New age January 19, 2009

Pakistan's new beginning is a last chance

With the dearth of internationals in 2008, Pakistan's home series against Sri Lanka has the feel of a new beginning

Barack Obama may steal the headlines around the world tomorrow but in Pakistan he will have to share them with cricket. With the dearth of internationals in 2008, the series against Sri Lanka has the feel of a new beginning.

The players are much the same but Pakistan cricket is now run by ex-cricketers who have a genuine passion for quality and success. They want change and believe that they can make it happen. Messrs Miandad, Qadir, and Sohail should - and probably do - realise that if they fail Pakistan cricket may never recover. To me, this new beginning carries the threat of a last chance.

Shoaib Malik's team go into another series with familiar question marks over the consistency and quality of the batsmen, and howling criticisms over Malik's captaincy. But the word from the Pakistan camp is that the spirit amongst the administration is good and the big egos are aligned.

Sri Lanka, the saviours of Pakistan cricket's fixtures and finances, will be less generous in battle. The duel threat of efficiency and mystery will sorely test Pakistan's patience. Reports about the state of Karachi's pitch give Sri Lanka more confidence than Pakistan, whose rustiness should mean that a series triumph will be a genuine surprise for Malik and his men.

Yet the public expectation and attention will be such that any failure is likely to be judged harshly. My own view is that the selectors made a fundamental mistake in not taking this opportunity to replace Malik. It can only be a matter of time before his captaincy is exposed again and he loses his job. A new beginning, with so much hanging on it, deserved the right leadership on the field.

Nonetheless, this is a time for a minor celebration. Cricket is back in Pakistan, the ex-players in the cricket board are determined to succeed, and the right players might get selected. Now cricketers, administrators, security forces, politicians, and fans have to show the world that Pakistan can be a vibrant and essential venue for international cricket.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here