw the final day provided plenty of drama after Australia gallantly chased the win (at first), with a quickfire 2nd innings and sporting declaration. England began their last day chase of 220odd cautiously, but the game eventually resembled an ODI. England were close to victory, they only needed 20odd runs off the final four overs. Michael Clarke looked to the umpires for a bad light ruling, and they obliged, attracting the criticism of many cricket fans around the world.

Bad Light

Interpretations of bad light, the rules, the circumstances, the use of floodlights, the colour of cricket balls and the perspectives guiding the “safety” of players need to be closely examined by the ICC.

Let’s be honest, the ICC probably won’t do anything about it soon. From the outer they appear to be an intensely conservative and slow moving, perhaps dysfunctional beast. Cricket in Australia suffers immensely from a lack of quality, progressive and visionary administration. They’re not alone.

The Promotion of Cricket

One example of the ICC’s failings lay in the concept of promoting cricket. I’ll be brief.

Australia tackled Scotland in a full international 50over match in Edinburgh the other night. It was neither promoted or televised in Australia. Why?

The match was an official part of Australia’s 2013 tour of England and Ireland. Scotland are struggling to develop cricket north of Hadrian’s Wall, they could do with some assistance. An ODI against one of cricket’s heavy weights helps, but hardly, when it’s not televised and beamed around the world. England played Ireland in an ODI too, and it was not televised. Ireland are one of the strongest emerging cricket nations who have already – in my opinion – established a formidable case to play 2nd tier Test Cricket.

Cricket Australia, the ECB and the ICC must assist these developing nations in a variety of ways, but one method would be to ensure that these matches are part of negotiated television deals.

Speaking of television. I pay over $100AUD per month to Foxtel for a satellite television package. It has about eight full-time HD sports channels, and several others, but I can’t watch the Pakistan versus Zimbabwe Test Match currently being played at Harare Sports Club. Instead there are endless replays of NRL, AFL and EPL games from 1972 and a whole bunch of rubbish sports like BMX Championships and 2nd rate college football games from the US. Get the LIVE TEST MATCH CRICKET ON please.

Going into Day Three the Pakistan v Zimbabwe Test is shaping up to be a great contest and both nations – who struggle for a variety of reasons – need positive assistance to grow their cricketing profiles.

What can cricket’s strongest boards and the ICC do about this? A heck of a lot more than they currently do…

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