The next few days bring an uncanny excitement to Pakistan cricket fans. We have seen captains changing, disasters wrecking sport in the nation and political and social turmoil affecting the morale of the Pakistani public and cricketers, but the next few days can improve the situation for everyone who has some kind of association with Pakistan.
A new leader is at the helm in the form of Younis Khan, a generally respected figure. Younis is one of the few stars of Pakistan cricket of the past decade who have not been involved in scandals or disgraceful incidents. Across the world Younis Khan is known as a friendly, caring individual who is deeply patriotic about his country and passionate about his culture, but who does not let that come in the way of respecting other countries and cultures. Although it is too early to speak in favour of or against Younis’s captaincy, he needs to lead with relentless aggression because that is the only way Pakistan can become a top side.
The top performers for Pakistan going into this series are Younis and Umar Gul. Whereas
Younis has been Pakistan’s best batsmen for almost 2 years now, Gul has been Pakistan’s best bowler for almost the same duration. Apart from testing Younis’s captaincy skills, this series will also test his character when it comes to batting. Younis only averages 16 against Australia in ODI’s and he needs to improve that figure.
Gul needs to bowl with fire and aggression. If he can extract the right bounce, bowl quick and use reverse swing, he can cause Australia plenty of problems.
LOOK OUT FOR…………….
Shahid Khan Afridi: Afridi has been in good domestic form and made an impact both with bowling and batting in the recent RBS One Day Cup. If Afridi can get into some kind of batting form, he will be a force to be reckoned with in this series. He is going into this series as Pakistan’s most reliable spinner.
Sohail Tanvir: Tanvir got into some form in recent tournaments after consulting Javed Miandad. He started with a bang and he needs to retain the same attitude. If he can bowl with pace he will trouble some Australian batsmen.
Nasir Jamshed: Younis reportedly prefers Ahmed Shahzad over Nasir Jamshed, not least because of obtaining the right hand/left hand opening combination with Salman Butt. However, Nasir has more experience and has impressed to some degree so far in international cricket. He needs to bat with confidence and play his natural game. A good series against Australia will guarantee him selecton in the team at least for another year.
Australia will be banking on captain Clarke, all rounder Symonds, keeper Haddin and medium pacer Bracken.
Symonds averages 62 against Pakistan in ODI’s which is his highest average against any Test playing nation. Haddin is averaging 43 this year. Clarke is going into this series as Australia’s best batsman. Bracken is amongst the best ODI bowlers in the world, although against South Africa he was not in his best form.
A lot of Pakistan fans are predicting a series win for Pakistan, and some are also saying that Pakistan will end up winning 2 matches. Australia cannot be underestimated and in fact the LS Management is doubting Pakistan’s potential, although they acknowledge this potential. Players like Hauritz and Shane Watson have the ability to turn matches around single handedly. Hauritz was the Man of the Match in the last match against South Africa, so he is in form.
The biggest advantage to Australia which is also Pakistan’s biggest disadvantage, is that some consistency can be expected from the Aussies. Clarke can bank on knowing the limits to what his players can and cannot do. Younis will be less sure of his team’s potential, but his job is just to offer support to his players and persuade them to play positive and aggressive cricket.
Pakistan cricket thrives on uncertainty. The fans expect the unexpected. That has been the pulse of Pakistan cricket for a long time. Today Pakistan is devoid of legends like Wasim, Waqar, Imran and Miandad. The problem I have with Younis and Qadir’s management is that we are only seeing 1 or 2 new players in this squad. Barring Nasir Jamshed, Ahmad Shahzad and Fawad Alam, all of these players have been tried and tested. When his career ends Younis will probably be considered a legend, but ODI cricket has not been his forte until very recently. So, none of the players in this squad are capable of emulating the feats of Saeed Anwar, Miandad or Wasim Akram.
However, playing under a new captain and in home-like conditions, still offers limited hope to Pakistanis. Younis will be in the spotlight because he has supported playing these tried and tested players. Now it is upto Younis Khan to create some magic and create history by leading his team to a series victory against a formidable side, a win which will go in history books as the revival of Pakistan cricket. A loss is expected, but a win will transform the morale of a bruised nation, and an emotionally battered people. This is Pakistan’s chance to make a difference.