Cricket returning to the terror strife country of Pakistan, after the unfortunate incident that left the touring Sri Lankan team physically injured and mentally bruised would probably be the start of better days for their national cricket team. Zimbabwe Cricket made an immense show of courage, as they made the move to end Pakistan’s exile as an international cricket hosting facility. While the suicide blast outside the Gadaffi would be regretted with remorse, the continuation of the series put things at place and made it clear that the Pakistanis are ready to support its board’s decision to bring full-fledged cricket back to their motherland. With a complete whitewash of the Zimbabweans, Pakistan Cricket has managed to hit the right note.Sportwalk brings an insight, into the highlights of this series.
Highlights from the Pakistan vs. Zimbabwe series:
Mukthar Ahmed: The sudden rise to fame
While, it is a known fact that India and Pakistan have carefully adapted the strategy of unearthing potential legends and letting them go after an initial period of brilliance (pun intended!), one would expect the 23-year old swashbuckling opener, Mukhtar Ahmed to keep the promise that he has made, with his bat in the two twenty20 matches against Zimbabwe. He led the batting charts in the series, by quite some margin as he managed to hit two half-centuries in the two matches. With a phenomenal strike-rate and exquisite timing, he single-handedly led his team to victory in both matches. If nourished with care, he looks all set to become the next big thing for Pakistan Cricket.
Runs: 145 (MMost runs in the T20 series)
Highest Score: 83
Zimbabwe showing a will to fight
There were flashes of brilliance from the Zimbabweans but Pakistan Cricket Team proved too good for this African nation. Missing Brendan Taylor from their disposal, who has arguably been their best player in the past decade, hurt their bleak chances even further. But, this team showed that it was ready to stand up and take the fight to the opposition. In both the twenty20 internationals, they managed to push Pakistan Cricket Team to the last over but failed to make the final cut. Players like Masakadza, Chigumbura and Chibhabha stood up to the occasion and made themselves noticed with glimpses of brilliance but their failure to string partnerships together, was the major reason for their collective failure. With experience, they might just transform themselves into dark horses.
Not a game for the Bowlers
Cricket is possibly evolving into a game where the bowlers are becoming mere liabilities for their respective teams. This debate started, ever since the world cup in Australia and New Zealand that saw humongous totals being made and chased with equal ease. And this series between Pakistan and Zimbabwe added to this subject without a singular piece of argument. The bowlers were taken to the cleaners, in every single game with no exception whatsoever. While one expected the Zimbabweans to get thrashed, the Pakistani bowlers didn’t do a great job either. But then, the International Cricket Council (ICC) is to blame for changing the rules to suit the men with the bats, even more. Lest, they make any amends, children would stop aspiring to be a bowler in the game of cricket.
A solution to Pakistan cricket’s opening woes
Mohammad Hafeez and Azhar Ali seemed to have solved the long-standing problem of Pakistan with their opening pair. While it was the duo of Mukhtar and Shehzad in the twenty20 matches who tormented the Zimbabwean bowling attack, Hafeez and Ali took it to themselves in the ODIs. After making a brilliant opening stand of 170 in the first ODI, with both of them nearly getting to centuries, Pakistan erred in strategy by sending Sarfraz Ahmed as the opening part of Ali. While the latter continued his form with a century, their partnership did not reap much. Hafeez followed, after his dismissal but he failed to get it big as well. Learning pretty quickly from the mistake, though, they restored the successful duo in the third ODI and another century stand followed. Pakistan Cricket should stick to this opening duo if they are to stage a bigger comeback into cricket.
The over-whelming support of the Pakistani fans
After staging a welcome of grandeur to the Zimbabwe cricket team, the Pakistani fans flocked to the stadiums in each of the five matches to support their team. Security was tightened like never before, as the Pakistan government made necessary arrangements to make the visitors feel at home. With this humbling gesture presented by Pakistan, they have probably tried to show that they might be known to the world because of terrorism but they want themselves to be known as a nation of great hospitality. If the Pakistan Cricket Board and the government country can guarantee fool-proof safety to their visitors, bringing cricket back to the country on a large scale would not remain a distant dream.
NOTE: The ODI Series victory for Pakistan Cricket was their first, in the last 18 months.