Hassan Cheema: Pakistan and West Indies reflect their boards

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The pair face off in an ongoing T20I series.

More than a decade since its inception, international T20 cricket finds itself in an odd place. For all the hype and successes of domestic franchise leagues the status of the international game continues to fluctuate. In a sense, T20Is has had the accelerated journey that ODI cricket took four decades to traverse: from not being taken seriously to being celebrated and thus over-done to questioning whether it was even needed outside of ICC events. Of course it doesn’t help that the standout team over the course of this decade so rarely turns up outside of these world tournaments.

The series between West Indies and Pakistan is instructive on the state of the international T20 game. Pakistan will leap frog West Indies in the ICC rankings if they manage to win this series, and considering that they clean swept the same opposition at the start of this season in the UAE, it doesn’t seem that outlandish. But considering the recent overall fortunes of the two teams, this outcome appears counter intuitive.

Over the first few years of T20I cricket Pakistan could reasonably claim to be the best side in the format, as they reached the final of the first two Word T20s and were one Hussey miracle away from making it three in a row. Since then, though, the world has first caught up and then passed Pakistan by. And this has happened despite Pakistan’s best efforts. Seven of the other nine Test playing nations [excluding Bangladesh and Zimbabwe] have played between 56 and 64 T20Is. Pakistan, by comparison, has played 74. Yet despite this extra experience at the international level the Pakistani absence from the IPL, and how much later the PSL started compared to other domestic leagues, has meant that Pakistani cricketers still remain less in-tune with the demands of this ever evolving format.

Of course if you were to be reductive regarding these two teams you could do that by just pointing fingers at the captains. Pakistan’s record, for instance, since that 2010 heartbreak would provide evidence for those who consider Pakistan’s failures as borne out of personnel problems rather than institutional malaise.

Pakistan since 2010 World T20

  • Under Afridi
  • Matches: 34 Wins: 14 Losses: 19 N/R or Tie: 1
  • Under others
  • M: 41 W: 27 L: 13 N/R or Tie: 1

But for all of Afridi’s captaincy issues, Pakistan’s record in limited overs cricket in general – let alone the obvious evidence for anyone who cares to watch Pakistan bat – shows that blaming him alone would be a false solution to a deeper problem. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that if his and Hafeez’s tenures were interchanged, the same would be true of their records. And for all that Sarfraz has done [five wins in a row – all with dominating performances], the health of the opposition also considers bearing.

Four of those five wins have come against the West Indies, who have their own captaincy stats which are far more revealing than Pakistan’s.

West Indies overall T20I record

  • Under Sammy
  • M: 47 W: 27 L: 17 N/R or Tie: 3
  • Under others
  • M: 36 W: 12 L: 21 N/R or Tie: 3

Here the questions are of a different nature. While the WICB continues to compete for the hotly contested crown of international cricket’s worst run board, many of the problems they face do not trickle down to the players. A generation of freelancers have honed their skills in leagues across the world. Time and again, they rise above the mediocrity that the WICB promotes, and have become the best T20 side in the world over the course of this decade. But as the above stats show, this only happens when the big stars turn up and nearly always under Darren Sammy. Without Sammy and others like him they too become as representative of their board as Pakistan is.

And in the current series – much like the one in the Emirates last year – it’s the less threatening West Indies that Pakistan have had to put up with. The result is a team who were one rain affected match away from doing a World T20 three-peat – with all three tournaments in Asia – unable to deal with anything close to quality spin. Imad Wasim’s slow straight ones were their undoing in the desert, much as the higher quality of Shadab Khan was in the first T20. If West Indies continue to play spin as they have, and there is little evidence to suggest otherwise, the series becomes an opportunity for Pakistan to work on things they never have the chance to work on. Dominating matches allows you that luxury.

And yet, however straightforward it may seem, this series – or rather this tour – is a chance for Pakistan to get back on the horse they fell off of in the Antipodes. Here’s a chance for them to regain their momentum from the England tour last year while inducting a new generation and captain in their ways. A series win here and Pakistan will leapfrog the West Indies in the T20I rankings, which considering the performances of both sides over the past five years would be quite the turnaround. Of course, fans of both teams would credit any positive result to playing personnel, as their boards go along their merry ways.

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Pakistan's World Cup win 25 years on

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Back on March 25, 1992, Pakistan beat England to lift the Cricket World Cup trophy.

It was a monumental moment for the country, Imran Khan leading his side to their first, and since only, 50-over World Cup crown.

To this day, it is one of the biggest achievements in the country's cricketing history, one of only two world titles alongside the World T20 victory in 2009.

And in celebration of that win, 25 years to the day, the Pakistan Cricket Board has released this video in honour of that most memorable final.
They'll be hoping they don't have to wait another 25 years without a second World Cup trophy.




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Misbah wants life bans for match fixers

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Pakistan’s Test captain Misbah-ul-Haq on Sunday called for life bans on anyone found guilty of fixing, adding that an investigation into five players threatened years of work to clean up the country’s image.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has provisionally suspended Sharjeel Khan, Khalid Latif, Mohammad Irfan, Shahzaib Hasan and Nasir Jamshed on charges linked to spot-fixing and failure to report approaches by bookmakers during the recently-held Pakistan Super League.

The case, which is being investigated by a judicial commission, has revived memories of a 2010 scandal that involved the national team and deprived it of three top players including paceman Mohammad Amir, who has since made a comeback.

Misbah was appointed captain in the aftermath of that tainted series in England, and set about rebuilding the team with an ethos that emphasised discipline and integrity.

His team steadily climbed world rankings and rose briefly to number one last year.

Speaking about the latest suspensions to reporters on Sunday, he said: “Obviously it’s disappointing and there should be a law that once you have done something wrong you should not return to this field again.”

Pakistan’s rehabilitation on the international circuit had appeared to be complete last year when Misbah led the team on its first tour of England since the 2010 scandal, in a series praised for its sportsmanship.

The 42-year-old was subsequently awarded the International Cricket Council’s Spirit of Cricket award — testament to the high regard in which world cricket holds him.

“We did our best to clean the game up and the seven years of hard work and our image is now spoilt to a great extent. You cannot afford this again and again,” he said.

Earlier this month Misbah shelved plans to retire and will now lead his team in next month’s three-match Test series in the West Indies starting on April 22.

Pakistan are desperate for a turnaround after suffering whitewashes in their last two series.

“It will be a tough series and we will not take West Indies lightly because they gave us a tough time in all three Tests last year,” said Misbah of Pakistan’s 2-1 win in the United Arab Emirates.

“The conditions there will be tough and the ball will spin so you can’t relax,” he added.

Pakistan will play four Twenty20 and three one-day internationals against West Indies before the Tests.

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