Pakistan are not the most dynamic limited overs team in international cricket at the moment. They are currently placed ninth in the ODI rankings and seventh in T20s and face an uphill task as they hope to qualify automatically for the 2019 World Cup.
Also, their four successive ODI defeats in England showed they fallen behind the rest of the world when it comes to white-ball cricket. But the final two matches of the England tour offered a glimmer of hope.
Pakistan won the last ODI in Cardiff by four wickets and then clinched the one-off T20 in Manchester by nine wickets. Needless to say, it was a much needed set of results for the team and coach Mickey Arthur.
Pakistan now take on reigning world champions West Indies in a three-match T20 series here and it is a golden opportunity for the men in green to gather some steam in limited-overs cricket.
The Windies enter the series with a fairly weak side. There is no Chris Gayle, Lendl Simmons or Andre Russell while World T20 winning captain Darren Sammy and coach Phil Simmons have already been shown the door. It can be said a big chunk of the team’s core is missing and this is where Pakistan can capitalise.
Pakistan hold a slight upper hand when it comes to conditions because the Windies play their home games on slow surfaces and in the heat as well. Which makes it even more important for Pakistan to land the first blow and not let go of the advantage.
In the batting department, left-handed Sharjeel Khan at the top of the order provides the necessary firepower while Umar Akmal’s return to form in the domestic circuit should mean some lusty blows lower down.
Their bowlers have experience on their side and with some big hitting Windies batsmen missing, the likes of left-arm quicks Wahab Riaz and Sohail Tanvir should look to assert themselves.
But West Indies won’t just roll over. All-rounders Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard are the masters of the T20 game while Marlon Samuels has a long history of turning a match on its head.
The one aspect which the ‘hosts’ must be wary of is the spin threat of Samuel Badree and Sunil Narine. The two are the most dangerous limited overs spin attack in the world and if Pakistan can safely negotiate them, the coast should be clear from there.
The three-match T20 series is a great chance for Pakistan to maintain the momentum gained from the two wins in England and also get their house in order ahead of a tough season which sees them travel to Australia.
They have proven to be top class when it comes to Test cricket, which is reflected in their No. 1 ranking, but Pakistan need to be a lot more energetic in limited overs cricket.
Despite the talent in the West Indies side, it must be said that Pakistan have a good opportunity to get some positive results under their belt.
But if Pakistan fail to raise their level in favourable conditions, the road ahead in white-ball cricket will get even more rough.
In attempting to bring awareness to the issues he feels are plaguing the United States, Colin Kaepernick has inadvertently shed light on his nation’s hypocrisy.
The San Francisco 49ers quarter-back has come under heavy fire for choosing to sit for the US national anthem during the NFL’s preseason as a form of protest.
Kaepernick explained exactly what he’s protesting, saying: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour.
“There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
For both his actions and his words, the 28-year-old has been made into a villain against patriotism, when ironically the American way of life is exactly what he’s seeking to uphold.
Kaepernick isn’t attacking the military, as so many people have turned the conversation into. He’s attacking his nation’s blind eye to the compromising of the values the military fights for and protects – equality, justice and human rights.
Some of this Kaepernick criticism is over the top outrage. We so often criticize athletes for being scripted robots. He's open and honest.— Andrew Brandt (@AndrewBrandt) August 31, 2016
It’s very clear those values are being challenged in modern-day America, as repeated acts of police violence have widened – or at the very least highlighted – the continued fissure between black and white society.
Many have not only accepted Kaepernick’s constitutional right to have an opinion, but have agreed with his message. Yet those same voices have questioned the manner in which he’s chosen to take a stand.
What those people fail to understand is protest, by nature, isn’t meant to be convenient. It’s meant to be uncomfortable and cause tension, otherwise it loses its effect.
As far as athletes go, what Kaepernick is doing is much more radical than the forms of social and political commentary we’re accustomed to seeing.
When LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony delivered their speech at the ESPYs, it centred on coming together. Kaepernick’s message feels offensive because it avoids any feel-good narrative and centres on injustice.
Perhaps those missing Kaepernick’s point the most are the ones who’ve swarmed like piranhas to his use of the word ‘oppression’.
Never mind that Kaepernick stated his stand wasn’t for himself, but for those without a platform, but because he’s a millionaire athlete, he’s apparently not allowed to feel oppressed.
We’re basically telling our athletes that their success – which they’ve earned through no one’s hard work but their own – means they’re not qualified to speak on issues that affect the common man.
The truth is we’re a society that either doesn’t want athletes to speak up for what they believe in or only do so when it’s palatable.
The conversation over Kaepernick may focus more on his actions rather than his message, but the ugly reactions have unfortunately been just as revealing.
It’s difficult to think of a team, in any sport, which has moved on with the same seamless speed as the All Blacks have following the retirements of two of the greatest players of all-time.
Just nine months after Richie McCaw and Dan Carter hung up their black shirts, the world champions seem to have improved.
As McCaw quipped in an interview with the Guardian last week, “they were never going to miss me and DC… it doesn’t matter who you are, the team just moves on.”
For all the brilliant rugby New Zealand have played and the success they have enjoyed, the exceptional individuals that have emerged across a multitude of positions, perhaps what is most impressive is the way they are able to transition through eras with such ease, those who have stepped aside are no longer part of the narrative.
Admittedly, we are just five games into New Zealand post McCaw/Carter, but at no stage has it looked like Steve Hansen’s side have needed either legendary figure to enhance their performances.
The true test will come at the 2019 World Cup, but that’s still three years away, and by then this group will be experienced enough that leadership and big-game nous won’t even be a problem.
Not that it is at present, with Kieran Read as formidable and consistent a performer as McCaw – it takes some player to dominate David Pocock twice – and becoming just as influential. Yesterday’s 29-9 triumph over Australia was Read’s 14th consecutive as captain – equalling Sir Brian Lochore’s All Black record from 1969.
In a positional sense it’s no great surprise to see Sam Cane (above) fill the void at No7 so perfectly, as the Chiefs openside has been a world class replacement almost since making his debut in 2012.
During that time he has been able to learn directly from the master, while being allowed to develop away from the immediate pressure of being McCaw Mark 2.
But Cane’s performance levels simply have to be at their absolute maximum as, despite being 24, he already has a serious rival in Ardie Savea; who, like Cane for much of his international career up to this point, would hold down a place in most other international sides.
With world rugby’s record points scorer departing, New Zealand now have presently the planet’s best player at No10 in Beauden Barrett.
His goalkicking is still some way short of Carter but, boy, can he play. Few players, let alone No10s, can open up the field and opposition defences with quite the same array of weapons: Barrett is a brilliant passer, tactical kicker and with a running style more befitting of the very best outside centres.
He is only still only 25 but, just like Cane, has Aaron Cruden and Lima Sopoaga breathing down his neck.
Such has been the impact made by McCaw and Carter, it’s easy to slightly overlook the fact Hansen has also had to rebuild his midfield with the departure of 197 combined caps of experience of Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith.
Ryan Crotty and Malakai Fekitoa have been patiently waiting for more than two years, while yesterday Anton Lienert-Brown made his debut at 21.
Within seven minutes he was bursting onto a backline move, taking contact 10 metres from the Australian line before flinging a perfect off-load to Israel Dagg for the first try. They were his first two touches in Test rugby.
The average age of the 15 that started at Westpac Stadium was 26.9, with six aged 26 or under. Injury permitting, this group are only going to get better with perhaps only Jerome Kaino unlikely to be in consideration for Japan in 2019.
New Zealand’s pursuit of such gargantuan levels of excellence continues to create a depth of talent almost unprecedented in all team sport, meaning they have rendered the mere idea of ‘an era’ totally redundant.