Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Rise from slumber, Pakistan! Reading about Australia's whitewash over Pakistan (and especially, the manner of winning the Second Test), a lot of thoughts raced through my mind. Although surprised, I told myself that I shouldn't be. Over years, Pakistan and Australia have managed similar feats many a time. Pakistan is used to squandering advantageous positions and Australia is used to making a contest out of hopeless situations.

I am neither a Pakistan basher, nor their staunch supporter (which is a rare breed amongst Indians). However, their New Year Test Match against Australia in Sydney caught my attention to the extent that even weeks after it has ended, I feel that I need to write about it.

At the end of Day 1, having bundled out Australia for 127 and then reached 14 without loss at stumps, Pakistan would have (or should have) felt that they have a firm grip on the match. At the end of Day 2, having reached 331/9, Pakistan must have felt that though they hadn't taken full advantage of their bowlers' performance, they were still in a very good position to finish off the game in another day and a half. What unfolded next defies logic. Australia put in a strong batting performance to set a very achievable target of 176 runs for Pakistan in the fourth innings and then put in a strong bowling performance (aided by some reckless batting from Pakistan) to bundle them out for 139.

Pakistan had put in a phenomenal performance on the first  day. All that Pakistan needed to do to win the Test on third and fourth day was play sensible cricket, just like they had done on the second day. However, a friend of mine told me, Pakistan does not have the ability to sustain common sense cricket for lengthy duration, thereby explaining their wretched performance in Test cricket and laudable success in the shorter versions.

Such performances by a team are unhealthy for Test cricket. Though I can never support Pakistan (because I am a patriotic Indian), I certainly want them to do well in Test cricket, along with the likes of West Indies and New Zealand. I wish this for the betterment of Test cricket. I am not scared about the future of Test cricket as I have already expressed in an earlier post on this blog. However, I don't want the future confined to a few Test playing nations.

During the first half of the previous decade, we had ten Test playing nations. Of these, Australia and Bangladesh remained out of reach - one at the top and the other at the bottom. Soon, Zimbabwe went into strife and were suspended from Test cricket. Though Australia soon came within reach of certain other teams, Bangladesh's results haven't improved a great deal (even though their performances did improve significantly). With inconsistent performances from Pakistan, West Indies and New Zealand, test cricket soon became and still is, predominantly, a five - horse race. Sri Lanka have not had enough opportunities to play against top quality oppositions (except for India, whom they will be treating as brothers by now, I guess). England's performances, though exciting, have also been inconsistent - they depend as much on saving matches as other teams depend on winning matches. I shouldn't be complaining though. Their matches have provided some of the best advertisement that Test cricket has had over the past few years.

Amidst all this, it was pleasantly shocking to hear a few weeks back that Ireland harboured hopes of gaining Test status. I was very impressed by the Irish performance in the 2007 World Cup (not because they beat Pakistan - I was more worried about India's chances after the loss to Bangladesh on the same day... sorry, it was night in India). I really wish that their case is handled well and we have a genuinely competent new Test playing nation soon. I don't want their case to be like Bangladesh's (not getting enough results in a decade of  Test status) or like Kenya's (impressing in 2003 World Cup before fading away once again).

I hope, for a prosperous future of Test cricket, that the Test pool becomes a more competent one and that the next generation of Pakistani cricketers are taught the concept on common sense cricket. Its certainly possible (the ICC website, on Pakistan's U-19 win over India,  reported that Pakistan's fielding was exceptional). So you see, anything is possible.

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