Pakistan have travelled. They have won. They have lost. They have unearthed potentially one of their best-ever ODI batsmen in Babar Azam. They have enjoyed a Champions Trophy winning regime under Sarfaraz Ahmed and Mickey Arthur. They have endured a World Cup floundering regime under Sarfaraz Ahmed and Mickey Arthur. Now they have a new coach, who’s also the new chief selector, who’s also Misbah-ul-Haq. Nothing is the same from the last time they played an ODI here. It never is with Pakistan. And yet, they’re back home. Cricket’s greatest nomads needn’t be nomads at all – at least this once.
Following a security assurance, that needed a reassurance after 10 Sri Lankan players pulled out, Pakistan’s first ODI assignment at home (minus the ‘adopted’ prefix) in over four years will finally see the light of day on Friday (September 27). Captain Sarfaraz Ahmed has already called this the highlight of his career. Babar Azam has recalled watching big crowds on TV as he was growing up. Misbah-ul-Haq has laid bare his emotions on being the only one to bookend the 10-year time lapse of Karachi’s ODI exile. So just another bilateral series? A whole country of fans disagrees.
This new dawn for Pakistan cricket begins with a reinforcement of faith in Sarfaraz Ahmed, who was retained as captain based on the recommendations of Misbah and the PCB Cricket Committee, despite the failure to qualify for the World Cup semifinals. It also begins without their pace sensation Shaheen Afridi – out with a bout of dengue. Shoaib Malik had bowed out during the previous sunset, while Mohammad Nawaz, Iftikhar Ahmed and Mohammad Rizwan are making their returns. Pakistan would’ve been favourites to start with anyway. They didn’t need the rain check from Sri Lanka’s most prominent players. Now, they’re overwhelming favourites against a ‘B’ team of an international team that’s not very good to begin with.
Indeed, Sri Lanka’s drying stocks of talent have been strained to the hilt in putting together a team after most of their first choices backed out. That there are 14 players of international experience, a lot of whom aren’t regulars, is itself indicative of the major problem in Sri Lankan cricket – of players unable to solidify themselves at the highest level. Here’s another opportunity to do just that.
Sri Lanka were poor at the World Cup. They were poor the year before the World Cup. They were poor the year before that year. And so on. They did start better after the World Cup, blanking Bangladesh 3-0 at home. But without the players who did most of that work, can they sustain not being very poor very often?
Source – © Cricbuzz